By Patrick Omorodion
I was shocked to read on Thursday, February 7, a rejoinder to Vanguard’s story on the rush by the NFF to book the Super Eagles return from South Africa hours before their crucial semi final match with tournament favourites and star-studded Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire.
I really don’t know who the rejoinder emanated from, the National Sports Commission, NSC or the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF. However, it looked like a joint work from both bodies, going through the message.
After going through the piece where the writer tried to ridicule Vanguard and the purported reporter of the story, I laughed because the writer exposed the football authority of our country which this reporter has always accused of being dubious.
I don’t want to probe further about the author of the rejoinder but the language points to a very familiar name who has formed the habit of labeling any critic of the football house a failure, unpatriotic or even disgruntled.
I will advise the sports minister/NSC chairman, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi to distance himself from such a rejoinder otherwise he would be grouped as someone who doesn’t know the terrain he is supposed to be supervising or is part of the rot and corruption in the football sector.
In trying to clarify the issue of booking the Eagles return, the rejoinder stated that “it is the Confederation of African Football(CAF), not the NSC or the NFF, that is responsible for the return flight arrangements of the teams in the Nations Cup. CAF is also responsible for their accommodation, feeding and transportation to the venue of the matches. It can only book return tickets for a team AFTER it has crashed out of a tournament, not before.”
It is not true that CAF books return tickets for teams. Each participating federation books flight for its players, that is why some federations route their players return ticket back to their bases in Europe and not back to their respective countries.
CAF or FIFA only reimburses federations after competitions and it could take weeks or months after. Both bodies also pay from the countries base to the competition venue and back, any other arrangement is not their responsibility.
As for accommodation, CAF and FIFA only recommend approved hotels for teams which the federations pay for by themselves. That was why the immediate past NFF Board of Sani Lulu offered to make its own separate arrangement during the 2010 World Cup and booked a sub-standard hotel for the Eagles which then sports minister, Isa Bio rejected. Of course the minister ordered the NSC to look for a saner hotel and Nigeria had to pay compensation to the earlier hotel.
All compensations to the participating teams are worked into what CAF or FIFA calls participating fees which is paid after the competition and not before or during the event as the dubious rejoinder would want Nigerians to believe.
This why the NFF draws up a budget for every competition it takes part in and passes same to the government as it is never buoyant enough to foot the bill on its own. Also in drawing up these budgets, various other things are added into it like provision of local delicacies for the team and hiring of Nigerian caterers to prepare them. Is the NFF telling Nigerians that CAF and FIFA also pays for the garri, amala and tuwo they take to competitions?
However, now that the NFF has owned up that CAF and FIFA foots some of the bills for our national teams participating in their competitions, the minister should conduct a probe into the NFF’s spending of funds government has always given the federation, subtract the bills of the spending not in CAF or FIFA’s account and make it refund all others from the days it started participating in competitions especially the World Cup since 1994.
They should tell Nigerians how much they got from the 2010 World Cup and how much they collected from the government for the same competition. That way Nigerians can do their calculation and know where the excess funds have gone into. Is not why some members of the immediate past NFF Board are facing trials today?
As for the Eagles, here is congratulating them for beating Burkina Faso and becoming African champions once again, against all expectations, even the NFF. The NFF almost distracted them with talks about replacing Keshi and the booking of their return even before they tackled Cote d’Ivoire. The NFF was never confident they could reach the final how much more winning the title. But now they are the once celebrating most. They will now add to their achievements in office even though they don’t have a single programme of grass-root development. That upper cut resignation Keshi landed on the NFF, was a masterstroke. The whole world and particularly president Goodluck Jonathan got to know of the intrigues in the NFF and has thrown his full weight behind Keshi. So let them come and threaten him again.