Football stakeholders and fans of the round leather game in the country breathed a sigh of relief a fortnight ago with the election of Alhaji Ibrahim Musa Gusau as the new president of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).
Gusau succeeded Amaju Pinnick as the new president of the NFF after a landslide win in the second round of votes in Benin, Edo State on September 30. He defeated nine other candidates including former Super Eagles goalkeeper, Idah Peterside.
It is important to note that Gusau is not a new face in Nigerian football circles. Until his election, he was the chairman of Zamfara State Football Association (FA) and Executive Committee Member of the NFF for eight years of Pinnick’s administration. He is fully aware of the enormous task ahead of him.
Besides, unlike Pinnick who inherited Nigeria’s football as African champions men and women, Gusau is taking over at a time the Super Eagles failed to qualify for the FIFA World Cup taking place in Qatar between November and December and also crashed out in the second round at the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament in Cameroon early this year.
Sadly, in our view, the senior women’s team, the Super Falcons have lost its invincibility and dominance in Africa. Recall that they won nine Women African Nations Cup (WAFCON) titles in the past and lost the chance to win their 10th crown last July in Morocco. The Falcons crashed out in the semifinals.
Needless to say, that the domestic league is in total shambles with the country’s top-flight league, Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) in comatose without sponsorship for years, making it unattractive to participating clubs.
Despite earning billions of naira from sponsors, the federal government, and grants from CAF and FIFA, the Amaju Pinnick-led board left behind accumulated debts.
The NFF is in the red to the tune of almost N2 billion as debts continued to pile up over the years. These are monies owed to hotels, marketers, and staff. Also, coaches and players of national teams are being owed their allowances and match bonuses.
The welfare of national team players has been poor and inconsistent over the years with national players going on protests over unpaid bonuses and allowances. Sometimes, they are forced to hold the nation to ransom by refusing to return to Nigeria after international competitions, thereby damaging the country’s image before the international community.
Indeed, Gusau and his board have an arduous task to recover and reposition Nigeria’s football as Nigerians will not accept any excuse for failure. We are enthused by Gusau’s promise to focus on developing grassroots football as well as rebuilding and rejuvenating domestic leagues.
According to him, the NPFL, NNL, NLO, and the NWFL for women league are key in the progress of Nigeria Football. In his opinion, “If our leagues are vibrant, I believe the successes will reflect on the performances of our national teams. “And for us to have strong national teams, both male and female, we have to focus on grassroots football which is the breeding ground for a better league.”
“Another area our administration will focus on is age-grade football, for our national teams to prosper, the male U17, U20, U23, and their female counterparts will be given all necessary attention.”
“The senior national teams, Super Eagles and Super Falcons will surely get better if our cadet national teams are strong.”
In the considered opinion of this newspaper, grassroots football development is key for better leagues and national teams.
Consequently, the Gusau-led new board of NFF should liaise with the federal government through the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development on the recent 10 Years of football development masterplan.
The masterplan which encapsulates functional strategies, if properly implemented, will firmly place Nigerian football on the path to sustainable growth and development as it is expected that the document will address the fundamental abnormalities that perennially upend the development of football in the country and benefit broad strata of the society.
Football has since metamorphosed from mere entertainment and physical exercise to big enterprise of monumental proportions. It is a big investment, and in most countries of the world today, football patronage is of the highest. Therefore, Nigeria can’t be an exception. There is every need to properly harness the economic potential embedded in the football industry.
It is from this perspective that we call on Gusau and his board of NFF to work hard to recover Nigeria’s football and build winning teams for the country. This is the minimum expected of the NFF board.