Buhari, Pinnick…And NFF’s ‘Robust’ Scorecard In 2015

Golden-EagletsWITH four trophies, including a triumph at the world stage, in one year and three months of his administration, President of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick, is standing shoulder high, as 2015 is gradually winding up.

The Amaju Pinnick-led NFF board was about two weeks in office when the Super Falcons conquered the rest of Africa to win their 7th African Women Championship (AWC) title in Namibia in late 2014. The Falcons had surrendered their title in 2012 at the 8th edition of the AWC in Equatorial Guinea.

In March 2015, the Flying Eagles won the 19th CAF U-20 Youth Championship, beating the host, Senegal, 1-0 in the final. It was the last major trophy won under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

The Golden Eaglets opened the gate of success for the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in November by capturing the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile. Coincidentally, the Golden Eaglets first won the FIFA cadet championship in 1985, when Buhari was Nigeria’s Military Head of State.

The NFF recorded another milestone shortly after, as the U-23 Eagles won the CAF U-23 Championship two weeks ago in Senegal.

The four major trophies won by the Amaju Pinnick-led NFF board in one year and three months of his administration were outside qualifications for several major tournaments, including the U-20 women national team, Falconets, who earned a ticket to the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.

Taking a retrospective on activities of the NFF in 2015, Pinnick told The Guardian that his board deserves kudos.

“But I want to quickly say that our achievements in 2015 would not have been possible without the great support we got from the Buhari–led government.

“President Buhari is worthy of a bold mention in the Guinness Book of Records,” he said. He is a man of history. He was there when Nigeria won the U-17 trophy in 1985 as military Head of State; and he made it possible for us again as civilian President. Seriously speaking, I don’t think there is any Head of State or Government in the entire universe who has this honour, and for this, our PMB deserves a place in the Guinness Book of Records. I see many trophies coming our way in 2016,” Pinnick added.

Perhaps, one moment the NFF boss will not forget in a hurry was the day President Buhari spoke with players and officials of the U-17 team before their final against Mali at Chile 2015 World U-17 Cup.

Pinnick arrived Chile two hours before the kick off of the semi final match between Nigeria and Mexico, which the Coach Emmanuel Amuneke-led Eaglets came from behind to win 4–2.

World champions… Coach Amuneke believes there are more talents on the streets of Nigeria waiting to be harnessed for the national teams. PHOTO: AFP

World champions… Coach Amuneke believes there are more talents on the streets of Nigeria waiting to be harnessed for the national teams. PHOTO: AFP

“I spoke with the boys for 15 minutes before that semifinal encounter against Mexico and that pep talk really paid off because many people had thought that Mexico was unbeatable.

“But the greatest motivation came when President Buhari spared time to speak the players and their officials before the final against Mali. That was a massive motivation for the team. I remember that at the end of the conversation, the players told me they would go all out and give whatever it would take to win the trophy, having been inspired by the country’s No 1 citizen,” Pinnick recalled.

Looking ahead 2016, the NFF boss said: “Football is a potent and huge tool for national unity and our focus is to build a sustainable football culture for Nigeria. Triumphs are good, but we must not overlook the sustainable culture.

“Our male team qualified for the football event of Rio 2016 Olympics and Coach Sunday Oliseh is working hard to qualify the Super Eagles for the 2017 Nations Cup. Our U-20 women’s team will play in the World Cup in 2016 and we also have the CHAN competition for our home-based Super Eagles in January. My prayer is that the NFF will continue to put smile on faces of Nigerians. Our administration will be strongly involved in the players’ development, unlike what happened in the past.

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