By Albert Akota
The Ambassador of the Republic of Argentina to Nigeria, His Excellency Alejandro Herrero has advocated the streghtening of footballing ties between Argentina and Nigeria, insisting that there are compelling commonalities between the two countries in the realm of the ‘beautiful game’.
During a courtesy call on the President of Nigeria Football Federation and FIFA Council Member, Mr Amaju Melvin Pinnick at the NFF Secretariat, Abuja on Monday, Ambassador Herrero recalled several instances of on-pitch skirmishes between the two countries, saying that Nigeria and Argentina “always clash at the FIFA World Cup with narrow wins for Argentina but you have won one Olympic gold medal at our expense and we have won one at your expense.”
In a buoyant and relaxed atmosphere, the Ambassador said he would particularly be delighted to see regular games between nine –time African champions, Super Falcons and the Argentina Women A team, as well as exchange programmes and meaningful collaboration between the Football Federations and Clubs of both countries.
In his response, NFF President Pinnick said was excited by the possibility of closer collaboration and stronger footballing ties between Nigeria and Argentina, as this would benefit the NFF in its drive to accomplish its mission of building a sustainable football culture for Nigeria and fostering the building of a virile football industry – areas in which Argentina has some knowledge and experience.
“Our mission is to build a sustainable football culture for our country, and eventually have a robust football industry that will not only sustain itself but also contribute significantly to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Argentina is a country where the football culture is fully entrenched. Our teams clash all the time at the FIFA World Cup, at the Olympics, at youth tournaments and in friendly matches and both have had their victories.
“We have immense respect for what Argentina has been able to do in football, but you will agree with me that Nigeria has also made immense impact in world football, from youth tournaments to the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup. Now, we seek to buoy our football industry to become the big business that it should be.” Pinnick also mentioned the maiden edition of the First Lady of Nigeria Invitational Tournament being planned for later this year, and hinted that both countries could explore the possibility of Argentina Women A team joining the fray.
Also at the meeting were NFF General Secretary, Dr Mohammed Sanusi; Chairman of the Senate Committee on Sports/NFF Executive Member, Chief Obinna Ogba; NFF Deputy General Secretary, Dr Emmanuel Ikpeme; NFF Director of Finance & Administration, Mr Charity Kadiri; NFF Director of Communications, Mr Ademola Olajire; personal assistant to NFF President, Mr Nasiru Jibril; NFF Protocol Officer, Mr Emmanuel Ayanbunmi and; Ayo Olu-Ibidapo of the Communications Department.
With Ambassador Herrero were Victoria Budic (Deputy Head of Mission) and Fernando Lacabanne (Head of Economic and Commercial Section).