Pinnick: What could hinder eagle 2022 world cup Qualification

The President of the Nigeria Football Federation, (NFF) Amaju Pinnick has been through the eye of the storm in the last five years of sitting on top of the  Football House and  having seemingly weathered all that has been thrown at him, he opens up on the new direction that the NFF will be charting for out football in the New Year, what could hinder Super Eagles from qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and also warned that Super Eagles Manager, Gernot Rohr  would not be allowed to dictate to the football-governing body again,,

With all the problems faced by the leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) faced in 2019, it is somewhat interesting that you were able to generate more revenue for the federation. How were you able to meet this target which you highlighted at the last General Assembly in Benin City.

This isn't an ordinary Congress, it was a tough, thought-provoking Congress. With loads of hot exchanges. It was not the usual Congress, but at the end of the day, football was the winner and I am happy because we were able to look at issues very constructively, objectively and took critical decisions. We were able to take difficult decisions which would help the growth of our football.

We had very rough and difficult times last year but that is not to say that football is at its lowest ebb.

But this whole thing started when we were first elected to lead the NFF and stayed with us all throughout but in spite of that, we have tried to move the game forward and tried to make Nigerians happy because they love football, making us to go the extra mile to make them happy.

And that is the truth because if you look at qualifying for all the CAF tournaments, it takes a lot of resources and preparations. When you take the Golden Eaglets as an example, they lost in the second round of the World Cup and all hell was let loose. Well, we want them to win but you must recognise that there are more than 200 countries also in contention for this thing. They also want to win like us. But if you look at those junior tournaments, they are purely developmental, so we have to manage the expectations of Nigerians to make them know that these are purely developmental tournaments.

England won the U-20 two years ago but they did not qualify for the 2019 edition. But the English did not raise eyebrows like us because they know the competition is purely developmental. Winning adds a feather to your cap but the objective is to build on whatever you did at the tournament. We have discovered some players from these tournaments and have started monitoring them

At the last Congress, we took a decision that would change the entire fabric of the Under-17. The decision is that all economic rights of every intending Under-17 player will be domiciled with the NFF, so that we can guide them. We invest a lot in them and must guide them. We don’t want agents to lead them into the wrong path because all they are about is the profit.

We know the agents are going to react but we don’t care because it is about the growth of our football. We are going to build a ring around the team and ensure that only the best are selected, using our youth developmental programmes

We also touched on administration, giving the Secretary-General a new five-year mandate but charging him with a caveat, to ensure that things are done properly and told him that there are some functions that he can’t delegate because Nigerians are watching how we run football.

We are not saying we are perfect. In fact, there are no perfect organisation out there. But our quest for excellence sometimes puts us in difficult positions and by God’s grace, majority of Nigerians now know at least 80 percent of what we are doing and that we mean well for football. By God’s grace, majority of Nigerians now know the fact of what we are doing and believe in us.

But some people are just out there, with their only motive being to throw lies around, try to tarnish our image and malign us but again we are not taking it lightly again because we have filed some civil suits against some of these people and in the upcoming weeks, we would see what will happen.

No more of this again. We are not going to react by attacking anybody but we are going to react using every legal means to ensure that some people are made to face the full wrath of the law.

Don’t you think this will prompt them to go all out for war and in turn, throw the football community into another round of endless court battles and crisis?

Ans: No. We have to make it known that in Nigeria there are laws. We are not in a banana republic. Nigeria is not a lawless and anarchical country. So we have people we have delegated to do that while we focus on running football. When people come out every day to throw lies around, they need to be stopped and put in their place.

And I know these people. The credibility and profile of these people are something that one can’t be proud about. And they will have the audacity to malign our good names. They live on blackmail and mischief. But the law would take its course. That is the way forward henceforth

Ques: Going forward, what are the things the NFF will do differently to achieve better results for our teams in the New Year?

I have three more years to lead the NFF as its President and after that I would tell Congress that I am not running again. By then I would have done two tenures even though I can do three or five tenures but I need to stay more with my family.

In the next three years, we want to further the growth of Nigerian football and develop the whole gamut of the game. And consolidate on the gains of the past years.

We know we would have ups and downs as you don’t expect smooth sailing all the way. But of greater importance to us is that we want to concentrate fully to ensure that we qualify for the 2022 World Cup and the Nations Cup. The Nations Cup is almost given but the World Cup is a tough call but I believe with the right planning, which we are doing right now, that we would be able to achieve that.

The format for the World Cup qualifying is going to be tough. There are going to be 10 groups with only one winner from each group. In these ten groups, there are going to be at least two or three super teams. They will now do another draw for the ten teams, with two teams being paired to face each other on a home and away basis to determine the five teams that will go to the World Cup. So you can imagine how tough, tedious and difficult the World Cup qualifying race will be.

So we don’t want distractions at this time. These trouble makers must be warned that we don’t want distractions because we have to be in Qatar 2022 and we want also to use it to appreciate the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari for all that he is doing for our football. That is one way of ensuring that he smiles when leaving office after serving out his second tenure.

