With new NFF leadership onboard, expectations are high. But Nigerians as usual are not asking for too much. All they want is a sincere deliberate effort to restore the country’s football to it’s rightful position at the top of the ladder.
In this interview with Newspathfinder, Executive Director, Edo State Sports Development Commission, Mr Frank Ilaboya enjoined the new board to sit down and look at the contending issues in Nigerian football with a-fix-it approach.
The former Chairman Edo State Football Association also wants the NFF to make the home league robust.
Interview by Chigozie Chukwuleta
What is your word to this new administration?
First and foremost the President and Board members should sit down and look at the contending issues in Nigerian football. There are so many issues now, some of them may be right, some of them may be wrong. Look at the right ones and see how to sort them out. Football is all inclusive. It is only when you exclude a certain people for whatever reason not clear that issues may arise. So, look at it now most people are suggesting that the congress be expanded, good argument. But I want those people to go down memory lane to 2010 when the congress was 101. It was the same people (some of them are still in this present Board) that fought that the congress should be reduced to 44 are the same people calling for it’s expansion. I want to remember Amanze Uchegbunam he was Vice President of NFF that time under Lulu, they fought in Makurdi to get the congress from 101 to 44. Today the same Amanze is complaining that he should by ranking no one should contest against him. What goes around comes around. So expanding congress or whatever is not the issue. Like I said the new leadership now should look at the contending factors, see how they can stabilize the system and move ahead.
During his last address to the Congress, former President, Amaju said that people should not look at NFF leadership only from the angle of qualifications to World Cup and all that. What is your take on that?
Honestly I agree with him 100% because we are rating Amaju’s executive based on the world cup. Yes I understand that it is painful for Nigeria to not be in the World Cup but I think it’s a wrong indices to begin to rate any leadership of the NFF because of world Cup. Look at what has happened in the last eight years. Are we saying that there hasn’t been any progress, I remember the days when we used to fight about Super Eagles accomodations, their bonuses, we fought about a lot of things so much that we had to bring out a code of conduct. But in the past years, all of that is over. Super Eagles are now well respected, they travel well, they sleep well, those are achievements. Look at the grassroot level, we had a sponsor for U-15 through Zenith and so many of them. It looks like Nigerians have forgotten, this administration that are just outgone, mark my words in the next few years people will look back and say that indeed they did well. It’s not World Cup you’ll use to judge, Amaju was misconstrued. To me he is a man that meant well for Nigerian football but again the operating environment wasn’t good. For instance why didn’t we qualify for World cup, when that story is told, Nigerians will truly know why we didn’t qualify for world cup. It was beyond the NFF I must tell you, and those responsible for that one day the story will be told.
With what the Nigerian football has gone through in the last dispensation what exactly do you think should be done to get it better?
Again like I said football is holistic and before you talk about administration you have to talk about policy. What do you want? You want to concentrate on the grassroot? You want to talk about the home league?, which I think we’re losing. Let us make our home league very very robust because it’s like a mill, a transition mill. Right now if you look at Super Eagles you can’t get 1 person that will be in that team. Look at the area of goalkeeping, look at Nigeria, who said we can’t get a goalkeeper from the local league? But because that league has been cut off. The president and board should make the home league very robust, it should be well complimented. It must be well respected, players must be paid well, they must be well advertised. Even we the sports writers have to look at that. Putting all our attention on premier league will not help us. Let us create a consciousness in us to celebrate our players. I also want to appeal to the national coaches, like Peseiro is doing now to try to look at our local league when Westerhorf was here that was the catch. The man went around saw our players and saw that they needed to be exposed. He exposed likes of Finidi, likes of Amokachi, Kanu and now look at them today. That’s the type of thing they should be doing. Peseiro has started it, he has gone to one or two venues. They should encourage him more. He should be in this country, let him stay here. Let him understand the mentality of the people.. Let him see our pain, let him hear what the people are saying. Not that you’ll play one friendly match and you dash to Portugal, no no no. I think the current administration should ensure that, any coach hired should be able to do it. Secondly they should come up with a policy where all our national teams play the same pattern. The coaches should be told, this is the pattern for Nigeria, at U-17, U-20, U-23. And at the Super Eagles, they should play the same pattern so that transition would be easy. It has to be a deliberate policy, look at the Cameronians for instance, you see their players are bulky, they’re stocky it’s a deliberate policy. So what is our policy of football that is the question the incoming board should be able to answer. They should sit down and come out with a policy, tell Nigerians this is the policy we want to pursue and this is how we want to pursue it. And Nigerians should see that the policies indeed are being pursued. England has not won the World Cup since 1966, but people appreciate their football, people talk about EPL, EPL is not English team so why can’t ours be that vibrant that’s what I am saying.
Nigeria for the first time didn’t play the FA cup this year, even with a sponsor. What do you think about this development?
It is part of what I am talking about. Normally FA cup is played after all the other tournaments. But because our calendar is not aligned with Africa’s that is what we’re suffering. By the time we’ll play our own the other places have finished playing and we needed a representative and again NFF didn’t want us to lose that opportunity. But the truth of the matter is that we should have done that in conjunction with all the stakeholders. That is part of the policy I am talking about. We played FA cup last year, two years ago and three years ago as well, so why is that out of 10 we missed one and we’re talking about that one. It is quite funny.
What do you think should be done to get that alignment that has eluded us all these years?
To get that alignment we should put policies in place. We know the leagues of the world, we know the leagues of Africa. Set up a timetable that the league should end at so so time. It is not a rocket science. Not this year, you do abridged league, the next one you don’t know what will come up. Right now we don’t know when we are going to start our league. So put that policy in place and continue to pursue it conscientiously. All these kick and jeck policies don’t work. That is our problem. Look at now teams representing us in Africa, one by one now, l am not praying for that, they will be knocked out. Not because they are not good enough but it’s like you in a 100m race you are here and another person is already 10m ahead.The other people are already playing their League, they’ve jelled we are just starting. Is it too much for Nigerian league to align.
Coming to Edo, Insurance is back to Premiership, what is your wish and prayer for them and what do you have to say to the government that ensured this.
First of all we have to give kudos to the state government for their wonderful support. Insurance has never ever had it so good. If they didn’t qualify it would have been a betrayal of trust, the government has done well, paid them well. Now they’re well kitted, they travel well, train well. Insurance team when we were in division 2 earned the same salary if not better than those in the Premiership. So now that we are here which we rightly belong I believe we are going to make a statement. Team is not just about winning the league, it’s about the total comportment of the team. Look at last year, Insurance was never ever rebuked for unruly behavior. They win clean and lose clean as well. The package is clear, just like their female counterpart they travel by air. So we want to set that standard, those in the Premier league how many of them got sponsorship but Insurance in the lower league got a sponsor and they’re getting a better sponsor now. Insurance is going to show the example of how a club should be managed.
Edo state is the first state that has implemented the policy of the male and female teams being paid equal allowances. How are you sustaining that?
Because in Edo we do things right.We don’t want to do issue of gender. Look at the first lady Mrs Obaseki she just introduced a pre-season tournament with different themes, the last one was say No To Drugs. Because we know how drugs destroy athletes especially women.So like l said, this thing is not rocket science, it is a deliberate policy. I want to give kudos to the government, especially the deputy governor of Edo state, Rt Honourable Philip Shuaibu who has been in charge of sports. Who has been so determined, so passionate about sports and his desire for things to be done right.