By Jacob Ajom, Deputy Sports Editor
Soon after the result of the September 20 election was declared in Katsina, a colleague of mine said, “today’s exercise is a stamp of authority to Pinnick’s occupation of the presidency of the Nigeria Football Federation.”
I couldn’t agree with him less, given the myriad of problems the young man has had to battle with, throughout his first four-year term.
But whether his re-election has put paid to agitations from his erstwhile rival, Chris Giwa and his group is yet to be seen.
In victory, Pinnick has been wise. He has shown a lot of magnanimity, when he said, “there is no victor and no vanquished.” Some could interpret this to be directed at those he contested against but a much wider interpretation presented itself when, in a second breadth, he called for reconciliation.
Pinnick’s rise to breaking the jinx of being the first Nigerian NFF President to bag a second term was marked by so many obstacles. Apart from the intractable Giwa problem that was like an abiku, his frosty relationship with the Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Barrister Solomon Dalung cannot be forgotten easily. At a point, it appeared the minister stood up headlong against the very government he was supposed to be serving, as he was on one side(Giwa’s) while the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo was on the other(Pinnick’s).
Before the election in Katsina, the minister who openly supported Giwa’s claim to the NFF presidency did not hide his disapproval of the elective congress. He labeled it as an illegal gathering and, to cap it all, he refused to go to Katsina. He did not send a representative either. But the congress went on to elect their man as President of the federation.
With this kind of background, Pinnick must be a trained navigator to be able to function properly in an FA that is still a parastatal under the ministry of sports.“This is something that we need to start immediately, to ensure true reconciliation. We have to do it right away. I am happy, though it is not about me or the executive committee the Congress who believed in us will work hard not to fail them.”
But that is not all the newly re-elected President have to contend with in his second term.
The national team, the Super Eagles need to be reinvigorated. After a very poor outing at the Russia 2018 World Cup, the immediate task is qualifying for AFCON 2019.
For the first time in so many years, Nigeria could not qualify for two consecutive Africa Cup of Nations tournaments – a tournament the Super Eagles have won three times and won silver medal on three occasions. This is the tar Pinnick needs to wipe out of the memory of Nigerians by ensuring the country’s flag is hoisted in Yaounde next year. With the Eagles trailing a close third in the qualifying group, the task looks feasible.
“His re-election is good for the game,” Etta Egbe, public relations officer of Nigeria Football Coaches Association, said. “Pinnick needs to sit up because all is not well. He may have succeeded in the politics of the game but in terms of grassroots development he was a colossal failure.”
Egbe also pointed out that the appointment of national coaches has been lopesided. “He has to redress the imbalance in the appointment of coaches to the national teams. He should make all the geopolitical zones feel a sense of belonging, and being part of the country. Right now, coaches from some parts of the country feel alienated.”
In serious terms, the Amaju Pinnick-led executive committee need to sit and map out plans for true development. The penchant for going abroad in search of talents created by other nations at the expense of home-grown talents does not augur well for our football. Today, Nigeria combs the entire world in search of ready made talents, even at under 17 level. What a shame. If we can’t produce an entirely home-grown U-17 squad to win tournaments, then what is the function of the FA?
Age group teams and competitions at both national and regional levels must be encouraged to give the country true football culture that engenders development at all levels.
The training of coaches must be intensified while the Nigeria Professional Football League should be reformed to encourage sponsors to come in and develop the league.
First Vice President of the NFF, Seyi Akinwunmi, an apostle of grassroots football heads the development department. He has already made it clear that grassroots development will form the main focus of the new regime. He also talked about developing women football to a level that has never been witnessed before. “We will pay more attention to developing female football. One of the problem has been the reluctance of many states to practice women football at the junior level.
Like the reelected NFF President said, this is a turning point in Nigeria football and it must be fully exploited so that Nigeria will be the winner.