By Felix Okpe
The development of organized football is the main objective of the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA).
The aspiration of the majority of Nigerians who play and follow the game is to take the running of football to enviable heights comparable to what is obtainable in Europe which epitomizes the best football leagues in terms of administration and football development. Any action, programs, or comments that seek to genuinely develop Nigerian football should be encouraged and not vilified.
The comments credited to Mr. Amaju Melvin Pinnick, the Executive Chairman of the Delta State Sports Commission during a recent interview on the shabby preparations of the Nigerian national team for South Africa 2010 and issues in Sharks FC are a reflection of his passion for the game and his innate desire for the long term development of football in Nigeria. If put in proper context, there is no iota of doubt that, Mr. Pinnick spoke as a concerned private citizen and in exercise of his fundamental rights as a Nigerian citizen. To state otherwise can create a serious precedent that is capable of killing football in Nigeria. Vilifying Mr. Pinnick because of comments he made in good faith to develop football in Nigeria, will create the impression that a cabal do exist in NFF, whose stock in trade is to hound real and imaginary enemies into oblivion for daring to express genuine opinion on the dwindling fortune of the game of football in the country. If this is the case, the situation can irk FIFA into sanctioning the country.
In my opinion, this young man is an erudite and consummate football administrator par excellence, the Executive Chairman of the Delta State Commission as well as the substantive Chairman of the Delta State football Association who rose through the ranks of the FA in Delta State.
.The Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) leadership should not play politics with the recent comments of PinnickÂ Mr. Pinnick should not be perceived as a stumbling block that must be disenfranchised because of his passion and genuine interest for the development of football in Nigeria but should be encouraged.
A football administrator of his stature and international exposure represents the future of football administration in Nigeria that we crave for, as nation. If it concerns football in Nigeria, Mr. Pinnick has a reputation to speak his mind with due regard to constituted authority. I believe, that was the driving force when he spoke concerning the Sharks/Rivers State recent football controversy. Like Martin Luther King Jr. I believe that the true measure of a man is determined by where he stands at the time of controversy and challenges.
An otherwise wise counsel and innocuous comment in the press, by Mr. Amaju Pinnick should not become a big media issue. The reaction of the powers that be at the Glass House should be that of commendation and appreciation instead of the negative politics that Mr. Pinnickâ€™s patriotic comments are currently being generated.Â This kind of politics is what has been the bane of Nigerian football.
Mr. Pinnickâ€™s reputation for the development of football in Delta State and Nigeria cannot be over emphasized. He is credited with many accolades and feats as being the driving force behind the growth of the integral part of the game of football through the training of over 150 coaches at the National Institute for Sports (NIS), LagosÂ and the College of Physical and Heath Education, Mosogor, Delta StateÂ respectively forÂ the last eight years. Sponsorship of the yearly copper test and seminar for referees for the past 5 years, securing of the longest football sponsorship deal in Nigerian (FA) history with Oceanic Bank for the past 11 consecutive years and many more.
As part of my ongoing visit to Nigeria, I attended the Delta State FA cup final at the Warri city stadium recently. As a FIFA agent who has travelled around the world and attended several international soccer events, the organization of the FA finals that brought dignitaries from around the world, is one of the best soccer events, which I have attended in recent time. One cannot help but be appreciative to leadership of the Delta FA for showcasing such a world class soccer carnival that lit up the city of Warri and its environs.
It was my first time of watching a soccer game played at night in Nigeria. Many times during the game, I felt like I was watching a game in Europe or in the United States The glamour was unbelievable and extra_ordinary. The Delta State FA headed by Mr. Pinnick is second to none in Nigeria. The Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) must harness the talent, enthusiasm and professionalism of this amiable sports technocrat if it is serious in developing football in Nigeria.
It is also interesting to note that, some years ago, some coaches of Delta State extraction, including Uche Eucharia, the present Super Falcon Coach were sent on internship to some notable European clubs. All these were achieved through private sponsorship without a dime from the Delta State Government coffers while Mr. Pinnick is at the helm of affairs.
I have it on good authority through my sources in the UK and Nigeria, that four Nigerian premier league referees and two match commissioners are jetting out of this country on an intensive internship program with Chelsea football academy (cobhan) in London from 25th April to 9th May 2010 under a sponsorship deal brokered by the Delta State Football Association under the leadership of Amaju Pinnick.
Many observers see the whole scenario as a season of anarchy and arm twisting tactics targeted at Mr. Pinnick who depicts the new face, the new hope and the new dawn of Nigerian football.
A school of thought has opined that Mr. Pinnick really has nothing to lose. Disenfranchising him during the congress or imposing a ban on him from all NFF organized events or stadia, which many believed NFF are out to do, would merely bring to fore the problem with Nigerian football and the determination of a select few to destroy the game in Nigeria. In the civilized world, constructive criticisms or wise counsel are meant to serve as a wake_up call and not an impetus to vilify those who make them.
Perhaps, it is germane to mention that the NFF cannot continue to brandish the name of FIFA to hoodwink the gullible, as FIFA being a responsible and responsive organization, cannot be said to be averse to freedom of speech and due process as enshrined in the Nigeria constitution.
Interestingly, the young man is not even thinking of running for any of the positions in NPL or NFF as he once said that his main pre_ occupation for now is to develop sports generally in Delta State to an enviable level.
This is becauseÂ his sterling qualitiesÂ were what made the state government to appoint him as the pioneerÂ Executive Chairman of Delta State Sport Commission, a commission that was conceptualized to be run by technocrats with a view to ultimately making sports self sustaining, a very smart move by the Governor Uduaghan led government in Delta State. He has already taken on this challenge in his characteristic manner by leading the state to win the national sports festival barely six months in the helm of affairs. He accomplished this feat by introducing novel training programs for athletes both within and outside Nigeria.
The NFF and NPL should celebrate Mr. Amaju Pinnick and give him a commendation for his commitment to the administration and development of football in Nigeria. Amaju Melvin Pinnick is a patriot and not a dooms day prophet.
Felix O.Okpe, Esq.
Sports Attorney & US based Licensed FIFA Agent