S ix months after becoming the President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Alhaji Ibrahim Gusau is yet to tell Nigerians about the plans of his board for the future of the game. No official press conference yet and there might be none in the months ahead.
The board itself is another issue entirely. We believe only one or maybe two people can be said to be fairly good football personalities and so it is generally a very weak board, the weakest in the past two decades or more. For example, who in the current NFF Board can directly talk to the President of FIFA Gianni Infantino or the CAF supremo, CAF boss except the call is from the other side? Who can play the politics of the game for Nigeria in the new board at crunch times? We believe the country could be in a mess football wise in the next four years because Gusau is already demonstrating lack of capacity to hold the fort in the country’s football house.
The media officer of the national U-20 team Andrew Randa was replaced without any announcement. Sherif Abdallah of the U-23 team was asked to combine his job with U-20 just as it was learnt that he could also be asked to take charge of the Super Eagles! Again, the list of players for the AFCON qualifier came out and it was learnt Gusau said Jose Peseiro did not listen to his advice of having about six or seven home-based players on the list. Gusau cannot face Peseiro to tell him what he wants. It is sad that the Portuguese coach appears too big for his employers to talk to. The domestic league is having a good template now with the Interim Management Committee (IMC) trying to get it right at all fronts. Teams with bad pitches are already barred from playing at their stadiums while referees are now promptly paid and the league will return to television next season.
Despite the positives, Peseiro picked just one player from the domestic league. As if that was not enough, Peseiro and Gusau also kicked out two former national heroes – Ike Shorunmu and Finidi George –from the coaching crew. In its defence, the NFF secretariat said it was a rotational policy. However, we make bold to say Gusau lacks the capacity to handle the problems he inherited from the previous board. Gusau should have met with the former Federation President, Amaju Pinnick on how to face all of these problems because eventually, these issues could affect results of national teams.
The current NFF lacks direction and should find its bearing now with a loaded calendar ahead as the Eaglets, Flying Eagles and the Super Falcons will compete for honours at the global stage. The Eaglets will still have to seek a World Cup ticket on the continent at the AFCON U-17 event slated for next month. We need a vibrant NFF to be up and doing in order to get things right as expected. Looking back, the tenure of Gusau as the President of the NFF began on September 30, 2022 after he won the election in Benin. Gusau took over from Pinnick who spent eight years in the saddle but sadly exited leaving a heavy burden on the shoulders of the new NFF boss. It is important to state that the two terms of Pinnick were characterised by internal and external crises just as the body struggled with finances. Pinnick left with national team coaches and players being owed bonuses which are yet to be cleared till date.
Some partners rendering services to the NFF like hotels are still being owed till now just as there are other huge debts on the shoulders of the new board. This is a surprise as the last administration with Pinnick and Shehu Dikko, of the defunct League Management Company (LMC), always boasting about sponsorship. With partners and sponsors on the cards of the federation, debts were still prevalent. These were aside from the court cases on legitimacy against Chris Giwa on one hand and other court cases against the players’ union. The administrative ineptitude of the last regime was also legendary as the country’s Federation Cup for last season was not conclusive. In the same Federation Cup, the winners of 2021 cried out that prize money was yet to be given to them in a competition sponsored by an oil-producing company.
The domestic league was a shambles without a title sponsor, a defined calendar, bad pitches, poor officiating and TV ‘no show’. Above all, Pinnick’s regime missed the AFCON ticket twice and also bungled the Qatar 2022 qualification. And so, Gusau, the anointed candidate of Pinnick in the last election, is expected to have good synergy with his friend such that transitional issues will not affect the operations of the federation. But this appears not so. Going forward, Nigerian football deserves better especially now that many other countries are planning well to achieve good results in the game. There must be a deliberate effort by the NFF to boost the fortunes of football, a game well loved by many in the country. The NFF can make many things happen with administrative uprightness. Getting things right with all the logistics and welfare issues while the body also ensures compliance with world’s best practices with its day-to-day activities.