FIFA’s newly elected president, Gianni Infantino was on Sunday welcomed to Nigeria as he embarks on his ongoing initiative to develop the game globally. He arrived with his Secretary General, Ms Fatma Samoura.
The FIFA President is on a two day visit, where he is expected to meet every President of Africa’s footballing federation, and brief them on sports development, meet President Mohammadu Buhari to discuss vital issues that needs to be sorted, attend some events and have a business dinner with Nigeria’s political heavyweights and captains of industry.Here are therefore five ways his visit will benefit Nigerian football;
The Nigerian Football Federation has been characterized by multiple factions (The Amaju Pinnick and Chris Giwa faction), claiming to be running the country’s football with different courts claiming Amaju Pinnick is the real president, while Chris Giwa’s faction has strongly undermined Amaju Pinnick’s leadership, claiming they are the real NFF Board. At a point, the Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung had to weigh in to calm the ongoing battle between them, but couldn’t as both parties resulted to using offensive words against each other. Well, we needed to see who will be recognized by FIFA’s president who came into the country last night, and it was no surprise to see the Amaju Pinnick led team, welcome the World Football governing body’s president, while the Chris Giwa faction was nowhere to be found. Can we finally lay that debate to rest now!
Whether we like it or not, Nigeria’s football is currently destabilized, probably at an all-time low, the biggest country in Africa has now gone from trying to win tournaments to finding it hard to qualify for tournaments. Just when we were complaining of always coming third at African Nations Cup, we now find it hard to even qualify, our precious U-17 Champions were recently knocked out of the U-20 Championship qualifiers against Sudan, our Falcons no longer dominate African football again, worse off, Nigeria is now ranked 70th in global football, something that has never happened before. It’s simple, Gianni Infantino’s presence will not change all these overnight, but I believe he could lay a template for the NFF to help Nigeria get back from its current mess.
Stakeholder, by the dictionary definition is anyone with an interest in a business. They are individuals, groups or organisations that are affected by the activity of the business. They include: Owners who are interested in how much profit the business makes. And the fact is, the biggest problem of sports in Nigeria is the dependence on government for funds, as the stakeholders do not want to invest on a dying brand/ on a brand in which the board are so disorganised. Its simple, Infantino will and should find a way to bring all these stakeholders back on board to help boost our football revenue and ease the dependence on government for funds. Fortunately for Nigeria, he already has a meeting with the top stakeholders scheduled for Tuesday night.
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The fact that the NFF now has to stoop so low to employ a low level foreign coach to coach the Super Eagles is a testament to this fact. Worse off, is there any former coach of the Nigerian team who isn’t crying that the NFF is owing him/her? Just this weekend, former Super Eagles coach, Sunday Oliseh had to write a full article on how the NFF is still owing him and his assistants, spare a thought for Samson Siasia who is strapped in preparations for the Olympics, set to begin in two weeks’ time. Facts is, in my opinion, forget the fact that FIFA doesn’t support government interference in sports, Infantino has to convince Buhari and the Senate to support sports financially because as far as I’m concerned, it might take another 100 years for any African team to run sports conveniently without the interference of government, on a positive note, he is also meeting with the top football stakeholders in the country. As the FIFA President, convince these stakeholders, ignite their passion in the game, make them see reasons why they will be gaining a lot by investing in the game.
As a passionate fan of Nigerian football, it so pathetic to see our Football in such a horrible decline. Just when the late Steven Keshi led Nigeria to victory in AFCON 2013, there was a positive belief we were heading in the right direction, we got to the second round of the World Cup in 2014 and were narrowly knocked out by France. Since then, it’s been quite a downslide for our football. Like I said earlier, Infantino will not be the one to work the magic overnight, but the fact that he decided to make Nigeria his visitation hub to entertain other African footballing presidents should be a welcome development. Our football needs to be run properly not just in the glass house but also in the grassroots. Everything has to change because the way everything is going right now is definitely bringing negative results. Football unites the nation and the earlier a change is proffered, the better it will be for our football.