By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA-President Muhammadu Buhari Monday warned the officials of the Nigerian Football Federation, NFF to “behave” themselves and organize worthwhile sporting competitions.
The President’s warning came apparently against the backdrop of pockets of leadership tussles that had engulfed NFF, seeing the officials going in and out of court rooms and stalling progress.
Buhari also urged the new leadership of the Federation of International Football Association, FIFA to embrace accountability and transparency in the running of the Association.
This was as he assured that his administration would pay keen interest to accountability and transparency to fast-track football development in the country.
The President spoke when he received the FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, and the Secretary-General, Fatma Samuora, at State House, Abuja on Monday.
President Buhari challenged football administrators to fashion out strategic programmes to develop the game.
Congratulating the FIFA scribes on their election, particularly Samuora, the first African and female to be elected FIFA Secretary-General, President Buhari gave a nod to Infantino’s programme to reform the world game through transparency, anti-corruption and good governance.
The President pledged Nigeria’s support to FIFA president’s reform agenda, noting that they were similar to those his presidency had outlined to resuscitate Nigeria.
“Majority of Nigerians are married to football. In the rural areas, when there is no electricity and there is a game to watch, Nigerians go to the extent of renting small generators, popularly known as ‘I better-pass-my neighbour’ to watch the game.
“We will take the development of football very seriously and I encourage the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to behave itself and organise effective competitions for the good of the game.
“Accountability is serious business and I welcome you (Infantino) into the club of accountable Chief Executive Officers,’’ the President said.
In his remarks, Infantino asked the Nigerian authorities to pay attention to infrastructure and find a lasting solution to the problem of violence and insecurity at match venues.
“I foresee Nigeria as a bedrock for the development of the game in Africa, however infrastructure, stability and security are needed to make this happen, ’’ he said.
The FIFA officials were accompanied by the Minister of Youth and Sports, Barr. Solomon Dalung, NFF President, Amaju Pinnick and President, Nigeria Olympic Committee, Engr. Habu Gumel.
Later in a press conference with the officials, the visiting FIFA president said he had fruitful discussions with the president on how to harness potentials and untapped talents.
He however denied knowledge of any crisis in NFF.
“It was an honor for me to have this opportunity to meet with Mr. President and discussed football development in Nigeria. I have had some intense discussion on football in Nigeria and Africa we discussed how we can best develop football in Africa because there are talents, potentials and passion to do great things in football in Nigeria and Africa.
“FIFA will soon decide to increase yearly contributions and investments by four in football development as we can do a lot.
“When it comes generally to football development in Nigeria. Work need to be done in organizational structures, setting of training centers and better framework. A lot can be done.
“I don’t think there is any crisis in football management in Nigeria. There is an elected president in place and he is functioning.
“In a big country like Nigeria you are bound to see opposition that you see.
“If FIFA will be increasing more football teams in World Cup competition, I will propose two more team to come from Africa”, he said.