By Paul Bassey
Where do I start? Football has become very exciting in the last couple of months that I start having the feeling that in my life time, we may just get near to where some of us have always dreamt to be.
Where do I start? Maybe from the last. I was in a place called Dolisie last week( Yes the cemetery of Pillars, Heartland and lately Warri Wolves. Don’t laugh) Coordinating a CAF Confederations Cup match between Leopards of Congo and Zamalek of Egypt when my assistant said he heard a Nigerian had declared interest in the FIFA Presidency and wanted me to confirm. I said it was not true, that though I had been out of the country for a week, I was still in touch. “ It is a joke” I concluded, hastily.
He came back to say the Nigerian was Orji Uzor Kalu. “ Orji Uzor Kalu?” I asked. He said yes and wanted to know who he was. I obliged him a brief history of Enyinba International Football Club. “ I see” he responded.
With due respect to all those involved in this and the letters of the statutes governing qualification to aspire to be FIFA President, I still see this as ill adviced. I was in Congo when the President of Liberian Football Federation was invited to present his desire to be FIFA President to the executive Committee of CAF in Cairo. At the end of his submission, CAF thanked him but regretted that they were not going to support him, for reasons which could have been explained to him. Let us for once believe that Chief Kalu wants to be FIFA President. Does any of his Supporters know about Electoral Regulations for the FIFA Presidency, specifically Article 13 that borders on Eligibility? Have they studied a way round it, if possible? Was the leadership of the NFF taken into confidence even by way of information before they went to town? Did they reach out to the CAF president?
How many African countries can Chief Kalu get votes from independent of CAF? Asia?, Europe? South America………you see why I take this as a big joke that may end up embarrassing Chief Kalu if not Nigeria?
This is a man that has done so much for Nigerian football through Enyimba. How I wish that passion and drive were sustained outside Government house with the formation of a Football club that he would have run till date.
I was in a President Hayatou-led CAF entourage that ate at Government house when Chief Kalu was in power, and stopped over in his mother’s house for some drinks on the way to the stadium for a CAF Champions league final match.
But for rules and regulations and last minute intervention, a CAF Congress would have held in Chief Kalu’s family abode that same year. Yes that is how deep rooted his football connection was, then. Today, ten years after, let us be realistic. It will be near impossible for Chief Kalu to surmount the eligibility hurdle, criss cross the continents selling the campaign slogan “ I WANT TO BE THE FIRST BLACK FIFA PRESIDENT, I AM FROM NIGERIA, I FOUNDED ENYIMBA FC. VOTE FOR ME”……..Please.
So much has been written and said about Alhaji Dangote wanting to own Asenal and so on. No problem. I wish he can start showing some interest at home first. Charity they call it. There was a time it was rumoured that the Government of the day had penciled him for NFF Presidency and he declined.
Let Alhaji Dangote float a club in Nigeria. Let his group of companies shirt sponsor clubs in this country. I get so sick seeing our clubs play with jerseys that are “branded” with their names. Our league needs money to run and Dangote Group of companies are in a position to invest in this brand that will soon be worth in its equivalent in gold. After all, what we are asking for is not one tenth of what he has put aside to acquire Arsenal.
What Dangote has not done, is what Ifeanyi Ubah the oil magnate has done, set up a football club. Unfortunately though every day I get this sneaky feeling that those who persuaded him were not professional enough. If you ask me, there are too many consultants, advisers and what have you hanging around the man and the club that you begin to wonder what the ultimate aim of the club is, going forward.
I lived with Abiola Babes, Stationery Stores,Udoji United, Flash Flamingoes, Al yufsalam Rocks, and of late, Giwa FC, Gabros and all those clubs established and run by individuals, clubs that went on to excel, only to struggle to survive and eventually die because they were not run professionally.
Ifeanyi Ubah has the opportunity of changing things around. Let him in the best practices possible, establish a veritable and accepted club structure, get a club house, staff it appropriately with all the necessary personnel and departments ( Relatives and friends should stay clear) and go around and run the club as a business…….Good luck Chief.
Mallam Shehu Dikko is the chairman of the LMC, the body that is receiving all the encomiums for running a league that is exemplary. That Akwa United is at the threshold of winning the Federation Cup today, is because the gains of the league have flowed into the Federation Cup especially in the area of commendable refereeing. Never in the history of the Challenge Cup, FA Cup and Federation cup have we witnessed the volume of upsets that we had this year.
A few days ago, Dikko went to the sportspro.ng/Bussiness School Workshop to repeat the gospel he preached at the World Leagues Inaugural Forum in London. He went with some of his staff and representatives of the clubs. Just last week, the clubs media officers benefited from a seminar that will help add value to their work. Commendable. For once we are seeing an intellectual dimension added to a league that many thought pedestrian for a long time.
Now the big fish, the President of the Nigeria Football Federation, the 44 year old called Amaju Melvin Pinnick……I have asked my friend Linus Mba who between the President of Nigeria and the President of NFF is most focused (and criticized) in the media. Mba says NFF President with a laugh.
As a guest of the Delta State Football Association to the commissioning of her football house christened Patrick Okpomo House, I came back to write about the young man who at the helm of affairs had done so much for the development of the game in his state. The two storey football house complex as an example, was built without a kobo from the state government. Corporate organizations and individuals fall over themselves to sponsor the Delta State FA Cup final that is always beamed live by Super Sport. That is the man we have inherited today as the President of the NFF.
The moment he got to the Glass House, he hit the ground running by embarking on human capacity building initiatives that started with the referees and coaches. The success of the Premier League today is hinged on that effort that he considers ongoing. Next was the desire to open up Nigeria’s football to the world and pronto he, his first vice President and his secretary General met with the FIFA President and his secretary Jerome Valcke in Zurich.
He has had to meet with parents of potential Nigerian stars in Europe, selling them the Victor Moses example ( with a Nations Cup medal in tow ) whereas European nations will not hesitate to use you and dump you. The Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria has come calling, Bain and Co, Price Waterhouse and Cooper, internationally recognized firms have been appointed to guarantee global best practices.
Amaju Pinnick dreams an NFF that is abreast with modern trends that are conversant with emerging technologies that “ ….will fast-track a sustainable football culture and development”
Unfortunately for him he has to understand that unlike in Delta where he was more or less an emperor even as Chairman of the sports council, the NFF job is a different kettle of fish. He cannot just wake up with a brainwave, pick up his phone, call someone abroad and the next minute he is jumping into a plane to pursue a deal for his Federation. At such a speed, How does he expect some of us who are older than 50 to catch up?
In a recent discussion I had with him, I pointed out that no matter how well-meaning and progressive his intentions and plans are, if we do not get results on the field of play, he will not be appreciated.
Today the NFF is gaining back the confidence of the corporate world home and abroad. Today the NFF is looking for a foothold on a global platform, a long term initiative that may not be appreciated immediately. In saying so Pinnick and his team must try and open up their plans as much as they can without hurting their potential partners so that they do not run back every time to offer explanations after the media had stumbled on, or had been fed with half truths in a country where you still have the PDP on one side and the APC on the other. Don’t laugh
See you next week.