By Fredrick Nadulli,
Football administration in Africa, with or without financial backing, is turbulent work. It is like playing Russian roulette.
Many a federation have struggled to attract and/or sustain sponsorship for lack of accountability, and a few that have, found their top management dipping their fingers in the irresistible cookie jar, unable to run and sustain their programs.
Running a federation requires elaborate planning and a fine blueprint for proper mandate to be executed. Many in Sub-Saharan Africa have been tried and found wanting.
One man is silently taking Nigerian football back to the pinnacle of the continental and global game.
When Amaju Melvin Pinnick took over the mantle in 2014, Nigerian football was crying out for a messiah. The hitherto unknown 48 year old rolled up his sleeve and begun the huge task of sanitizing Nigerian football.
His administration put up long term strategies that would ensure the giant West African nation regained it’s fading respect in world circles. Even his many detractors knew he had massive ground to cover, and put hurdles in his way at every given opportunity, but the NFF president kept his focus.
Now in his second term after fending off challenges from among others former president Aminu Maigari, the man who also wears the cap of 1st vice president of CAF, Pinnick’s persistence is bearing fruit.
Under his watch, the game has seen a massive upward trajectory, with sponsors falling over themselves to be associated with the NFF. While he acknowledges huge support from government, Amaju has been quick to rope in partners in numbers that have made operations smooth and silky.
Ahead of the World Cup in Russia, the Super Eagles had the backing of Aiteo, the energy conglomerate announcing a sponsorship deal worth 7 billion to help in operations and technical staff remuneration. TGI and PayPorte also sunk millions in support.
Interesting to note is that Pinnick’s administration has several benefactors that pick up the tab for different purposes. Guiness Nigeria for instance pays salaries of the assistant coaches of the Super Eagles, IGI brokers the insurance package for all the national teams, Afribank is the official bank of the NFF and Pamodzi does the marketing consultancy. Other big partners like Nigerian Breweries, Wapic Insurance and Coca-Cola pull the strings from the periphery.
With all this financial and technical backing, the trickle-down effects can be felt. Nigeria became the first side from Africa to qualify for the World Cup and although they managed a single victory and lost twice, previous ignominious issues that clouded their preparations were non existent.
The Women’s version of Eagles, the Super Falcons, won the African womens cup of nations – Awcon – in Ghana, and now head to the World Cup next year in France with the continental title firmly under their belts.
The national U17 and U20 men’s and women’s sides are also pulling their weight in African competitions.
With all these going for them, Amaju Melvin Pinnick and his regime are the perfect case study of how to run an effective federation. The NFF is the latter day yardstick against which African FAs have to measure themselves.
Meanwhile the man who became only the second person since the late Dennis Slattery in 1957 to win a 2nd term through direct election, Pinnick can look back and take pride in his impending legacy at the helm of one of Sub-Saharan Africa’s most demanding jobs.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino has described Amaju Pinnick as the future of African football because of his style of leadership and the power to brainstorm and bring people together.