New Telegraph

NFF’s unending crisis and urgent need for growth

In recent times, there have been so many crises in the Nigerian domestic football scene which gives cause for concern for every stakeholder of the game. We observe that the Federation Cup, a flagship football tournament in the land, is also in a huge crisis. The calendar imbalance in Nigeria’s domestic football has affected the competition and because the deadline of the African ruling body, CAF, could not be met, a fourth-placed team in the league, Kwara United, was picked by the NFF for the last slot in the continental club competition.

The competition which was in the last eight stage was thrown into crisis because the ticket the teams were fighting for was no longer available. The Federation Cup that should have been integrated into the football season is just getting into full swing. We make bold to say it is a shame that the competition, which has Aiteo, an oil company as its sponsors, is in the last eight stages but the winners of the last edition in both the male and female cadres are yet to collect their prize money.

Aiteo should be asking the NFF questions because such should not be happening when there is a title sponsor. Bayelsa United and Bayelsa Queens cried out asking for their 2021 money to be paid. This is absolutely unacceptable. And so the eight quarterfinalists decided not to honour their games.

Three of the four pairings failed to take place but that of Heartland and Katsina United was held with the Owerri outfit winning on penalties. The NFF in an attempt to save the situation after so much public outcry decided after a meeting that all the quarterfinal matches must be replayed with cash incentives backing it up to motivate the teams. This weekend, the quarterfinal matches are to be replayed but Heartland are insisting they will not replay their match.

The situation was so bad that Kogi United are somehow in the final after the boycott crisis. However, after reviewing the issue, the NFF decided all the eight quarter finalists shall be refunded their expenses – N3 million each – as compensation while Katsina and Heartland shall receive N5 million each for a replay.

Semi-finalists shall receive N2 million each as subsidy while finalists shall receive N1 million each. It is indeed a tragedy and failure of the football administrative system of the NFF for us to find ourselves in this situation while the league is yet to resume and the country’s club competition representatives are already set for duty just as the CHAN team, the homebased Eagles are set to play Ghana in the final qualifier without proper preparations. The team only entered camp last week while the opponents have been together for close to 12 weeks, playing friendly games and also attending a four-nation tournament.

Only recently, the Ghana Football Association (GFA) announced a sponsorship deal of $6 million for their domestic league and that is enough to show that their Nigerian counterparts (NFF) are bereft of ideas because the administration of the game is not about bragging but should be about taking the right decisions to develop the game in the country. Nigeria is a big footballing nation and to be seen failing in the administration of the game is a misnomer especially because many of the country’s top stars are abroad in various clubs. The NFF must put its house in order to fix Nigeria’s football in all aspects especially the developmental areas of the round leather game.

The talents are there but there must be a systemic approach and deliberate plan to identify, expose them and bring them out to the international standard we all desire. Over time, the maladministration at the very top echelon of football in Nigeria has affected results and created setbacks for the country but sadly, we believe, lessons were not learnt by the Nigeria Football Federation. Rather than learn, the NFF will repeat the same mistakes again, fail again and display adamant positions on corrections and steps to get things right.

After the shocking disappointing performance of the Super Falcons at the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco earlier this year, a ray of hope came all the way from Costa Rica, venue of the ongoing FIFA U-20 World Cup. Despite losing 2-0 in the quarterfinal stage of the global event, the young girls showed promise and at least five of them can graduate straight to boost the Falcons team.

The Falcons, nine-time champions of WAFCON, lost in the semis on penalties to Morocco and were also unable to win the Third Place match, losing 1-0 to Zambia but some of the players in the U-20 team led by Christopher Danjuma will certainly be assets to the senior team if given a chance to join the big girls. We strongly believe in a consistent developmental process and transition of players is one of the routes to development coupled with deliberate grassroots/ schools football programmes.

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