The president of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Alhaji Aminu Maigari, has expressed the optimism that the Super Eagles of Nigeria will take the continent by storm when the 2013 African Nations Cup begins in South Africa on January 19.
He stressed that the NFF has not given the Eagles coach any target to go to the Nations Cup as they are sure he won’t disappoint. The NFF boss also revealed his sadness on the inability of Nigerian soccer players to win at the Glo/CAF Awards, a situation he believes would change for the better when he successfully gets elected into the CAF Executive Committee, a position he is already vieing for.
How do you feel not seeing any Nigerian player on the podium at the Glo/CAF Awards?
It is not a good signal to our football family especially the football fraternity, at least it is about the second time I am attending the Glo/CAF Awards in Ghana and no Nigerian was nominated for the last three, neither I have seen any Nigerian feature, so I don’t feel good about this situation at all.
As a matter of fact, one can not say Nigerian footballers playing in the different leagues of the world are not doing well. They have been fantastic and in top form doing what they love doing best for their respective clubs.
Do you see this as a consequence of not having anybody in CAF that could actually champion the cause of Nigerian players in Awards like this?
One can rightly say so, and from another angle, I want to say here clearly that I do not know the mode of selecting players for the Awards, but my position is that I need to see Nigerian players collect this kind of Awards. Because our players are really doing well, not only the known top players, but also those who are relatively young and unpopular, but they have been on top of the game in the last one year, so I do not see any reason why they should not be nominated for the last three.
To what extent do you think your vieing for a CAF Executive Committee position would help Nigeria in situations like this and generally helpNigerian football in other fronts?
If I get elected it would help Nigeria tremendously to get closer to the continental body in terms of decision making. At the moment, we do not know what is happening in CAF and it is only with the election into the Executive Committee that our country would be abreast of what is happening in the continent’s football.
Even in decision making, we do not know how they reach whatever decision they took in the past, this is not good for the growth of Nigerian football especially in Africa. As it were, we have nobody to cry or run to. We have nobody to lay our complaints to and several other factors and that is why I am contesting for a CAF Executive Committee post.
Nigeria is a great country in African sports generally and football specifically, and we must defintely have a stake in decision making in CAF. I believe strongly that once Nigeria gets back on the CAF Executive Committee all these inadequacies will be things of the past.
How prepared is the Super Eagles for the 2013 African Nations Cup?
Yes, we are preparing very hard as we know what it takes to do well in the continent’s biggest soccer competition.
The boys are in camp in Abuja under the tutelage of the chief coach, Stephen Keshi, who we have absolute confidence in would perform excellently in South Africa next year.
In the next few days the players will move to Faro in Portugal for their camping proper.
We have put in place a number of top rated international friendlies to get the team in a competition mood. As you know the essence of this camping is to bring the players together, let them work as a team in the Nations Cup, understand themselves the more and play the patterns the coaches want them to play and to get them blended further more which would prepare them adequately for the challenges of the Nations Cup. You know Nigeria didn’t play at the last edition of the African Nations Cup, we want to return to the competition with a very strong force and a tournament winning squad and we are gradually getting to where we want.
Super Eagles will play against Catalonia, that match would be played in Spain. We are also going to play against Cape Verde, Angola in warm up games and should any opportunity come again for other friendly games ahead of the 2013 Afcon we shall capitalise on it to prepare the players.
How prepared are the home-based stars for the Nations Cup considering the fact that the Local league has been on break for sometime now?
It is quite unfortunate for the stoppage of our league, but the boys are up and doing as 100 per cent of those invited are in camp in Abuja already and they are perfectly receiving the adequate training, and are coping perfectly with the instructions of the coaches, I would say the camping exercise has been very impressive.
What is your general impression of Nigerian football in the year 2012?
The year 2012 has been a very wonderful year, we thank God for doing something fantastic for the football family.
We were able to qualify all our national teams for continental and global competitions. It is not just qualifying, we went there to do very well, I want to clearly say here especially to you members of the press, that the Nigeria Football Federation is grateful to God for a wonderful season in 2012.
We pray that this coming New Year, 2013 will be better.
Your critics would argue that what is the essence of qualifying for all the tournaments when the national teams have not been able to win any of these events.?
This statement was first made in 2010 during the World Cup finals in South Africa which you all know was a very bad one for us all. A bad one for Nigerian football family when President Goodluck Jonathan also angrily announced the banning of international football for two years, until some well-meaning Nigerians appealed to him to soft pedal and he lifted the ban.
Since that change of heart by the president, the story of Nigerian football has been different as it has been better. But one thing you should know is that, it is the duty of all national associations to qualify their national teams for international competitions and you will agree with me that, it is not little task at all eliminating other countries to pave way for your team to qualify for global competitions, that is why we see this as a big achievement qualifying all the Nigerian national soccer teams for both continental and global competitions.
We set out to do it and it was achieved. But you will agree with me that it is one thing to qualify your teams for international competitions and to win the competitions is another thing, we shall definitelly improve on this next time.
The Super Eagles chief coach just said at the weekend that, he has not been able to train his players the way he should because of the poor state of the pitch at the Abuja National Stadium, but you know that when he fails, he would face the music. What are you doing on the issue of facilities for the Eagles?
I don’t have anything to do with facilities, my job as the President of the Nigeria Football Federation is to regulate and administer the game of football in Nigeria.
At my level, I don’t want to say anything about the facilities at the Abuja National Stadium. But mind you the players invited to the Nations Cup camp are professional and one of the greatest attribute of a professional footballer is to adjust to all situations, and I believe strongly that they are adapting, and you know they will soon be travelling to Portugal for the proper camping exercise where the home-based and the foreign-based would come together, they would get the best facilities in Faro so there wouldn’t any excuse not to perform well.
The players and the coaches have every right to complain when the training pitches are bad, but one would expect them to regulate and tune themselves to the situation as it is temporary.
Are you setting a target for Stephen Keshi at the 2013 Nations Cup?
Not at all, we are not setting any target for him, as we all know that he would do well in the Nations Cup. It is unfortunate I don’t predict, I would have done so right away, but one thing I am sure of is that, we shall do well in South Africa much that the Nigerian football family would be proud that we went to the Nations Cup to represent them well.