Nigeria’s premature exit from the 2018 FIFA World Cup was greeted with crises in the Nigeria Football Federation as factional leader Chris Giwa was ordered by Nigeria’s Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung to resume office as NFF boss in compliance with a verdict from the Supreme Court, while Amaju Pinnick’s camp insists that the decision is ‘Null and Void’.
It has been a house on fire as attention has moved from the Super Eagles failed expedition in Russia to power tussle in the country’s football house – as it risks a ban from international football. Despite Pinnick’s replacing Kwesi Nyantakyi as CAF’s 1st Vice President, all seems not to be well with football administration in the country.
As football stakeholders continue to seek a lasting panacea to this power wrangle, Mr. Shina Philips; a respected figure in Nigerian football bares his mind on the way out to Goal. Mr. Philips is a tried FIFA licensed agent, International Assessor for Security Watch and initiator of the Nigeria Pitch Award.
Goal: First, what is your take on Nigeria’s early exit from the World Cup?
Phillips: Well, it would be totally unfair of me to say that I was surprised we were edged out of the World Cup quite early. Before I travelled to Russia for the games, I didn’t believe we had the team that could win the World Cup. My observation over time is that virtually all African teams do not prepare to win the World Cup; they always prepare to participate in the World Cup; these are two different things: preparation to be at the World Cup and preparation to win the World Cup. If preparations are geared towards winning the tournament, then we must look at what those ahead of us did to win the World Cup. We do not take stock of these things, we do not look at history and the methodology put in place by those countries.
Goal: To some, they feel the Super Eagles had the best in term of preparations – thus, making them a strong candidate for the title. Or did we miss anything on the road to Russia?
Philips: For instance, the last World Cup won by the Germans was over an eight-year programme put in place to form a world-class team that humiliated Brazil in their home front before the entire world. It took huge preparation and preparation comes with a meticulously laid out plan. Every hand must be on deck to make things work: the government, administrators, corporate bodies and the media, all laser focused to win the cup. So, investment goes directly into what has been designed and the players that will play as a team. It’s teamwork from point A to Z. It must be noted that for you to achieve this, your national league at least at the premiership level must be intact, viable and attractive enough to bring the best legs from any part of the world, it is possible. That way, you will be picking the crop of your world cup players from the national league. This will enable the administrators to monitor and execute their plan effectively.
Goal: As of the Super Eagles’ failed mission is not enough, the news making headline is the recurring NFF crisis. I’m very you are in this picture too
Philips: You see, the problem we have always had in Nigeria and Africa is that we are so deprived of history. We can’t make progress if we neglect history which is the reason those in the larger society have continued to make a huge difference in every facet of their national life. There is no retrogression because they are reminded of the failure of the past. Our history books have been unfair to us in this part of the world. This crisis is not new, it has always been, before Galadima, Aminu Maigari led board, so it’s the same old story. We can’t kill the politics that often cripples our sporting life. That’s why FIFA remains intact because it does not involve itself in any form of national politics. For me, Amaju Pinnick and Chris Giwa are not the problems of Nigerian football.
Amaju Pinnick mean well, he ’s got great ideas; however, It seems we have some powerful and selfish interest behind the scene that is determined to scuttle any meaningful progress geared towards the development of football in Nigeria. He and his team truly have the desire to see football managed the way it’s done in Europe but he is like new wine in an old wineskin, it will burst if he is unable to articulate his dream and vision for Nigerian football. He has what it takes to develop the game but his dream must be made clear to all.
Goal: Plausible as your sentiment may sound, should we panic over an eminent FIFA ban?
Philips: Yes, you are right. One thing must be stated clearly, FIFA does not force countries to join them; countries desire to join FIFA. We know FIFA is clearly against government interference and this position is made clear when you decide to be a part of the body. It is only expected that if there are issues, you do not circumvent. I respect the laws of our land, but it is also proper that the interpretation of FIFA laws be made clear and signatories adhere strictly to FIFA’s rules for resolving conflicts.
However, if there are issues involving government and the national FA, they must be attended to within the confines of the law in such a way that will not in any way conflict with FIFA’s laws and that will not jeopardize our sovereign interest as a state. Russia cannot break it (FIFA laws), America cannot break it even as superpowers. We should not be caught in this kind of crisis. I believe Mr. President can do something about putting an end to this embarrassment. There should be a proper interpretation of the FIFA rules to the Federal Government and they should find out how it and the laws of the land can work without any clash.
Goal: What solution(s) can you proffer to bail us out of this mess?
Philips: If the Federal Government can investigate and discover the problem then we can save our football life. President Buhari must find the time, the will and a way to wade into this matter and get all interested parties to agree to a fresh election in August that will have observers on the ground and possibly have it broadcast live because of our peculiarity. I will say to the Minister of Sports and to the President who I believe also share the ideology of fair play to midwife a fresh election. So, whoever has a grievance should not ridicule our political and judicial systems in the international community. As long as we have decided to be a part of FIFA, let us get the elections right once and for all.
Goal: Mr. Shina Philips, thanks for your time
Philips: The pleasure was mine thank you very much.