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Sports News of Saturday, 25 December 2021

Source: punchng.com

We pay N20m for Eagles coronavirus tests – Pinnick

Amaju Pinnick, President of the Nigeria Football Federation Amaju Pinnick, President of the Nigeria Football Federation

President, Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick, recently spoke to journalists in Lagos about topical issues on Nigerian and world football. EBENEZER BAJELA brings you excerpts
What happened to the sponsor that was supposed to be paying the Eagles’ coaches salaries?

You can understand that Aiteo just came back from one major problem (oil spillage). The day I was talking to the executive vice-chairman, that was the day he was called that the spill had started; he was just about to make funds available to pay not just Gernot Rohr (Ex-Eagles coach) but the other coaches. We’ve already done the documentations. Once the money comes in we will pay everyone and we are very confident about that. Trust me on this, we are looking at so many things and the emphasis is team-based.

What is the situation with Victor Osimhen?

Victor is very fine and there is no issue between the NFF and Napoli. Forget about all that has been said. Leave anything that has to do with the jurisdiction of players to me. All the players that we need to be in Nigeria (for the AFCON) will be here by God’s grace. That I can tell you. I had a long conversation with Osimhen and he is very fine and the (sports) minister also spoke with him and he is eager and hungry to be there. He wants to be the highest goal scorer at the AFCON. We are very excited about that and I also spoke with (Wilfred) Ndidi and (Alex) Iwobi. I speak to my players virtually every day just to keep in touch with them and help build their confidence.

Has the NFF agreed to allow Rangers trio Joe Aribo, Leon Balogun and Calvin Bassey feature in the Old Firm derby against Celtic on January 2?

It’s not me that will determine that and I am not going to talk to the coach because I don’t interfere in his matter. I can only appeal as regards that. These players are key players for their clubs and when they sign contracts, there are certain clauses in them. I will talk to the coach and also appeal to them because that game against Celtic is very crucial and it is also good for their own preparation.

With some European clubs trying to prevent players from attending the AFCON, are we not going to see a similar situation with the NBA, where players can’t honour the country’s invitation during club games?

FIFA is a regulatory body and will not do that; I can tell you that is not possible. NBA is more like a business enterprise, so it is two different ball games. The clubs have been informed a long time ago. There is no team that wants its key players to leave, so they (European clubs) will always fight, but what does the law say about it? What does our status say about it? So, we cannot stop it and that’s the truth. Statutorily and politically, we will ensure we have all our players available for the AFCON.

What is the NFF doing to ensure the domestic league gets better?

We are working with the League Management Company and they just got two sponsors now and we are also trying to work on some other things. You can understand that a lot has happened in the last two years and on the part of the NFF there are a lot of things that we are doing that even the league body is not aware of. I have absolute confidence in what they (LMC) are doing. Leadership is not easy in this country and the good news is that we have Davidson Owumi there. Now fully in the league with his experience, drive and passion for the game, he is going to add a lot of value to what they currently have. Let’s wait and see but what we are trying to do is to harmonise their calendar with other programmes. There are a lot of things that are better left unsaid but we are working behind the scene to ensure we bring them to a higher level. They are our babies.

Is the AFCON going to hold as planned despite doubts surrounding the tournament?

The Nations Cup will hold. There is nobody that is antagonistic of the tournament, but we are looking at the health concerns and we are also looking at all signs about the Omicron variant. It is highly contagious but again it is mild and it takes a specific period. We don’t have a situation where we will have games postponed due to players testing positive for COVID-19, so Cameroon will come up with top-notch protocols as we observed in Doha. CAF has also done well by contracting one of the best laboratories in the world to come to Cameroon to carry out the entire test. So far so good, Cameroon is ready.

With the renovation of the Abuja stadium completed, will it become the home ground of the Super Eagles?

Naturally, Abuja is their home but also everywhere in Nigeria is their home. They can go anywhere just as England did before Wembley. We are happy Abuja is back and it is going to be our first priority towards having them play the final qualifying game in March in Abuja. We can go anywhere to play depending on certain factors but Abuja is their natural home.

What has been the high point of the year?

The pandemic has been the negative thing to have happened to football this year but what we have done this year is to raise our financial profile. We are trying to be self-funding because it doesn’t mean when we are going for major tournaments that the government must always come in with their grants. People must understand it is not just the Super Eagles. We have 11 national teams and matches are so expensive now because you carry out the COVID-19 tests every two days. COVID-19 tests can go for over N20m because it’s not just the players but the entire team, including the backroom staff. It is not easy but we are happy about what we’ve done. By next year I want to send a proposal to my executive committee to build a technical centre in Abuja. I want that to be my physical legacy. I am in talks with FIFA already for part of the funding and we are going to talk to a couple of companies in Nigeria. It is like a one-year project, we are going to see how we are going to build our secretariat that will be upgraded and incorporated with two synthetic turfs and two natural pitches, a mini-stadium and waiting room and a hotel with a gym. It is a very ambitious project, but we will work towards achieving it and we will achieve it.

Are you still running as NFF president for a third term or do you have someone as your successor?

I do not own this country and whoever is going to succeed me will be elected, but we are working hard and consultations are still on. I have a family that believe that they’ve not been seeing me too often and that’s why I take my wife almost everywhere now. I am still talking and my mind is still as it was but my concentration right now is to ensure we qualify for the World Cup and do well at the Nations Cup. There is a lot of determining factors but trust me I am also waiting for God’s guidance. I do a lot of work for CAF and FIFA and I am an integral part of the two bodies.