By Patrick Omorodion
Nigerian football under the tutelage of former president of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, Alhaji Sani Lulu Abdullahi was tottering and the 2010 World Cup qualification was hanging on a cliff hanger. Then President, Alhaji Umar Musa YarÁdua, now late, was concerned and thought of the impact Nigeria’s absence in Africa’s World Cup would have on both soccer crazy Nigerians and the economy.
What did he do? He put heads together with some of his aides, including, his Special Adviser on Media, Segun Adeniyi, a sports freak, and floated a Presidential Task Force, PTF to ensure Super Eagles qualification for the mundial.
Not many however, knew that the idea of setting up of the PTF was Godwin Dudu-orumen’s but he eventually did not make the list of members because of bad belle from some quarters. At the head of the PTF was amiable Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi, who before then was also pushing in funds to assist the Eagles.
In Governor Amaechi’s team were people like Chief Segun Odegbami, Chief Patrick Ekeji, then Director General of the National Sports Commission, NSC, Larry Izamoje, CEO of fearless sports radio, Brila FM and of course, Alhaji Abba Yola, also of the NSC as secretary of the body.
The PTF, as it were, was to report to the then Vice President, the Games Master General of the federation, Dr Goodluck Jonathan.
They went into action, did everything to motivate the Eagles because “Nigeria must be in South Africa”, as the President Yar’Adua ordered. Part of the motivation was the addition of $5,000 to the $5,000 which the NFF usually gave them. That was how the Eagles winning bonus came to $10,000.
Suffice it to say that when that idea was mooted, the NFF never complained nor rejected it, at least, it was in their favour as qulification for the World Cup would not only up their profile but swell their individual pockets.
The NFF did certain things that could have derailed the Eagles ambition but the PTF through the Presidency intervened on some occasions, an action the NFF frowned at, feeling the PTF was usurping their functions. In one of those crazy moments, the ever beggarly NFF, wanting independence reported the government to FIFA and Dr. Jonathan, now acting president after the demise of his boss, capitulated on his earlier decision to put football in the country in the cooler for two years.
The Lulu-Board carried all sorts of negative stories about the PTF, including accusation that they flew charter flights to South Africa at the expense of the team. They were however not sure whether the funds for that venture was from the PTF World Cup funds.
The grouse of the NFF then was the decision of the PTF to release money to them in bits as situations demanded then. The NFF however, did not disclose that some money was also to come from football’s world governing body, FIFA. They have never disclosed this in the past.
The mudslinging notwithstanding, Governor Amaechi and his team stuck to their guns and managed the World Cup funds judiciciously and the result is that the PTF saved some chunk of it which ordinarily would have be blown by the extravagant NFF Board.
Today, the NFF is the better for the frugal handling of the World Cup fund. The NFF, now under Aminu Maigari, is grinning from ear to ear, proud to own a House of its own, which would be commissioned in Abuja this week.
Thank God for the PTF for bailing out the NFF with a well deserved roof over their head. Left to the NFF Board members, the federation would remain a perpetual tenant in Abuja. But will they put pride aside and commend their benevolent ‘enemy’? Let’s watch and see.
Nigeria’s biggest soccer scandal
It was a shame of the highest dimension when teams struggling for promotion in the amateur cadre, brought odium on Nigerians and their football. The scandalous scorelines recorded by the desperate teams is still making headline news accros the world even as the NFF hurriedly issued a suspension order on the four teams involved.
That was before the proprietor of one of the guilty teams, Alhaji Shuaibu Ahmed Gara-Gombe told the world that he was disbanding the team and called for the prosecution of the people involved.
Gara-Gombe could be commended but he has to explain why he said he told the team not to play the match. A match scheduled by the football authorites should not be played? Why? Could it be that he wanted an easy walkover for their opponent?
From this, one could deduce that the team’s opponent, not sure of what their rival team would play at the other end, induced Gara-Gombe’s team to come out and play as goals could determine which team qualified. They obviously didn’t want to rely on a walkover which could only guarantee three points and three goals. At least the accord fetched them 67 goals. Pity though as it even didn’t fetch them the ‘ticket’ as their brothers in the scandal outscored them by 79-0. What a shame?