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Nigerian Football

WHO OWNS NIGERIA FOOTBALL: THE INVESTOR OR THE PROMOTER?

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On Thursday August 30, the congress of the Nigeria professional football league rose from a meeting in Abuja and decided among other things, to end the league abruptly in week 24, citing CAF’s deadline for registration of continental teams as reason for their action. 

The NPFL Congress also crowned Lobi stars of Makurdi champions of the 2017/2018 football season while also declaring that all 20 NPFL club sides will stay put in the division, meaning no team will be relegated while four will be promoted from the NNL, to increase the number of participating teams in the 2018/2019 season to 24. 

These decisions were greeted with mixed reactions at birth. While some vehemently criticized the move, others felt it was the best solution under the present circumstance. 

The Nigeria National league on their part frowned at the manner with which the elite league came to these hasty conclusions without properly consulting with the NNL, to allow both league bodies properly work out the best possible solution going forward. 

Based on what they describe as disrespect to the lower league, the congress of the NNL, decided that, since the NPFL in it’s wisdom refused to relegate the four bottom teams in accordance with the rules guiding the conduct of the league, they are proposing that eight teams be promoted to the NPFL, jettisoning the season ending Super Eight, a competition that decides the best four teams in the division.  

The timely intervention of the NFF Executive committee meeting in Asaba failed to find any meaningful solution rather what followed was a detailed communiqué from the NNL Congress in Abuja which clearly points out their position and paved the way for a potential crisis that may drag on for months.

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Many may not understand the implication of what their actions or inactions may be leading Nigeria football to, but the strongmen in the NNL, clearly understand the game and are ready to play it to extra time and possibly penalties. 

There is more to all of these than meets the eyes. The events of the last few weeks are the consequences of bottled hatred, anger, bitterness and conflict of interests between two league bodies that have never done things in common in the last two years. 

At the start of the current football season, the NNL went cap in hands to the LMC, requesting for financial support to conduct their pre season congress and play the first few games of the 2017/2018 season. 

Promises were actually made, but were never fulfilled. This was where the problems began. 

From that day, till date, the NPFL and NNL have lived like cat and mouse; they have gone about their activities with lots of bitterness and hatred, waiting for that day when they can pour out their bottled anger. 

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This latest crisis provides a perfect setting for war and has been fully ignited by the resignation of Bukola Olopade, the hardworking and erudite Chief Executive officer of the NNL who resigned earlier this week, setting the ball rolling for what promises to be the mother of all crises. 

  For a man who single handily brought in sponsorship deals worth over 300m naira to a league that had one leg in the grave after the exit of chief Emeka Inyama in 2016, it is very difficult to question his decision to take a bow when it became obvious that things are no longer done the way they should be done. 

Olopade is not one man that can be taken for a ride, he is presently one of, if not, the biggest sports marketer in the country as available statistics shows that the former Ogun State commissioner for sports has generated over 600 million naira from corporate sponsorship of the Assess bank Lagos Marathon, an event that started as child’splay but has suddenly become a mainstay in the Nigeria athletics federation calendar. 

The chairman and chiefexecutive officer of Remo Stars FC of Ogun State, Otunba  Kunle Soname is another individual who has invested so much in the round leader game and will not allow some persons who  make money from the system rubbish a reputation that has taken him years of hard work to build. 

The owner of Bet9ja, is presently one of the biggest investor in Nigeria sports especially football. Soname is one of Nigeria’s human capital developer and strong investor in grassroots sports.  His company Bet9ja has been the title sponsor of the NNL for close to three years and to imagine that such a man is not taken into consideration by the NPFL before arriving at their decision not to relegate,has left him to carefully rethink his investments and possibly decide what next. 

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His club is the first of six, to pull out of the proposed NNL Super 8 starting at the Enyimba international stadium Aba, Abia State on the 14th of this month. 

Like Remo Stars, Kaduna-based KADA City FC have also decided not to take part in the competition in solidarity with the other four teams who feel seriously bitter that things are not being done properly and must be corrected for peace to reign. 

