PRESIDENT of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Mr Amaju Pinnick, was in Ibadan recently to watch the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) Match day nine encounter between perennial rivals Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) of Ibadan and Rangers International of Enugu.
As expected, members of the Sport Writers’ Association of Nigeria (SWAN) jumped at the opportunity to engage the Delta-born football administrator in an interview and he did not disappoint as he took time out to answer questions thrown at him during the parley, which held inside the secretariat of the Oyo State chapter of the association located inside the Lekan Salami Stadium.
Our man, Tosin Omojola,who was there, brings excerpts from the interview where Pinnick talked about his board’s plans for Nigerian football, the Nigerian league, indigenous coaches among other issues.
What is your assessment of the Globacom Premier League so far?
What I have seen so far is quite commendable because it has reflected the huge investment we (NFF) have invested so far in the league in the area of officiating and other domestic challenges because the win-at-home-syndrome is now a thing of the past. We have an appreciable level of officiating now and we are very excited about this development. So, we did not expect anything short of this improvement in terms of officiating because anything short of this change will be met with serious sanctions. I came into the stadium here and I saw referee Jelil Ogunmuyiwa who has been listed for the World Cup. Our referees are now being recognised locally and internationally. With what we have put on the ground, the league has really improved and we must say thank you to the League Management Company (LMC), thank you to the referees committee and thank you to the match commissioners. LMC is coming out with a lot of programmes aimed at transforming the league.
Any plan for more privately owned clubs to participate in the league?
Actually, the League Management Company (LMC), I believe is working round the clock in ensuring that in future private ownership of clubs become the order of the day, because only two clubs in our league are privately owned for now and those two clubs are not even well funded as expected.
We want clubs to be run professionally, it is not the issue of we are paying the players, what about if the governor is leaving the office at the end of his tenure. We want things to be done professionally and that is why we are working round the clock. I can tell you that we now have a lot of investors we are partnering with and in the next few months, you will see what we are going to come out with. We are not going to let the cat out of the bag now. Fortunately, 3SC is one of the clubs that an investor is ready to take over.
What is your view about NPFL players, particularly in this match (3SC vs Rangers)
Well, the standard of play (3SC/Rangers) is quite appreciable but they (players) can do more. I observed from both teams that they failed to apply some basics in terms of controlling the ball, trapping the ball, playing without purpose and so on. There was no connection between the defence and the midfield as well as the attack and maybe they (players) are doing that because of the presence of the NFF chairman (laughs). Maybe they wanted to entertain me but if they are playing their normal game, I believe they would have done better than what I saw today.
Can the NPFL ever compete with the EPL?
As I speak with you now the Manchester United/Arsenal game is on and that is why I commend Ibadan fans for coming out in large numbers and watch this match. No league can rival the English Premier League, even La Liga does not rival EPL as well Bundesliga. Today through the social media, everybody can watch foreign leagues in their homes. We want to make the stadium like a destination for Nigerians. I came with my two boys to this stadium, they were excited even though they were asking me who is playing and who is our team? But I told both of them that both teams are our clubs. That is the whole idea of making a stadium a destination for people. Nigerians should just be patient with us.
You all know I support Arsenal but when you draw the line, you will know that taking Nigerian football to greater heights is my passion and my future. My sentiment for Arsenal cannot override my passion for the Nigerian league.
What efforts are you making to help Nigerian coaches?
It was well known that we (NFF) took 20 coaches for training abroad and Kelechi Emeteole was one of them. Our coaches to me are very good but they need to do more to enhance their capacities.
They should not wait for the NFF to equip them, they earn salaries and they should be able to use their earnings to equip themselves and that is why I admire coach Salisu Yusuf, the new Super Eagles assistant coach, he’s been able to equip himself and you will see the new Super Eagles. Our coaches need to be IT literate, I was very pained when we went to England with about 20 coaches, I can tell you that only 40 per cent of them was information technology compliant, modern day football is moving with IT, if you watch Chelsea, Arsenal and other clubs, it is all about technology driven, pure statistics of the game.
For instance, statistics will reveal that Martesacker is a 60-minute player, it will tell you the mileage of every player and that will tell you how to strategise against your opponent.
We need to bring IT into our league and one good thing about it is that we’ve been able to acquire one of the best soft wares in match analysis and we are going to use it for the U-20 team, the Flying Eagles and for the Super Falcons at the Women’s World Cup.