ALL over the world, football and, indeed, sport generally, is regarded as big business which should not be left in the hands of those who cannot manage it. Conscious of this business aspect of football or sport, countries spend several millions of dollars to bid for the hosting of such international competitions like the World Cup, African Cup of Nations, European Cup of Nations, Olympic Games, All Africa Games, Commonwealth Games among others. Such competitions usually attract a lot of tourists and investors to the host countries before, during and after the international events. Besides, those who organise such events usually have the aim to make profit at the back of their mind and would organise the events as business ventures so that at the end, they would be able to smile to the banks with huge profits.
But in Nigeria, the reverse is always the case. Over the years, Nigeria has hosted a number of global and continental competitions. But unfortunately, none had attracted the expected volume of business to the country either before, during or after such events. None has ever yielded any profit for the country. Worse still, several bills are usually left unpaid because the organisers always have a way of telling Nigerians that their accounts were in the red. All these happen because in Nigeria, football or sport has always been left in the hands of those who cannot manage it. Those who fight their way into the football house do so because of what they hope to gain from football and not what they want to do to help it grow. Otherwise, how can one explain a situation whereby those who managed football in Nigeria for the past 68 years never thought of building a permanent football house either in Lagos or Abuja but preferred to operate from rented houses in spite of the several millions of naira and dollars that had accrued into football coffers over the years? The simple answer is that football in Nigeria was managed by people who could not organise themselves because they were corrupt, self-centered and lacking in foresight and focus.
What football managers in Nigeria were unable to do in the last 68 years, the presidential taskforce set up in 2009 by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to ensure Nigeria’s qualification for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, had the foresight and the political will to achieve within four years after completing its primary assignment. Unlike our football managers over the years, the taskforce jointly led by Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, governor of Rivers State, and Patrick Ekeji, the then director general, National Sports Commission, NSC, were patriotic enough not to divert the N336,321,111 which was left over after their assignment into their private pockets. The patriots decided to leave a legacy that would live after them for several generations. They sought and got an approval from the presidency to utilise the extra funds to build a befitting football house in the hope that when the current managers move in there, the 27-room building, with modern facilities including a penthouse and several meeting rooms, would change their mindset and orientation. The new football house was commissioned on July 18, by Namadi Sambo, vice president, on behalf of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. The editorial board of Realnews found that event as an auspicious moment to look at the problems of managing football in Nigeria. That is why we have decided to serve you with this week’s cover story entitled “NFF: A Federation Without Focus,” written by Anayo Ezugwu, one of our up and coming reporters. There is also an interview by Paul Bassey, a quintessential sport writer, and a member of the NFF technical committee, going with it. Happy reading.
— Aug. 5, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT