The dust from Nigeria’s back to back draws against Sierra Leone in the Africa Cup of Nations 2021 qualifiers won’t settle soon and if the startling outburst of the Minister of Sports, Mr. Sunday Dare on Tuesday is anything to go by then a storm might soon gather.
Although it’s implausible to exonerate Gernot Rohr, the Super Eagles Manager from his team’s shambolic performance in the final 20 minutes of the dramatic 8-goal thriller in Benin, the Minister himself has shown little to suggest he can be held in high regards of proper ethic and objectiveness on this matter.
Perhaps troubled by guilt, this censure appears as though the Minister and Nigeria Football Federation leadership are attempting to save face.
In pictures that went viral, Mr. Dare and NFF President Amaju Pinnick were among the notable public figures who “gate crashed” the Eagles’ practice session on the eve of their first game against Sierra Leone at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium.
Honourable Minister @SundayDareSD joins the Super Eagles in loosening up ahead of Friday’s qualification game against Sierra Leone, at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin City. pic.twitter.com/fkdYs8euYl
— Fisayo Dairo (@FisayoDairo) November 12, 2020
The Minister as well as the NFF Boss would have been nothing short of a discomfiting distraction to Rohr and his players albeit it’s understandable there was no official statement to that effect.
— Fisayo Dairo (@FisayoDairo) November 12, 2020
The tone of the censure and concerns expressed by the Minister and his propositions seems misplaced and certainly calls for scrutiny.
It’s not unheard of but still is ridiculous that the NFF will share information of the technical report from a football match with the Minister for a final analysis.
Without a doubt it raises questions of incompetence of the NFF Technical department and by extension the Federation.
It also demonstrates how overreaching the Minister is with expressing his fiat or else why is the government overly concerned with what “pattern of play” the Eagles adopt for a football match?
Among other things discussed by Mr. Sunday Dare, was his insinuation of an amendment to Rohr’s two-year contract that requires the Manager to mandatorily expand his scouting to the Nigeria Professional Football League and also include at least four NPFL players in his squad.
This quota system and tokenism which already subtly exists in the national team wreaks of the rottenness that’s plagued the league for many years.
In the last five seasons, the NPFL has only been concluded once – when every team played 38 round of matches.
Administrative lapses and a poor structure for the elite division has disrupted the football seasons soo much so that Clubs competing in CAF competitions this term would barely be in proper shape before their campaigns get underway.
There seem to be no end in sight to the myriad of problems in the NPFL and the Minister has only just scratched the surface with the insistence that the club licensing control as stipulated in the statues setting up the NPFL must be adhered to.
Enforcing the statutes has been a major shortcoming and for the League Management Company they’ve had several; a backlog of cases where they’ve allowed irregularities slide under the radar.
So, it leaves any inquisitive mind wondering, why focus much energy on the National team, when one of the conveyor belts, the domestic league, is in shambles and very little has been done to make it functional.
Rohr himself had shared his opinion, on occasions, about the NPFL and the quality of players available.
A conservative, Rohr has stayed religiously, loyal to several particular players in the Eagles and results in the past may have vindicated him.
Qualifying for the World Cup in 2018 with a game to spare, returning Nigeria to the Africa Cup of Nations after missing out on two editions, including one as defending champions.
His predecessors Sunday Oliseh and Stephen Keshi didn’t receive the full financial and material support like he has, another reason why criticisms of the German has been stern and loud.
But he has been handed a tall order, to qualify and win the AFCON 2021 as well as reach the Semi-final of the FIFA World Cup in 2023 as the major KPIs in his renewed contract.
These the Minister referred to in Tuesday’s meeting with the NFF, but has also demanded that the Eagles play well and win.
Indeed fans want to see the team play good football, something the Eagles have done but not consistently enough as the November 13th result in Benin showed.
Yet the Super Eagles sit top of Group L, unbeaten and are a win away from booking their spot in next year’s competition.
Mr. Dare possibly understands that he could be a hair’s breadth away from breaching FIFA’s statues of interference, as his antics are nothing but arm-wrestling the NFF.
“The federal government will ask the tough and relevant questions. The NFF should do the same The right of Nigerians to ask of Government and indeed NFF explanations for dismal performances and football administration cannot be simply characterized as interference,” said the Minister.
“Football is now both business and politics. A tool of diplomacy. Governments are more than interested in how its run. The FGN is interested even beyond that. Football is a source of national pride. A rallying point and promoter of peace and Unity.”
The interpretation of the inter-marriage between football and Politics in this situation is loosely defined and suspicious.
But if Government were truly interested in football and promoting it as a business, then start with the domestic leagues.