Sues for recommitment to responsibilities from all stakeholders for tangible progress
The Honourable Minister of Sports Development, Senator John Owan Enoh, on Friday, met with the leadership of the Nigerian Football Federation, NPFL Club Owners’ Association, as well as the Nigeria Referees Association (NRA), to deliberate on key issues necessary for the development of the NPFL and football in the country.
The meeting held in Abuja, was a follow-up to the minister’s earlier engagement with key football stakeholder groups in the nation some weeks ago, to chart a way forward for the development of the round leather game. He described the engagement as expedient due to the need to take intentional and strategic actions, especially on the operations of clubs and match officials, to ensure the football grows to an appreciable level of professional admiration. He decried the omission of Nigerian referees for AFCON 2023 duties as a sad reality and thus the need to look inwardly and reorganize the state of football in the country.
“Officiating as an integral part of football that could either make or mar the development of the round leather game,” the Minister said. “Our football cannot be said to be developing, if our referees are excluded from international tournaments year in, year out. As a ministry, we are concerned because this does not spell well for the reputation of the nation.”
“This new season, the bitter experience from CAF (exclusion of Nigerian officials for AFCON) should be treated as a lesson to improve our conduct and operations,” he added. “Corruption and kickbacks must not be tolerated. We are likely in this sorry state more because of what had happened in the past, but it is incumbent on us to take action points from our deliberations and define the future of our game. We must put our house in order internally before we focus on the external determinants of our reputation.”
In his address to the NPFL Club Owners Association, Senator Enoh stated that clubs have a responsibility to scale up their operation to a professional level, where the welfare and insurance of players, club licensing compliance, security, infrastructure, contract matters and others are treated in accordance to best practices.
“Club owners must also rally their supporters, and provide security to ensure the protection of referees. Most of the time, they feel threatened and work in danger,” he added.
Speaking at the meeting, the President of the NFF, Alhaji Ibrahim Gusau stated that the Federation has made changes to enhance the performance of referees in the country and younger individuals are now being supported to take up officiating roles. He added that the NFF is developing a project in conjunction with CAF and FIFA, to enhance both the physical and educational aspects of match officials in the country.
“We have the vision to ensure that those that will earn FIFA refereeing badge in the country are young and can be relevant on the international stage for a long time. There are trainings we organize in conjunction with FIFA and also with CAF, concerning the educational and physical training of match officials. We tell them what our problems are and our vision as a federation” Gusau said.
Senator Enoh was in the company of the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Sports Development, Alhaji Ismaila Abubakar at the meeting. The NFF team included President, Alh. Ibrahim Gusau, 1st Vice President, Felix Anyansi-Agwu, and General Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi. The NPFL board was represented by chairman, Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye, Chief Operating Officer, Davidson Owumi, and ex-international, Daniel Amokachi.
President, Nigeria Referees Association, Zubairu Sani, and Chairperson, NFF Referees Committee, Faith Irabor were also in attendance. NPFL Club Owners were represented by Association Chairman, Dr. Okey Kpalukwu and General Secretary, Godwin Enakhena.