Following the Super Eagles of Nigeria’s qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the hosting of the Aiteo Cup by the Lagos State at the Agege Stadium, we got talking to the Vice-President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) who also doubles as the Lagos State Football Association (LSFA) Chairman; Barrister Seyi Akinwunmi.
First, we asked about the brewing partnership between the LSFA and Super Falcons forward, Asisat Oshoala on a 5-day football clinic she intends to organise for school girls in Lagos.
“The Lagos state FA is known for supporting good causes and this certainly is a good cause. The LSFA is also gender sensitive so we want to support Asisat because she is helping the young ones who otherwise won’t have a chance through football, to give them encouragement and self-confidence. What we are doing is supporting her technically in all ramifications from referees to location and everything she needs. We’re trying to make sure everything is successful because as far as we are concerned, she is our (LSFA) product and her success is our success,” he said.
From there, we moved on to the Aiteo Cup final where we asked about the plans of the NFF to return the competition to it’s glory days where football fans see it as a big event and are able to fill the stadium.
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“The reason why we went to the Agege stadium is because we want the fans to fill the venue. It’s not as big as the Teslim Balogun stadium. The reality of where we are is that the sponsor and the fans need to see it, to feel it and want to come, which is why it was on TV. We wanted people to see the venue filled, with the flood lights and all the pomp and pageantry and then next year there will be many more people who will want to come to the final and we can take it to a bigger stadium.”
After failing to qualify for two AFCON tournaments, Barrister Seyi does agree that World Cup qualification was a huge relief for the current NFF board. “If we say we’re not relieved, we’re lying. We are extremely happy and relieved but we are also justified”.
You know, we spent the first two years quarrelling here, fighting here, court her…and that affected us no doubt. In the past year or so we have had relatively free time in that regard that has shown in the way we have organized the football federation, so I think it needs to be balanced. If we’re free off the pitch no wahala no problem, on the pitch you will see performance,” he said.
Like we all know that proper and early preparations precedes good performance, Barrister Seyi also agrees and he revealed the NFF is working on a program called “Road to Russia” which will be unveiled after the Algeria game, as part of the preparations for next year’s World Cup.
Bearing in mind that in previous tournaments the NFF and Nigerian players are usually at loggerheads when it comes to players’ allowances, when asked about the plan of the NFF to ensure such doesn’t re-occur in Russia Barr. Seyi Akinwunmi said with a smile: “In the past few games, did you hear anything about allowances?”
Can this be tied to the Aiteo Sponsorship deal? “It’s not just Aiteo sponsorship, it’s also the support we got from government. Everyone has done well and we have other sponsorships as well and more are coming, so I’m sure that there would be enough.”
Talking about sponsorship, when asked about the secret to the barrage of sponsors pouring in for the NFF, he said: “Success. Once the team is doing well and there is peace. Once there is peace, the journalists report positively and all these business people read the blogs, websites, newspapers and watch the news. Football is so powerful but they are afraid that if they put their names towards negativity there would be problem. Now that they have seen positives everybody is coming out.”
Away from the World Cup, the NFF elections come up after the World Cup. Barrister Seyi said “you will have to ask him (Amaju Pinnick)” and not me if Amaju Pinnick will run for a second term”. So, what if he doesn’t run, will you? “I’m not thinking that far. I’m thinking about doing very well in the World Cup after we take it from there.”