June 15, 2009

NFF, PTF lock horns – As Eagles depart for Malta

By Onochie Anibeze
There had always been fear that the   Presidential Task Force set up by President Umaru Yar’Adua to ensure Nigeria’s qualification for the 2010 World Cup would clash with Nigeria Football Federation, the authority that runs football in the country.

The first salvo has been fired. Unfortunately, it is at the time everybody involved with Nigerian football should be united in the struggle to upstage Tunisia who are leading in Nigeria’s group with six points. Nigeria have four.

The clash bordered on what many would not take serious. The Federation planned for 23 players to embark on the training tour of Malta from where they would all move to Tunisia for the June 20 match in the city of Rades.

But the Task Force  directed that 30 players embark on the trip since the coaches wanted all those in camp from the Abuja match with Kenya to continue until after the June 20 match.

The technical crew acted as directed by the federation and pruned their list to 23. But the Task Force pressed for 30 and offered to shoulder the bill of the additional players. The federation refused, insisting that it was not about money but about organisation.

For an away match, they felt the coaches needed good concentration on  the  players  they  would use for the match and that allowing a bogus list would not make for good concentration and management of the players both on and outside the field.

Officials of the team looked fagged out when we visited their transit abode at Sheraton Hotel yesterday. It was just few hours to their trip to Malta via Frankfurt as they flew Lufthansa Airlines.

“Meeting, meeting. From one meeting to the other. We were up till 2:00 a.m. this morning meeting,” one official said, bowing his head and crashing onto the bed just as he welcomed this reporter who immediately excused him to take some rest.

Two other sources had given details on what had transpired. The matter had not been totally resolved but some players and officials will leave today. Joseph Yobo is among them.

They could not get seats on board last night. Even if 30 players eventually travel to Tunisia, friction has already ensued as all efforts by the Task Force to make NFF President, Sani Lulu, change his mind failed.

Later, some officials and players pleaded to Lulu to allow more players on the trip as the Task Force was bankrolling the bill. Lulu was said to be having a rethink last night but would not want anybody to attribute his consideration to the Task Force position. Cold war is on.