By Onochie Anibeze
Two sound football personalities reached one conclusion yesterday. Federal Governmentâ€™s decision to withdraw Nigeria from FIFA organised events for two years was â€œstupid and must be resisted by all lovers of the game, the labour unionsâ€.
Kojo Williams, a one time NFA chairman spoke from Lagos and Abdulrahman Abdulrazak, the chairman of FC Abuja and the owner of First Fuels, an oil and gas company spoke from South Africa where he is watching the World Cup. The third person, Amaju Pinnick commended the Presidentâ€™s interest in football but pleaded that he rescinds the decision for the interest of Nigerian football.
Said Abdulrahman: â€œGovernment action was stupid. Iâ€™m surprised the President took that decision. Iâ€™m not sure he consulted enough before pulling Nigeria out of FIFA events. Has he not heard about the wisdom of King Solomon in settling a dispute over ownership of a child? Itâ€™s like if we canâ€™t get what we want letâ€™s destroy everything.
It is on record that some members of the PTF want to get into the FA. And since the Sani Lulu board is scheming them out they insisted on crashing our football and Governor Amaechi bought it, sold it to the President who didnâ€™t consider the implications and immediately implemented it.
There are many ways to get the Lulu board out of office. They simply didnâ€™t consult. This action is against football, it is against the youths of this country, it infringes on the rights of people who play football and Iâ€™m ready to go to court to seek redress. Government has no right to tell Nigerian youths to stop playing football because thatâ€™s what it means.
They have a right to stop funding the FA. The FA can look for money to run football and enter teams for international competitions. Football people can elect their FA and they remain autonomous.
It mustnâ€™t be the current board.Â Those who support the Presidentâ€™s action either lack vision or do so for selfish interest. The labour unions should resist it because it will throw thousands of footballers into the labour market. The youth must prepare to reject this with their votes during election. This action means that FIFA will ban us for some years not less than five because we have qualified for female Under 20 World Cup in Germany and pulling out this way attracts suspension. It means that we will not play in the next World Cup, the next Olympic Games, U-20, U-17. This withdrawal will affect local football too. In fact, it is destroying one whole industry.
How can we do this because of a body the President can easily contain? How can the President be easily deceived like that? Okay, whatâ€™s the alternative step he provided? What pedigree does Amaechi have in sports to advise the President on sports?Â Is football doing well in Rivers State? What spectacular thing has he done for football that should earn him respect on the sport? I pray the President rescinds this decision otherwise Iâ€™ll go to court.â€
Kojo Williams reacted this way: â€œThis is killing football. It is a stupid thing to do. I donâ€™t buy it. Whoever advised the President got it wrong. They can restructure football without killing it. I disagree totally. To build our football we need competitions. The good thing is that Mr. President has shown interest in our football and we should commend him for that. The only bad thing is that they have advised him wrongly.
They can restructure without pulling out. The current FA board can be dispensed with without pulling Nigeria out for two years which may mean more years ban. Missing two years of FIFA will take us eight to ten years back. We can restructure without killing everything. We should also restructure the sports ministry and the league board.
We run the most corrupt league in the world and something should also be done about it without killing the league. Our sports cannot thrive with what we have in the sports ministry or National Sports Commission now. Iâ€™m sure the President will see reason to change his mind with timeâ€
Amaju Pinnick appeared overwhelmed when he spoke. He pleaded for caution throughout.
â€œOne of the female players expected to play in Germany has broken down. When implication of governmentâ€™sÂ decision dawned on her she broke down and wept. She is the bread winner in her family and all her dreams to shine in Germany and possibly achieve greater heights seemed shattered. I think that the Presidentâ€™s decision was a little bit harsh. The sins of a few should not be visited on the entire country.
This action may cause Nigerian players to start naturalizing in other countries. Players will play without ambition because they wonâ€™t end anywhere. We have people to restructure. This action means that NFF should resign.
The good thing is that we have a President who is genuinely interested in developing sports in the country and we must encourage him. I align with what he is doing but it could be done differently. President Jonathan is passionate about football. I have seen him at close range talk football. It was more of anger to pull us out. I go on my knees to beg him to rescind the decision and letâ€™s begin to restructure,â€Amaju said. He runs sports in Delta, the countryâ€™s foremost state in sports.