•Says, no man can single-handedly run Nigeria’s football

•No Nigerian ‘ll forgive you if you don’t qualify for the World Cup

Peterside Idah is a former Nigeria international goalkeeper.  Although he had a short spell in the national team, his contributions to the development of Nigerian football cannot be quantified. Indeed, he was an integral part of the Super Eagles squad that qualified Nigeria for the 2002 World Cup. Unfortunately, he was forced out of the team by injury. “That remains my biggest regret,” he recounted in this interview.

Idah who is now a pundit with South Africa based cable network, Super Sport, has declared his intention to contest for the Presidency of the Nigeria Football Federation in the forthcoming elective congress in September. Read on

Why are you running for the NFF PRESIDENCY?

The motivation to contest for the NFF President has been in my heart for a very long time. A whole lot of things are not right with Nigerian football. We couldn’t qualify for the World Cup and we have not won any major trophy for a very long time. Look at the decadence in our league. Our league is messed up and I think I can bring about massive change in the NFF. We need to bring prestige and honour back to our league.

I think it is important that I contest and the reception has been overwhelming. Since I devlared my intention to run, a lot of people have called me from in and outside the country, telling me that I am qualified and that it was time we brought the change to Nigerian football.

You were the media officer of the Super Eagles at one time.

Well I was the media officer, not when Pinnick was there, I did not serve under Pinnick. But as an incumbent I called Pinnick and told him my intention to run. I first asked him if he was going to contest for the position and he said no, that he had discussed with his family and his family asked him not to contest. Because of that I told him I want to contest and he said I am qualified. He promised me his support. I don’t know how true that was. But, yes I informed him.

About the court case.

We all know that the court case is out now and there is going to be an election. The federal government has come out  and openly said to the NFF President that the election must hold. They refused to call for elections because of the court case. So we are hoping that by September the entire process would have been concluded as the court case has been withdrawn. We still have three months to the elections, we hope it is going to hold.

How will your board deal with government?

We are going to partner with government. There is no way we will not partner with the government. A lot of these European countries or FIFA saying you must keep government out of football is ideal but we are not as developed as they are; they have a lot of money, they have a lot of sponsorship. We in Africa have a lot of problems with sponsorship except in countries like South Africa and a few others. So there is absolutely no way you can run football in Africa without government. Yes it is a partnership between the government and the football federation.

Remember, every other federation like hockey, basketball, athletics, tennis and so forth get massive support from government, why not football.

However, in the day-to-day running of football, there should not be an interference because I believe those who have been elected to run football should be enabled and given a free hand.

Change

If I am elected as NFF President, I will focus on the Nigerian Professional Football League. We will borrow a leaf from the South African League because their league has done well. The last time I played in the South African league is about 20 years ago and since then, there has been massive improvement, sponsors are  pouring in, people are supporting the league and it has grown tremendously. Yes we are going to bring a lot of changes, our game has not been on television in the last five years, we will look for TV houses to come into sponsorship. We will make sure that we bring a lot of changes, especially the league. We have corruption in the league, referees taking bribes, it is really a kind of mess. We will rectify that. We will ensure we train our referees, our coaches, we will increase the capacity for these people to function.

State of Nigerian football

Well the state of Nigerian football, we call it Topsy-turfy. It’s like 50-50. But no Nigerian will forgive you if you don’t qualify for the World Cup. I think the main issue here is the World Cup. People want to see Nigeria in every major competition. So if you ask an ordinary man in the street, he will say Nigerian football is not doing well because we did not qualify for the World Cup.

Women football

Women football has come a long way in Nigeria but we want to see improvement. We want to see our girls leave the shores of our country to go and play professional football abroad. But we need to improve our game because right now, it is like we have become wives to South Africa anytime we play against them, they hammer us. That must change. Years ago, we used to beat Banyana Banyana 4-0, 3-0 and many other African teams. There must be a lot of improvement, especially from our local league  

How will you run Nigerian football if elected?

Nobody can run Nigerian football alone; it has to be collective. We will bring all the legends and ex-internationals who sacrificed they youth for the country will be brought back to see what they can contribute to the revival of Nigerian football and there has to be a conducive atmosphere before you bring them. So ex-internationals, not just Mercy Akide for female football, other ex-internationals that are doing well all over the world will be brought back to support our game and support our league as much as possible. 

Players Union

Players Union is massive. Yes, we must do this for the sake of our players it’s our game. There are a lot ex-players who are suffering around Nigeria because they were not well looked after, some others because of bad lifestyle. But we cannot leave thousands of our ex-internationals be kept away from our football. There is local football to be improved in Nigerian football. We have to go back to state levels, regional levels because not everyone can be at the top.  So we will have to bring them in. That is my dream. They will be well looked after. We are going to have a massive structure where we can rehabilitate some of these players who were injured or have not been able to do well with their lives.

