Veteran coach Adegboye Onigbinde is sad that all the hue and cry about flouting of FIFA Statutes is being interpreted one sided. In this interview with Jacob Ajom, Onigbinde says Nigeria football is being run on a poor foundation as Article 2 of FIFA Statute, which deals with then objective of running football is being consistently infringed upon.

What is your reaction to the Sports Minister’s assertion that the Vice President’s intervention in the NFF leadership crisis was a temporary measure that cannot last the test of time?

There are two sides to it, from my own angle: one as a Nigerian and two as a football administrator and technician.“As Nigerian, I still cannot bring myself to accept a situation where the Nigerian constitution and judiciary would be subjected to the control of any international body. I see it as surrendering our sovereignty. In the first instance they are saying that football matters should not be taken to ordinary court. How many ordinary courts do we have in Nigeria? I don’t know of any. I know court of the judiciary.“When Blatter was to be suspended from FIFA, the matter was taken to court, not FIFA court.

Adegboye Onigbinde
Adegboye Onigbinde

The former President of Brazilian FA was sentenced by a court in the United States, not by a FIFA court. Further, if we are playing a football match at the stadium and someone walks in, because he is angry and injured some of the players and beats up the referee, do we wait for FIFA to bring their Police to arrest that person? We are being unnecessarily intimidated.“Let me repeat this point, I am not against anybody being in control of Nigerian football.

My concern is what that person does with our football. That is the other aspect of my concern. People talk of Nigeria infringing on the FIFA Statutes, but I can give you more than five examples of consistent infringements of FIFA Statutes which people are not talking about and which is more crucial than what we are saying. Let me start with this; in Article 2 of FIFA Statute, which deals with then objective of running football, the opening sentence to it is: to improve the game of football constantly. For over 50 years I have been calling for a copy of our developmental programme but none has been given to me. It was made the opening sentence to that Article, not by accident but to state in categorical terms that it is the most important aspect. We have been infringing on that. And nobody is talking about that.

Another recent example is that the Minister set up a committee to intervene on the NFF crisis and there was not one technical man on that committee. We were going to send a group to FIFA and we did not  have a single technical man in the group. I am not talking about Onigbinde. It could be anybody because it would be crazy of anybody to think that at 80 I am still looking for job and even when I was very young, since my youth, I have never been a scrambler or a hustler. The right thing must be done. It is not a question of who must be there but what that person does while he is there is what matters.

But why are we not getting it right in our football administration? Article 19 of FIFA Statutes says a governing board of any football body- does that not include the clubs? The governing board of any football body must be democratically elected. When did we elect the boards of Shooting Stars, Rangers, Pillars, and so forth? When were elections held into their controlling bodies? Never.

You know the implications? If you do it by democratic elections, only football people will be elected. But because we are not following that, we have all sorts of characters running our football. I have respect for everybody, but are we doing it right?

We are running competitions and competitions in sports are supposed to serve the purpose of examinations in schools. A teacher sets an examination to assess the knowledge of his pupils, to know how far they have developed. But we are organizing competitions not for that purpose; just for the fun.

We don’t have a system that assesses players’ performance. About 6 years ago, I came up with a list of about 50 Nigerian coaches I felt could be trained as match assessors but up till now, nothing has been done.

If you train these people, for every league match, you send like 2 assessors to assess the performances of the players in each team. The assessor will write a report to Abuja and somebody will interpret it and will be collating the data. At the bottom  of the form, there is a column marked ‘outstanding player’ in either of the two teams.  For instance, if the name of a right full back appears 10 times in the reports, do you need another search to get a better right full back? Selection of players for the national team would have been made easier. These are the issues. I am talking about development, you want to improve the standard of education in any country, the first thing you must do is to produce quality teachers. You want to improve the standard of sports you must have good coaches. Are we  developing our coaches?

We have the National Institute for Sports(NIS)?

