2017 Will Be Great Year For Nigerian Football, Says Pinnick
Amaju Pinnick, the President of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), on Wednesday said that 2017 would be a great year for football in the country.
Pinnick, while reviewing the 2016 performance of the NFF, noted that though it was a very rough and tough year for the NFF, next year promised to be a great year.
“Generally I will say, with all sense of objectivity, that it was a kind of mixed fortune for Nigerian football in 2016.
“In terms of technology and new thinking in global football, we have signed up for the Domestic Transfer Matching System (DTMS), the Intermediary Regulatory Tool (IRT), the FIFA Connect and FIFA Integrity programmes.
“I think the federation has done well in these areas and we are always looking to the future; these are technology driven programs and areas that will enhance football in the country.
“We are the first country in Africa to have signed up for the DTMS. So, in terms of technology and the new thinking in global football, I think we are in the right direction.
“However, in terms of the politics of the game and funding, I won’t rate us very well. That’s the truth. We have not been able to live up to expectation in that area.
“Then in terms of qualifying for events, yes, we started very slowly but now we are on the verge of qualifying for the World Cup.
“It’s a marathon anyway, but I think we have got to an appreciable distance,’’ he said.
Pinnick noted that the NFF had its ups and downs and was not very proud of some of the downs, but referred to them as “some level of force majeure’’, saying that they did not predict or see them coming.
“In terms of funding, our relationship with Nigeria and the global corporate, I just feel very pained about these because this is not the target of the NFF, that’s the truth.
“We believe at this point (second year running), we should have an appreciable level of financial independence and autonomy,’’ he said.
The NFF boss commended all the national teams, adding that they had done the federation very proud in spite of all the challenges.
“The last two years haven’t been very encouraging and of course, we give credence to the fact that the country is going through a recession.
“The recession is not peculiar to football; it has to do with the economy generally. If you look at Nigeria, how many companies have posted profits this year?
“The reality is that the economy has not been very palatable, but we are working with companies that have MDs and CEOs who are driven by passion for the game.
“They love football. So, we just sell that point to them and they buy it. So, I think next year will be a great year for Nigerian football.
“Next year by God’s grace, when I will be sitting here reviewing football again, I will say congratulations; we are in the World Cup, congratulations, we are going to go beyond the second round.
“You can look at the maturity of our players like Kelechi Iheanacho, Alex Iwobi even Victor Osimhen. We have the youngest and most enterprising team in the continent at the moment.
“Unfortunately, we are not in AFCON; if we are in the tournament, there’s no way we would have won it,’’ he said.
Defending champions, the Flying Eagles, also failed to qualify for Zambia 2017 U-20 AFCON following a 4-3 defeat at home to 10-man Sudan.
Coach Emmanuel Amuneke’s side needed a draw to stand a chance of defending their title in Zambia but was unable to do their part and the North Africans won at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos.
In the same vein, world champions, Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets crashed out of the U-17 qualifiers.
The Eaglets, who beat Niger Republic 1-0 in the first leg in Abuja, could not keep their slim advantage in Niamey.
The Coach Manu Garba-tutored side were beaten 3-1 by their hosts; hence were denied participation in the African Championship and the opportunity to defend their title at the next FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Nigeria is the most successful team in the world in the U-17 cadre with five titles but surprisingly it could not navigate past Niger in the African qualifiers.
Also, the Flamingoes crashed out at the group stages of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup after a disastrous campaign in Jordan.
Nigeria failed to score a goal in their three matches and managed only a goalless draw with England to finish on a solitary point.
The Flamingoes, who reached the quarterfinals in the last three editions of the competition, suffered from lack of international exposure as they did not play any international warm-up before Jordan 2017.
The Nigeria U-20 Women’s team, Falconets, also crashed out of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea.
In the final group standings, Japan, Spain and Nigeria were all tied on six points, but the Falconets were edged out due to their huge goals deficit.
Crashing out in the group stage was disappointing for the Falconets who went all the way and were only narrowly beaten in the final in the last edition of the tournament.
The NFF afterwards admitted that they did not have the funds to arrange any international games for the team.
All these setbacks saw Nigeria football hit an all time low.
It was the first time in the country’s history that Nigeria won’t be part of all AFCON tournaments at all levels.
However, on a positive note, Nigeria’s national U-23 football team won bronze at the Rio Olympic Games, while the superb Super Falcons reinforced Nigeria’s position as the powerhouse of female soccer in Africa.
They defended their title at the 10th Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) in Cameroon, beating the hosts 1-0 to win it a record 8th time.
Nigeria’s Super Sand Eagles also qualified for next year’s FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2017 in Bahamas after finishing as runners at the CAF Beach Soccer Africa Cup of Nations at the Eko Atlantic Beach, Lagos.
The Super Eagles are also on the brink of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia after beating Zambia 2-1 in their own backyard and defeating Algeria 3-1 in Uyo.