Support from ex-internationals

Well a lot of them have come up. People like Jay Jay Okocha, Kanu Nwankwo, Peter Rufai, Sunday Oliseh, Babangida, even our own legend Emmanuel Okala, they have all have come out to support me, saying this is the right time a footballer become the head of NFF. It is resonating around Nigeria as a lot of people are saying, ‘yes, this is your time’. But we know that these footballers will not vote, we have only one vote. But I am appealing to the stake holders to give me an opportunity – I hear people are scared that when we come in there will be sweeping changes. Of course, there will be changes for the betterment of the game and for those who are important, those who have something positive to contribute to the development of Nigerian football, they have nothing to fear. We will bring them in from Sokoto to Jigawa to Bauchi. From Kogi to Rivers State from everywhere; we are going to bring everybody together and say how do we fix our game. One thing I going to do is to bring the legends, the fathers of the game and ask them, what is the way forward? How can you help me to move Nigerian football forward. So we are going to do well. And we expect that when they come together, the changes will be massive.

Pinnick’s third Term agenda

Well, there is a rumour which says Pinnick will be seeking a third term; it doesn’t matter whether he will be seeking a third term or not. I will run for the Presidency of the NFF. A lot of others may be coming out too. It is an election and the best candidate will win.

Shehu Dikko

Like I said, Shehu Dikko is my good friend. He has served Nigerian football over the years. He has every right to contest to be president. But it is not enough to say how long one has been there but how well. Look around and tell us what you have been able to achieve. I played the game, I served the game. So whoever is coming, that doesn’t matter to me, we are going to meet at the polls.

Will you change the Statutes of NFF if elected?

Well, it is not my place to change the statute of Nigeria football. It is the congress that can do that. When we get there, the board will sit and look at it and we will bring it to the congress and ask them what changes can we make. A lot of stake holders are clamouring for inclusion, especially from my bloc, the players, we will give them that if the congress says so. I am not going to be a dictator and it is the congress that will help change the statutes and the rules. It is not going to be a one-man show as we are going to bring everyone along.

Will the election hold in September?

We are hoping that the election will hold in September. We know there will be an election in September and we are absolutely looking forward to it.

Losing World Cup ticket to Ghana

Well, staging the match in Abuja was a big mistake. That is why people like us should come in. We must look at a whole lot of things before matches are played. Most of our players come in from Europe and when they arrive, our weather is hot – sometimes 40′(Degrees). You punish them when you allow them play under such condition. You have the Port Harcourt stadium, you have the Uyo stadium; why don’t you take such matches to those places and play in the evenings.

I think we had a better team than Ghana but the weather frustrated us and we are all regretting it today. Thank goodness, maybe if Nigeria had qualified, I would not be president, I wouldn’t be running. Maybe it is the catalyst for the change we are yearning for. It might turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

On Gernot Rohr

Yes a lot of people know that I criticised Gernot Rohr. For instance I was watching the World Cup match between Argentina vs Nigeria in Russia. As a player, I knew what to do. The coach did not make the right changes. If you look at our game since Gernot Rohr came up, our football deteriorated; we were playing backward instead of forward play. We were not attacking and the players would tell me, he would say be cautious, be cautious. We are Nigeria, we can’t be cautious. We attack teams and finish them off. And that is just why I didn’t like his style. I didn’t know him as a person. I real football sense, I would say he was not a success to me. We were not playing good football. With that kind of football, Nigeria can do better without Gernot Rohr. 

Will you be in South Africa and run the NFF from there?

No. No. No. I cannot run Nigerian football from South Africa, I will move to Nigeria. Nigeria is my home. My family has started moving gradually, I will go home and pursue my mandate. I will be on ground. I have been in this great country, South Africa for 26 years. If I am elected I will move right back home, Nigeria is my home and I am not afraid to go back home. I will go and run Nigerian football from Nigeria..

How did you join Classic?

My friend William Okpara recommended me to Sinky Messe with whom I had enjoyed a relationship for sometime. I also met a great coach in Kabuzondo. I trained with them for over one week and then they signed me on. I was with them for two and half years  I was their number one for the period I stayed with them before I moved to Maroka Swallows. I left Classic because they were relegated.

Bonderiko had known I was a Nigerian international and then his son called me and asked if I was willing to come and play for his father. Swallows is a big team, I then went to play for Swallows. What a time I had with Swallows!

Your retirement?

I retired some years ago. I qualified Nigeria for the World Cup in 2002. I played a game between Swallows and Ajax Cape Town, it was a big game. I had a great game. It was the worst game of my life, we were leading 4-0. A young man pushed me and I twisted my knee. I tried everything to recover, unfortunately, I couldn’t recover. That was how I retired. I couldn’t play anymore because my knee was bad.

Biggest regret?

My biggest regret was not being able to go to the World Cup in 2002. I still regret it till today.

Your involvement in Nigerian football after retirement

Over the years, I have been involved in Nigerian football with a team called STK,  For over six years now, I am one of the directors and have been active financially too. I have been sending money to help the team. We play in the lower league. Not just them, I have also been committed to other teams that I sponsor with cash and material like boots, jerseys, balls etc. So you see, I have been very active in Nigeria football.

Your all time most favourite footballer?

That is a tough question. I was a goalkeeper, basically I will say Tafarel, a goalkeeper from Brazil. He won the World Cup with Brazil. For all-time player, I didn’t watch Pele play, but I watched Maradona. For me, Maradona is incomparable.. Maradona has always been my all-time greatest player.

When you come to Nigeria and you ask me who is your all time great. Well Nigeria has had great players over time I cannot really say who is the best of all. But if you ask me how many Nigerian players are your favourites I will say Kanu, Jay Jay, Taribo, Finidi and Peter Rufai In that wise I would say these guys have been some of my great idols.

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