By Amaju Pinnick
For the past few days, the Nigeria mass media has witnessed a plethora of comments, opinions, suggestions and criticism, for and against a pronouncement by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) over Warri Wolves qualification to fly the countryâ€™s colours in next yearâ€™s CAF Cup competition.
To us in Delta State, the news of a continental ticket was greeted with mixed feelings because when the season ended, those managing the affairs of Warri Wolves were pre-occupied with plans of taking the team for pre-season training in Europe and returning to play the Super 4 before putting up structures for WAFU competition, having finished 4th in the NPL log.
The insinuations making the rounds in some circles that bribes were offered to officials of the NFF to shortchange Sharks FC of Port Harcourt for Warri Wolves smack of dirty politics, blatant falsehood and a stab in the back of the Football enthusiastic people of Delta State.
In Nigeria, almost everybody claims to know the football laws at all levels. The passion for the game is very high, no doubt. However, the highest regulatory body that can appropriately interpret the laws of the game is the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).
Football laws or statutes like other regular laws are never exhaustive and that is why the National Assembly and State Assemblies are churning out laws everyday to meet with modern trends and aspirations, Ipso facto, FIFA is bringing out new laws to regulate modern rudiments and other related techniques of the game. So the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), being the Chief Custodian of football in Nigeria has a responsibility and duty to interpret but without recourse to bias and subjectivism. In interpreting this particular case, the NFF is not oblivious of the fact that as Federation Champions, a team is better recognized, respected and better seeded in the competition.
I stand tall and make bold to say that there was no previous contacts between any officials of Delta State Sports Commission or Warri Wolves management with the Nigeria Football Federation. Disparaging this body because of its interpretation which in this context is unfavourable to one party is akin to throwing stones into the market. We should be guided by a modicum of objectivity, decorum, constructive criticism and respect for constituted or elected authorities.
In all modesty, Sharks FC and the former NPA FC which is today Warri Wolves FC have a historical affinity that defies all ethemeral calculations. Sharks FC has always been a Warri team so to speak, in time past and now bulk of their players, officials and even some of the founding fathers of Sharks FC namely; Ebiyon Dediare, Jossy Dombraye et al are from Delta State, a fact that attested to Sharks being the only club to pick a draw in Warri even with NPAâ€™s unbeaten home record about five seasons ago.
In Delta State, we respect the feelings of Sharks FC and share in their pains. It is natural to feel bad that way but we are of the candid opinion that they should accept the verdict of the NFF with calmness and equanimity and prepare better for next season.
Running football professionally has been our hallmark over the years. During the Delta State version of the Federation Cup (FA Cup) an unknown team beat these Warri Wolves at the semi-final stages without interferences from the State Football Association. That is the spirit. In our estimation, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has enormous regard for the past and good people of the Rivers State and will not deliberately hurt their feelings.
At this juncture, let us all join hands to use the game of football to foster unity and build bridges of friendship now and ever before. Amaju is Delta Sports Commission chairman.