But the only thing that can stop the Super Eagles from the World Cup in Qatar are these countless distractions. Only distractions can stop us because we are all primed up and well-conditioned to ensure that Nigeria qualifies for the World Cup.

It is not just about qualifying, look at our young team, we have one of the best teams in the world right now and we are very happy with that. After then, we will move to other developmental issues.

What is the big deal being made over the renewal of the contract of Eagles manager, Gernot Rohr?

Ans: On the issue of the coach, we are working on renewing his contract. The head of the legal department, Seyi Akinwunmi is going to set up the legal team, sit Rohr down in January and make our new offer to him. If the offer suits him, all well and good but if he doesn’t, according to Timaya, I no fit kill myself. I cannot kill myself.

That is the truth. The new contract is going to be centered around Nigerian football development and respect for constituted authority. Nothing radically different from what he has. But we would develop a very beautiful legal framework and that is why we are doing it now because his contract expires in six months time. So if he sees it and says yes, then we can sign it immediately but if he says no, then that is that because he cannot dictate to us and tell us what to do. And we are not just going to work alone, we are going to enlist the Sports Ministry and very critical stakeholders to ensure that we get it right. And that is purely the truth on the contract issue of Rohr.

You are offering Rohr a new contract because you are satisfied with what he has done and can do in the future. But the other day, you fired him a query. What prompted this drastic action and how far have you dealt with the issue?

Yes, of course, if you go against the contract, you would be queried. That is why we have to look at it more critically as it relates to that issue and other issues

When the Olympics are on in the summer in Tokyo, our men and women football teams would not be there. For a country that has won gold in the men’s event in Atlanta 1996, silver in Beijing 2008 and a bronze medal at the last edition in Rio 2018, how big a setback is not qualifying for the federation, Nigeria and to you as the President?

We are not proud of this, we are not happy and are certainly sad about this but again, in football, we take responsibility for these things. But the Olympics team is transitional to the Super Eagles and we are not going to apportion blames but just give thanks to God because in everything, they say give thanks to God. But we are taking responsibility and we would work in ensuring that in future, we don’t miss such opportunities

All these poor performances, do they have anything to do with the technical crews of the teams?

Yes. Because at the end of every tournament, we always get preliminary technical reports of the teams and in those reports, it was noted that the technical crews were technically deficient… We have the reports and when we size them up, we would take it up from there.

When are you going to name new coaches for these national teams, considering that preparations for the next tournaments should start in earnest to avoid a recurrence of these failures?

We are going to advertise these positions in January. In the coming weeks, we would have appointed the new coaches for the Super Falcons, Flying Eagles and other teams.

And it is open to local and foreign coaches?

Yes. It is open to all coaches. It is going to be competitive because we want only the best for our teams. It is going to be conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). We are not remotely involved in it at all.

PwC is a world-class organisation. They have procedures in doing these things. They don’t just jump into things without careful and thorough analysis. They do things according to the world’s best standards. Once that is done, they will conduct the interview and advise us objectively on who to sign..

So it is a departure from the norm of the federation identifying their coach and going for him without recourse to this new method?

It is something different and it would produce the best coaches for our teams

What are your first impressions of the Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare and what he brings to the table?

We thank the President of Nigeria for this appointment. We also thank the Minister, as he has demonstrated good leadership qualities. His dexterity is good. To us, he is quite productive. We believe that once you have a superintendent the only thing he does to you is charge you up and every day, we learn, we don’t claim to know everything. He is a radical departure from the past. He engages us productively and he does not give in to mischief makers. That is a major plus for him. I think he understands the terrain.

The talk in town is that you have become the chief scout of the Super Eagles, looking for new players to invite to the national team and even taking pictures with these players, even before the talks are concluded. Don’t you feel you are taking over the job of the coaches and biting more than you can chew?

I am the President of the NFF and if anything bad happens to our teams, it is Amaju Pinnick that they call. They don’t call the coaches names. So if I see something angelic, if I see a platinum, a diamond, I would bring him or her and give to the Super Eagles. I don’t think there is anything wrong in scouting for the national team.

They do it everywhere in the world. Presidents of other football federations also do it. I don’t see any big deal about that.

In reference to one of the scouted players, you might be referring to, Ovie Ajara, I speak to his father regularly. I would soon meet them in London so that we can tie up the switch to Nigeria from England. Ovie is such a talented, dynamic player, and very creative midfielder and he can play from anywhere. He will add value if he joins the Super Eagles.

For me, I don’t believe we should allow such opportunities to slip away from our hands. This is someone who won the Under-20 FIFA World Cup with England. He is a Liverpool player but on secondment to Reading. I don’t have any regrets in doing that. My Executive Committee has not stopped me from doing it. If I scout for players, I don’t see anything wrong about it. I don’t have any ulterior or sinister motive for doing it other than to get the best for the country.

And I always talk to the Minister before I go on such trips and he has not stopped me or raised eyebrows over my moves.

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