Exactly a year ago today, elections were held into the leadership positions of Nigerian football. One will recall that after the World Cup in Brazil, Nigerian football was thrown into chaos. Threats of suspension hovered on the nation’s football by FIFA due to the crisis caused by warring factions, the seeming involvement of government and litigation.
It’s all history now as, by 30 September 2014, all delegates gathered and agreed to hold elections, and Amaju Melvin Pinnick emerged as President of the NFF, ushering in a new Board that included a few old hands and some new faces.
Nigerian football has changed since then.
On the playing field, fortune might have been kinder to the country in the last year. Winning the African Women’s Championships, and the U20 African title are pluses. But failure of Nigeria’s Super Eagles to qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations could also be recorded as a negative highlight.
The jury may be out on the tenure of Amaju Pinnick at the helm of Nigerian football. People will have a lot to say. Questions may now be asked as to how he and his Board, one year on, will repair some damages that occurred during their first year – Super Eagles, restoring the dominance of Nigeria in the women’s game among other things. Yes the jury will always be out.
But 32 Nigerian referees, 20 Nigerian coaches, former internationals who have been absorbed into various roles in recognition of their service to the nation, and most importantly, the Nigerian local league and its watchers, will have delivered their judgement long ago and thrown away their score cards; and it would have been a big pass mark for them and all beneficiaries of what they have learnt.
Because Amaju Pinnick and his Board have ensured that capacity of these persons have been enhanced. Referees have been trained, coaches have been groomed into the modern trends of football coaching, and what can we say about the quality of the Nigerian league?
Under Shehu Dikko, the Nigeria Professional Football League has flourished with great results across the country week in week out.
The involvement of Corporate Nigeria in football projects can not but earn Pinnick and his group a tick. Sponsors are coming on board a lot more willingly now, in a way that has not been seen before.
As year two of the Pinnick administration commences, consolidation is key – consolidation on the gains of the honeymoon year, and improvement on the shortcomings of the past year.
All in all, it has been a year that people might have differing views on in terms of marking a scoresheet for Pinnick and his Board. But one thing is clear. It has been a breath of fresh air, and it has been a promising start to what can potentially be a successful stint at the head of Nigerian football.
It’s been a tough year, but it has also been a promising year for Nigerian football. And, making tweaks here and there, the promise and potential of Nigerian football will come out in the course of the next twelve months.
There can be many ways of looking at the Pinnick leadership of the NFF. Many words can be conjured to describe it. But a couple of words will always come to mind – different; ambitious, dynamic.
By Tunde Adelakun