This question must have been on the lips of many Nigerians as we watched the newly-elected Ibrahim Musa Gusau-led executive of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) formally took office. The new executive took over at one of the worst moments in the times of the NFF – a juncture where it is nationally agreed that Nigerian football is at its very nadir. Things have never been that bad for a sporting activity passionately loved by Nigerians of all classes.
Last year on this page in a fit of despondency I lamented our world FIFA ranking of 32 and remonstrated that, that was a humiliating letdown. Recalling that we once held our heads high up as we rubbed shoulders with great footballing nations of the world, Brazil, Argentina, and Italy, and were even ranked 5th in the world in 1994, then letting ourselves slide to the thirties was indeed a huge disappointment. And to rub salt into the injury, in the FIFA Africa ranking we were placed in the 5th position while the small African nation, Senegal, leads in the 1st position. Other countries such as Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria all preceded us.
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To make matters worse our national team lost out playing in the world cup to hold in Qatar, later this year. The same team got booted out of the 2022 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cameroon in the last 16 by Tunisia. Our female team the Super Falcons, also, crashed out of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) at the semi-final stage in Morocco in July. These are some of the items in the catalogue of football disasters that befell us on the international stage. The league at home is no better. The home league has been noted to be in complete disarray.
Normally the national team should be a reflection of the home league but it is not, due perhaps to the fact that all our best players are out of the country playing their hearts out in other countries’ leagues, for mind-boggling fees. It is in the home league that the deterioration and stagnation of our footballing ability become obvious. From the highs of the 1980s and 90s when our home leagues were the talk of weekends and were well known to all who cared about football, to the present where you hardly recognise which team is which.
That’s why one cannot envy the new NFF executive. The rot on the ground would daunt the managerial abilities of any group of leaders. Verily many are even cynical of the new NFF’s resolve to turn the tide in the fortunes of Nigerian football. Some sneer at the fact that most members of the team have been part of the rot in the defunct NFF executive and would have nothing fresh to bring to the table. I disagree. I posit that sometimes being part of the rot could be an advantage as it would have given one an in-house feel for the problems. With luck, this could be it.
The new NFF President, Ibrahim Musa Gusau, has an intimidating CV coming all the way from his days as a grassroots football administrator. He has served as a team manager to football clubs in Sokoto and Zamfara states before being elected to the board of the Zamfara State Football Association. At the national level, he was a special assistant to Aminu Maigari when he was the NFF President and later served, here and there, in various committees of the NFF rising to the elected position of chairman of the Chairmen of the NFF board. From all looks, Ibrahim Gusau appears to be a thoroughbred, fit and proper to ascend the presidency of the NFF.
And if one considers the overwhelming votes he received, 39 out of 40, in the second round of the election, then one can surmise that he has the total support of the football voting population. But that’s just half of the equation. I also hope that he has the breadth of vision of taking our football to the upper level we all pray to reach. He would, no doubt, not be short of advice and I hope he’d listen carefully and sift, to take what benefits our football. Our football needs a very serious infusion of money. The funds from our federation and what comes from FIFA and CAF would be insufficient to grow our football. Large corporations and state governments must continue to be encouraged to maintain our football teams.
At a time, I saw how Col. Abdulmumini Aminu (later Brig.) grew the El-Kanemi Warriors FC from scratch to a world-class team when he was governor of Borno State in the mid-1980s. The best players were persuaded to come to Borno from other teams in the country with lavish signing fees and salaries. They were given vehicles and kept in houses maintained by the government. A stadium was purposely built for them and the best coach in the country was signed for them. No wonder the El-Kanemi Warriors rose rapidly to national prominence and even went on to win the FA cup in 1991 and 1992 consecutively. And it is also no wonder that Aminu later ended up in the NFF as its president.
It is this kind of vision and commitment to football that we pray for Ibrahim Musa Maigari to be blessed with.