The unfortunate side to this is that it has provided a platform for all aggrieved persons that have scores to settle with the NFF to key into the latest crisis and voice their anger. 

From the grapevine, we understand that the Nigeria sports minister Solomon Dalung has expressed his readiness to uncover the true story behind this crisis and see if he could possibly get the chance to finally nail his long time enemies.  

Like Dalung, there are others fanning the embers of war. They are the forces behind the stubborn stance from some of these club sides who have now offered themselves as a ready made too of confusion. 

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The bone of contention here however is that those who genuinely invest their money in the league or those who have gone out of their ways to attract sponsorship for the league now feel they deserve equal rights in the running and administration of the game they have given so much to.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Nigerian Football

Nigeria’s broadcast icon, Danladi Bako hails NFF on choice of Finidi George

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Nigerian broadcasting icon, Dr. Nasir Danladi Bako has praised the Nigeria Football Federation for settling for former international and ex-Enyimba FC strategist Finidi George as Head Coach of the Super Eagles.

The Kogunan Sakwatto, 66, who created a plethora of famous TV programmes including Morning RideMastersports and Second Chance, among others, and served as Special Adviser to a number of Sports Ministers many years ago, insisted the NFF leadership struck a bull’s eye with the appointment of the two-time FIFA World Cup star, stating that George oozes class and character, and an iron determination to succeed despite his public carapace of a quiet person.

“Finidi George has that cultured, disciplined mien and personality that makes you want to trust him with a big project. He understands the meaning of constituted authority and right from his playing days, has always displayed the attribute of a team player. He has always had that calm, collected nature even in the face of pressure or danger.

“Above all, he is not someone who thinks he is doing the nation a favour. He is grateful for the opportunity and I believe that he has all it takes to succeed. I am calling on the Federal Ministry of Sports Development, the NFF and Nigerians as a whole to support him to take the Super Eagles to brand-new heights.”

Bako, who holds a doctorate degree in development communication from the Ahmadu Bello University and was Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission between 1999 and 2002, says all hands must now be on deck to ensure victories in the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches against South Africa and Benin Republic on 7 June and 11 June respectively.

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“No doubt, the NFF got this one appointment right. Very much on point. Now, they should endeavour to give George all the support he needs to succeed in his task of qualifying Nigeria for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.”

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Nigerian Football

Nigeria’s sports minister, Enoh applauds NFF for ‘buying local material’

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Sports Minister Enoh (left) and NFF President Gusau (right) unveil Finidi.

Nigeria’s Minister of Sports Development, John Owan Enoh on Monday praised the leadership of Nigeria Football Federation for settling for an indigenous Head Coach for the Super Eagles, despite the plethora of foreign tacticians who applied for the job.

Enoh, who spoke at the unveiling ceremony of the Eagles’ new substantive Head Coach, Finidi George at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja, charged the NFF to give the former winger all the support to succeed, while also soliciting the support of all Nigerians for the new helmsman.

“As a student of the University of Calabar in those days, I used to go to the UJ Esuene Stadium to watch Calabar Rovers, which included Finidi George. I am excited to see him seated here as the new Head Coach of the Super Eagles.”

President of NFF,  Ibrahim Musa Gusau exuded delight with the ‘new chapter’ the Federation is opening about the Nigeria game, saying the football-governing body is determined to fully support George and his assistants to lead the Super Eagles to new heights.

“When we returned from the Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire, we began the search for a new Head Coach. There was a plethora of foreign applicants, far more than the indigenous applicants. However, we undertook a thorough process that has produced an indigenous Coach and we are very happy about that. Finidi George was part of the technical crew that came close to winning the AFCON, and we have faith in him that he will lead the team to the title next time.  

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“Our objective now is to ensure the enthronement of excellence at all levels of the National Teams.”

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Nigerian Football

No more bench-warmers in the Super Eagles, says Finidi George

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New man on the managerial saddle of the Super Eagles, Finidi George has stated that  he will invite for international assignments, only players who feature regularly at their clubs either in Nigeria or in the diaspora, and promised that the Super Eagles will remain even more competitive in the years ahead.

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