The sports minister presented a report to the FEC.
President Goodluck Jonathan has been described as the ‘most successful President in Nigerian sporting history’ by the Sports Minister, Bolaji Abdullahi.
Mr. Abdullahi made this assertion while briefing the Executive Council of the Federation, FEC, on the World Cup victory of the Golden Eaglets, and the Super Eagles qualification for Brazil 2014 World Cup.
The Golden Eaglets won the U-17 World Cup, for the fourth time, in the UAE last week. They also set a world record by scoring 26 goals by nine different players. The team also won the most valuable player award, fair play award, the golden glove award and the silver boot award.
Mr. Abdullahi, who briefed journalists after the FEC meeting, also said he briefed the Council on last weekend’s encounter in Calabar where the Nigerian Super Eagles qualified for Brazil FIFA World Cup 2014 for the fifth time.
“I also noted in my brief to Council that in all these achievements including the AFCON we won in January after 19 years and the athletics championships in senior, junior and youth categories, all these put together has position President Goodluck Jonathan as the most successful President in Nigerian sporting history”.
The claim of Mr. Jonathan being the most successful in terms of sports had been a subject of controversy with some analysts saying late military dictator, Sani Abacha, was more successful in sports. Under the Abacha regime, Nigeria won the Nations Cup in 1994, qualified for her first senior World Cup, 1994, and won two Olympic gold medals in Atlanta 96.
Mr. Abdullahi also declared his and the Nigeria Football Federation’s support for Super Eagles coach, Stephen Keshi. He said if the coach demands for additional technical support, he would get it.
The minister also spoke about the inability of the NFF to pay Stephen Keshi and other national team coaches several months of salaries.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how Keshi was being owed three months salaries while other national team coaches like Manu Garba of the Golden Eaglets were owed over three months.
“I don’t think it is about Keshi, it is about salaries of coaches in the national teams. It’s not just the Super Eagles or even the lower teams,” Mr. Abdullahi said.
“When the issue was brought to my attention, I asked the Football Federation to explain because don’t forget that the Federation employed these coaches and not the National Sports Commission. They explained why they have been having difficulties paying and their explanations sound reasonable even though I felt they could have handled the situation differently.
“But then we have made representations to the appropriate authorities to give special intervention to enable the Federation cross this difficult financial path they have found themselves. And if I may tell you, one of the major reasons the federation has found it difficult to meet some of its obligations is that success in sports comes with enormous price.
“But like in the past when the national teams were not winning now we have won almost every single game. For every single game they win you have to pay match bonuses and match bonuses cannot wait, it should be paid immediately. So when you are drawing from the same pool of fund to pay the match bonuses and the commitment that keeps piling up, then it becomes very difficult for you to meet some of these statutory obligations.
“We believe all these things should have been done differently but we are working towards addressing that and very soon it will be done with. Even this morning, (it) is part of what I’m trying to sort out,” he said.
On the technical depth of the Super Eagles ahead of the FIFA World Cup next year in Brazil, the Minister said both the Commission and the Federation is reviewing the team’s performance in the year in order to ensure the team makes a greater impact in the competition.
“As you well know the season has just ended, the national teams have shut down for the year and this gives us opportunity to review performances through the year. We played two matches in the last couple of weeks: one in Calabar and the one in London against the Italian national team.
“And if you look at the two games you could see that the profiles are different. Of course the competitions were different but also the games were different in terms of approaches. We have received reports from outsiders but we are going to sit down with the coaches to review all these.
“But going to the world cup and given the targets we are setting for ourselves, as you know every game is a learning opportunity, just as players learn during games we believe coaches also learn competitions. But of course we will be open to reviewing all options and if Coach Keshi, which we believe has done very good job to put this team together from AFCON up to this time, if he feels he needs additional technical support we are going to give it to him. But we believe we are confident he is capable of doing the job and if there are issues we can always talk about it. But we have confidence in his ability to lead the team to the world cup,” he said.
Also speaking on the former Golden Eaglets defender, Friday Njengo, who died nine months after being involved in an accident while travelling to play for the Eaglets, Mr. Abdullahi said, “It is really tragic to us because this is a young man with such a bright prospect. So we have sent representation to the family and of course all players on national teams are under insurance cover.”
“So we believe that the payment of the insurance will be done to the family; but in addition to that, the Federation after the burial will think (about) what they can do for the family.”
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