Please don’t let me talk about that. I have been invited on several occasions as an assessor on the final exam, and sometimes I shed tears. When I was on CAF technical committee, we came up with a programme to train and assess all African coaches and we set a deadline that by 2012, anybody who doesn’t have CAF license should not seat on the bench.

In 2012, when I knew that Nigeria had not even started, it was I who changed the date. We were in Gabon for the African Cup of Nations, and  up till date are we doing it now? Ghana has graded more than 3000, Egypt has graded more than 4000, Nigeria has just passed the 500 mark and then we complain that our coaches are not good. There is another excuse for that; so that they can go out and bring foreign coaches for reasons which are known. When are we going to develop?

And FIFA is tolerating the Nigerian case?

And nobody is saying anything about it, but they are raising voices on interference. We  accuse the government of interference, meanwhile it was the same government we went to write a letter to FIFA. How does that sound? But again when you need money, you go to the government and when the government wants to know how you spent their money, they are interfering. Isn’t it ridiculous? In all I have said, our football needs reorganization, and that was why I said, if I were in the position, I would be the one to write to FIFA to give us some years, so we can seat down and reorganize our football.

Sir you are a FIFA man, where do we draw the tin line between where FIFA rules become supreme  to our local laws?

As far as football matters are concerned, the definition of football matters, if a match is played and there are controversies on the result or the decision of the referee, that should be settled within football family, but when it comes to an issue of accusing somebody of committing a criminal offense, what do you do? You go to court. You wait for FIFA to bring their policemen, not at all. So there are a lot of  things around football matters. But it has to be defined.

In terms of succession into football body by elections, which rules should be supreme? Is it FIFA   guidelines or our civil court?

Now when you talk about election, I have told you that there are a lot of things that happen and I told you a little while ago, that if we had ensured  that right from club level we have football people running football, we wouldn’t have some of these problems we are having.

That is the beginning of the problem. But when it comes to elections, like what happened in this case, two elections were held, somebody went to court after the first elections, and the court decided that the other election should not be held and it was held inspite of  the court order and we should ignore that? Are we not promoting anarchy? We have to be very careful and any international body, I know FIFA respects every government in the world, but they don’t recognize them in seeking football administration matters. We have our own process of doing things

Where do we go from here? like the minister said, is this measure which averted the FIFA ban temporary?

The issue is this, there is a case pending in court or let me say cases pending in court, if those courts now take a decision do we ignore the decisions of the courts and wait for FIFA?That is what the minister is saying. You know he is a lawyer. The Supreme Court took a decision,we are sidetracking it. That’s why it is a temporary relief. When the final decision is taken by the court what do we do if it is against us? The problem is, there is a proverb in Yoruba land, you see an old woman with a heavy load, and you say mama let me help you, and she says am perfectly okay. Why do you want to die wanting to take the load from her?

Sir break it down, who is carrying the load this time?

Well the court is there, FIFA is there and all these other people who are quarreling are there. If all of them are after the interest of developing football in this country, should we have all this problem we are having now? If the center point is development of our football now – I usually say something talking about sports generally, if 10% of our politicians are sports men, we will not have all the killings at election, because in sports, you win some and you lose some. If Rangers and Shooting Stars are playing, they will kick one another, push one another, in the match and after the match you will find players of the two teams in a bar or a night club.

Speaking of development,  Arsene Wenger was with Arsenal for 20 years without any major cup and they retained him. You know why, because he was a developer. Where some clubs spent billions to buy players, he was producing players, and those he could not use, he was selling them and the club was making more money. Development, tell me one so called club in this country that does that. I have been asking from you media people,to give me a copy of our developmental program,and I have not seen it.

Functional developmental program, what are we doing with our sports. And that is why I said maybe if we have, when Jonathan was the president, he said he was going to suspend us for two years from international competition, and I came back to buy the idea, hoping that he will give us enough time to seat down and reorganize our football. As I said before in this interview, this country does not have a football club by FIFA regulations.

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