P resident of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick was at the Warri City Stadium last Sunday to watch Warri Wolves’ league match against Enyimba. In between the game, he took out time to tell JOHN EGBOKHAN why his board is condemned to succeed. Excerpts.
Your choice of Sunday Oliseh as Super Eagles coach has been criticised by some who insist that his lack of experience at the top level will affect his ability to deliver the goodies for the national team
He is a very sound coach. Don’t say that he does not have enough coaching experience. By the way, how many coaches have coaching experiences before getting big appointment? Marco van Basten, Betti Vogts, Joergen Klinsmann, even to some extent Pep Guardiola did not have that big coaching experience that people are talking about. If you have played like Sunday Oliseh, who played for Ajax, a developmental club, then you will appreciate his quality. Ajax are known for development of skills. The are like a school where you are properly trained. So even if you go to Ajax alone, it is enough to coach any team. Ajax of those days, I don’t know what it is today, was an institution for coaching. Players who came through the ranks went on to become successful managers of clubs and national teams.
And besides, he has a very high intelligence quotient. And I found out that from FIFA and UEFA lately, that they hold him in very high esteem going by some technical reports that he has written. And he is someone who is very disciplined and diligent. I don’t think that we made a wrong choice. Everything went through the various committees and when it came to my table, I had to approve it and the board ratified his appointment.
He has a relationship with his foreign assistant, Jean Franc Loscuito, which to you is a good development in achieving harmony in the technical crew.
Of course, that is one important factor that we considered. We also have Salisu Yusuf, who is also one of the assistant coaches to assist Oliseh and possibly look at the home team and our local league and see how we can bring players from the local scene to inject into the Eagles. They are working as a concerted team. Oliseh has told me that he wants to work as a team and he is very desirous, very ambitious, very excited and he sees it as a once in a life-time opportunity. Coaching the Nigerian national team is not easy because Nigeria is a country whose number one sports is football, number two is football and number three is football.
Everybody preaches football, so you know that you cannot go wrong. It is not that we cannot lose but how did we lose and how did we win. These are the things that we consider. If you lost a match gallantly people would appreciate you worked hard. And playing a game badly and winning will not endear fans to the team. I believe Oliseh’s arrival is going to be one of our plans for sustainable football development. That is one of the reasons he was chosen.
Eight months after being sworn-in as President of the NFF, people are looking for dividends of this administration. And some are saying the dividends are difficult to find.
They can’t say that. What about the referees and coaches’ training? They can see a lot of improvements and they should know that only a few weeks ago, we had our case at CAS thrown out. Football is not something that you just wake up in the morning and start seeing results. It is not possible. I did not promise when I came on board that the results would be seen immediately. When you want to see results immediately, then it means it is magic. Science is about preparations and that is what we are doing. Everything has to be prepared for. And people should also know that we inherited liabilities and some assets. So if you look at those things, the challenge is how do we marry them together. We have huge debts that we are still struggling to pay. We inherited these debts, which present their own challenges to us.
But the general thinking out there is that NFF is a house of money, flowing with huge grants from FIFA and sponsors and of course World Cup money.
No, no, no. All those ones are different. If you look at the last dispensation, they prepared very well and qualified Nigeria for almost all events. Preparations mean quality preparations, which in turn would translate to results and qualification. And what is preparation, it is early camping. Camping is not in tents, it is in hotels, allowances, feeding, travelling. All these consume a lot of money.
We are redefining a lot of things. We were sworn-in for four years and between these years, we believe that Nigerians will begin to see a gleam of hope. A gleam of hope in the sense of sustainable football development. We are looking at the local league, training referees, training coaches and we are also looking at youth developmental programme, a comprehensive template, whereby players will graduate from the junior level to the intermediate and to the senior side.
These are things that you do not see overnight. I know that Nigerians are very excited but we crave their indulgence to be patient with us. Rome was not built in a day. And I have never said that we are going to do magic within the first year. If we do magic, we are going to fall. All the issues have to be tidied up. We want to build the culture of sustainable football development. We are going global. Today, I had talks with the President of the USA Soccer Federation and he has invited us over to the USA to look at how we can build some ties, especially in the area of women football. We will also be meeting with the Chairman of the English FA, Greg Dyke and we are also looking at also building other ties elsewhere. So we are looking at going very global.
It is not just confining our influence within the narrow confines of Nigeria. We are looking at going far beyond that. And that is what we are doing. The hardest things are those you do not see. I can tell you that there are lots of things we are doing behind the scenes that people do not see. But I can assure you that at the end of the day, everything will come to the fore and people will see it.
The relationship between myself, Seyi Akinwunmi, Shehu Dikko and Ibrahim Gusau is wonderful. If four of us who I know are driven by the same vision, passion, love for the game, cannot succeed in running football, then something is wrong.
And if you look at the executive committee of the NFF, the board members are passionate about football development. They are anticipating a change, something different, something innovative and that is what we are trying to do.
This change message of yours is also going to affect what Sunday Oliseh brings to the Eagles, like his immediate target? Is it to equal Keshi’s achievement or surpass it? Do you expect him to win the Nations Cup at the first time of asking in 2017?
If he surpasses it good. If he wins better. If he equals it is okay. If he loses, like I told you earlier, we would look at how did he lose? If he wins, how did he win? I am not going to criticise anybody but I believe Oliseh has something to offer the Super Eagles and that is why the federation has deemed it necessary to offer him the job.
How do you feel as the President of the NFF with the performance of the Super Falcons and Flying Eagles at their respective FIFA World Cup tournaments in Canada and New Zealand respectively? And what are you doing to ensure that such don’t occur again?
There are different ways of winning and losing. We lost physically and left the tournament but won in the sense that there are lots of prospects and future in the team. The Super Falcons played an exemplary game, especially against the USA who were of the highest standard. But we also noticed certain deficiencies which we are working on right now, having seen their reports and are keen to rectify those deficiencies.
And the Flying Eagles are the team of the future and of course, we have decided to keep them together because they are the future Super Eagles. We are coming out with a sustainable football programme that will keep them together, play them in friendlies and make them know they are the future Super Eagles. We are working towards all these things.
But like I said, the most difficult things in football development are those you don’t see. They are the things we are doing silently and quietly. We want to work in obscurity so that once it comes to the fore, people will look at it pleasantly and say okay, they have been working.
On a final note, what is your long-term plan for our football, in fact, what legacy do you want to leave behind as NFF President?
To create a sustainable football culture that will aid the development of football potentials in the country.