Football fans react as NFF President Amaju Pinnick blows hot on Nigerian football

Nigeria’s age-grade football teams will soon know whether they will be able to go home with the entire cash pot from their appearance at FIFA World Cup tournaments, according to President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Mr. Amaju Melvin Pinnick.

Pinnick told National Daily  that he will be submitting a proposal to the NFF Executive Committee to that effect, and would equally interface with Nigeria’s Minister of Youth and Sports, Sunday Dare on the proposition.

Monday’s media call also provided opportunity for Nigeria’s number one football administrator to speak frankly on a number of issues. Excerpts:

COVID-19 Pandemic

This has been a decidedly spiritual year; spiritual in the sense that no one anticipated what we have seen so far in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has caused so much disruption and still causing. But we just have to live with it. We are liaising with the Federal Government, the Federal Ministry of Health, the NCDC and FIFA on the way forward. We have also been holding meetings; I mean the NFF Executive Committee. All with a view to forging a new frontier for the Nigeria game post COVID-19.

FIFA/CAF Funds

We were quite explicit in official press statements with regards to monies we have received from FIFA and how it would be expended. We sought the advice of FIFA on the utilization of the monies and we have done accordingly. A few days ago, we received a circular from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) on the imminence of th sum of $200,000 into our accounts. This money is our annual statutory funds from CAF and not anything special, though it is coming earlier this year.

Every money we receive, whether from Government, sponsors or FIFA/CAF, we inform the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports and we usually propose how the monies would be utilized. If they object to any particular utilization sub-head, we comply.

Why We’re Rowing With Rohr

We are of the view and conviction that Mr. Gernot Rohr deserves to continue the job he is doing with the Super Eagles. I believe he has earned it. He had a right of first refusal so it was not a problem. We included a few other things in his contract but at the end of the day, we were able to come to an agreement. Presently, I am proud of the squad that we have. Without gainsaying, we have good players competing for every department on the field in the Super Eagles squad. It is exciting and we believe the team is on to a good thing. It is important that we work with him to nurture together a team that we can all be proud of.

State Of The Partnerships

COVID-19 has left businesses gasping for breath and it has been quite tough. It is tough for businesses now, so we just have to be realistic with what we expect from our sponsors and partners. We have had a number of meetings with them and we are looking at middle-ground situations that would be conducive for ourselves and for themselves. Our discussions are ongoing and we must continue to do everything to keep them in-house even as they also struggle to stay afloat. We are very practical on this matter.

Actually, we should continue to appreciate our sponsors and partners for what they are doing. Their love of the game has kept them, as well as personal relationships. The disgruntled persons who are doing everything to foist a toxic environment on our football have even been writing to them to withdraw their sponsorship, threatening them and all that. I received a message an hour ago about someone wanting to take PwC, our external auditors, to court. We should all rise up and question the motives of these fellows. If not for personal relationships and their passion for the game, most of our partners would have pulled out as a result of the deleterious activities of these individuals.

Before all these toxic issues polluted the football environment, we were well on the way to achieving our objective of making the NFF fully self-funding. At the end of the year 2018, we were about 60 per cent self-funding. But much of that progress is being eroded by these unwarranted toxic issues. All the same, we are going strong because we know that only the stout-hearted survive the big challenges, and we have that.

NNL & Other Leagues

Unfortunately, we lost the Chairman of the NNL, Hon. Chidi Okenwa. May his soul rest in peace. What I can assure is that once we get the green light from the Federal Government to get going with football, we will ensure that the NNL and the other leagues also get going alongside the NPFL. The Football Committee will present its report by next week, and we are also looking to boost the leagues with solidarity funds from FIFA and from sponsorship funds.

Coach Salisu Yusuf

Coach Salisu Yusuf has finished serving his sanction and that was why we sent him on secondment to Rangers International FC to help the club in its CAF Confederation Cup campaign. Of course, it is not an individual decision as the Board has to still look at it, and we also need to cross-fertilize with the Ministry of Youth and Sports and do some other consultations. But the truth is, he has served his punishment and I always said from Day One that punishment is meant to reform and not to deform.

Super Falcons’ 2019 World Cup Cash

I have always said that we have special love for the Super Falcons. That is the team that has won the most laurels for this country and we appreciate and adore them. I will be in contact with FIFA during the week to know when we will receive the appearance fee from the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. That money is the sum of $760,000, and 30 per cent of that money is for the team to share.

Super Falcons Going Forward

We are working to see how we can hold the interview to select the new Head Coach for the Super Falcons. I have a meeting with our external auditors, PricewaterhouseCoopers this week, on the need for us to get this done. Once we get the appearance money from the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, we will hand over the 30 per cent that is the entitlement of the players and then ringfence the balance for the purpose of paying the new Head Coach. Just as we did for the team going to the World Cup, we have plans to arrange quality international friendlies for them before the next AFCON competition to build a much stronger squad.

Indebtedness of Women League Clubs To Players

It is most unfortunate that some Clubs are owing players in the Women League. This is not good. Having said that, the League has a board, and we expect to have correspondence from the board on such matters before we intervene. A case was brought to my notice some weeks ago and I decisively intervened. But if we don’t have information or representation from the board, there is little we can do.

Youth Development

Our youth development programme is on course. You know that is one area the present NFF leadership is passionate about. Before the pandemic forced a lockdown, our NFF/Zenith Bank Future Eagles Championship was at the level of the zones, and once we are given the green light, that competition will proceed apace. It is a project most dear to our hearts and we cannot afford to treat it with cavalier attitude.

Eagles, Falcons Are Priorities

Of course, the priorities for now would be the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers and the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers involving the Super Eagles, and the Women AFCON assignment of the Super Falcons. Those are the subheads guaranteed for now. I said earlier that COVID-19 pandemic has wrought some havoc and we just have to be realistic in our expectations from both the Government and our corporate partners. So, we are working with that reality and with that mindset.

Sponsorship For the Leagues

The truth is that the leagues have boards and the boards are to source for sponsorship for their leagues. But it has been tremendous hard work trying to get sponsorship for the leagues even before the pandemic. Now, things will even be tougher. Days ago, I was on another virtual meeting with another top company interested in broadcasting the NPFL. We are still discussing and we hope for good news by the time we get the green light to return the season.

Boon For Age-Grade Teams

We are looking to still keep the age-grade teams in business, despite priority being given to the Super Eagles and the Super Falcons. But there will be conditions. They will earn no match bonus or camp allowances and we will only be able to take on board the minimum technical and backroom staff as specified by FIFA and CAF. However, if any of the team goes ahead and win the World Cup, or performs well enough at the World Cup to earn appearance fee, that money will be shared by the entire team. The NFF will have no part of it. That will be the boon for them, the incentive to perform.

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