By Amaechi Agbo
The minister of youth and sports development, Sunday Dare has stated that Nigeria football is ‘coma’ and directed the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF to do everything possible to resuscitate football in the country.
The minister made the statement while delivering a speech at the 75th NFF Annual General Meeting, AGM held in Benin, Edo state capital Tuesday.
The minister who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Mr. Adesola Olusola charged the NFF to purge itself of bad image and sanitise the federation so as to attract sponsors in order to improve the round leather game in the country.
The minister who bemoaned the negative impact corruption perception in the NFF has on the nation’s football, said that in the eyes of the Nigerian public, the perception that NFF and Nigerian football is corrupt is rife. ‘I have had cause in the past to speak on how perception is everything and the perception around the NFF is not one that will court new partners and sponsors for the federation.’
“Dear stakeholders, I welcome you to this all-important meeting, which I do with subdued excitement. My excitement is subdued today not because we have not had a few successes in our football development, but because these successes have been diminished by recent losses and happenings in the world of football. We have gone from a football loving nation to a nation that needlessly squabbles over football. We now showcase more of our disagreements and discordant tunes in football than the talents and skills that should be displayed in this game. Nigerians and the world have taken note and tough questions that require urgent answers are being asked. There is no better place to provider these answers than here in this assembly, this morning.
“My dear stakeholders of the once beautiful game in Nigeria, I will be shying away from the truth if I say everything is right with our football. Previous Annual General Meetings (AGM) have been too ordinary by simply accepting what the federation thinks it has achieved. But like a cancerous wound, the problems that the Board should have solved keep festering so much so that our football is in a coma. Some have even taken the less optimistic stance of declaring that Nigeria’s football is dead. So, let us forget some of the pyrrhic feats we have achieved especially when they have not translated into growth.
“We lack the football pitches and other football related facilities across the country. That should worry you. There is no well-articulated plan for grassroots football growth and development. This assembly should come up with such. The technical depth of our football is suspect. Our refereeing or officiating of matches is depressing and has gradually killed the competitive spirit of the game. Our domestic league is on crutches. We lack football content. This assembly must rise above the mundane and design a proactive action plan. The Ministry will work with you.
“The Ministry of Youth and Sports development has spent the last four months working with experts and the organized private sector to turn sports into a business. To develop a business model that will metamorphosed sports into viable business creating jobs and generating revenue. We have bench marked and some of the things and practices I have mentioned above must be in the DNA of our football before we can have a successful league and football development.
“No country’s football can grow without a predictable and credible football calendar that is binding on everyone. The essence of having a football calendar is to ensure that the corporate world can plan with it. No blue-chip firm operates based on hunches. Everything is planned with dates and milestones. No company will wait for NFF to wake up from its sleep to include them in their plans. Do not forget that firms have to account for investors’ money they use for business. Such firms will only do business with organizations that are accountable not the ones that are bogged down in controversies. If we must tell ourselves the truth, accountability is the soul of any business concern.
“The bad image at all levels of our football, including the organizers of the domestic league cannot attract sponsorship, which is the biggest hub of business. In the eyes of the Nigerian public, the perception that NFF and Nigerian football is CORRUPT is rife. I have had cause in the past to speak on how perception is everything and the perception around the NFF is not one that will court new partners and sponsors for the federation.
“Even though many of the allegations have not been proven, the atmosphere around football is polluted on account of the negative perception of corruption and we must move quickly to sanitize this. Agreed, the stigma of corruption in NFF predates this Board, hence the need for proper accountability and transparency going forward because we must move quickly to change this toxic perception,” he said.