In a significant step towards enhancing the development of football in Nigeria, the Honourable Minister of Sports Development, Senator John Owan Enoh, convened a crucial meeting on Friday with key stakeholders in Nigerian football, MySportDab reports.
The gathering brought together the leadership of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), the NPFL Club Owners’ Association, and the Nigeria Referees Association (NRA) in the vibrant city of Abuja.
This meeting represented a follow-up to the Minister’s previous engagements with various football stakeholder groups in the nation a few weeks ago.
The primary objective was to chart a clear and strategic path forward for the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) and the overall growth of football in the country.
Senator John Owan Enoh, in his address to the assembled representatives, emphasized the urgency of the gathering due to the imperative need for intentional and strategic actions.
These actions are vital for the advancement of the NPFL and the elevation of football in Nigeria to a level deserving of professional admiration.
The Minister expressed his concern over the exclusion of Nigerian referees from the duties of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), describing it as a regrettable reality. He stressed the necessity to introspect and reorganize the state of football in the country.
Minister Enoh underscored the significance of officiating as an integral component of football that can either enhance or hinder the development of the sport.
He articulated the view that Nigerian football cannot be considered as developing if its referees are consistently excluded from international tournaments year after year.
He declared the ministry’s deep concern over the negative impact of this exclusion on the nation’s reputation.
The bitter experience of Nigerian officials being left out of the AFCON 2023 was deemed a valuable lesson by the Minister. He called for a revamp of conduct and operations within the Nigerian football ecosystem.
Senator Enoh stressed that corruption and kickbacks must be eradicated, emphasizing that Nigeria’s current predicament is largely a consequence of past failures.
He urged the stakeholders to derive actionable insights from their deliberations and shape the future of Nigerian football by rectifying internal issues before addressing external determinants of the nation’s reputation.
Turning his attention to the NPFL Club Owners Association, Senator Enoh called upon club owners to elevate their operations to a professional standard.
This elevation should encompass the welfare and insurance of players, adherence to club licensing requirements, provision of security, infrastructure development, and effective management of contract matters, among other best practices.
Furthermore, the Minister urged club owners to take responsibility for ensuring the safety of referees, who often work under the shadow of threats and danger.
He emphasized the importance of rallying supporters and providing the necessary security measures to protect match officials.
In response to these concerns, the President of the NFF, Alhaji Ibrahim Gusau, assured the gathering that the Federation had already initiated measures to enhance the performance of referees in Nigeria.
He disclosed that younger individuals were being actively encouraged and supported to assume officiating roles.
Moreover, the NFF was collaborating with CAF (Confederation of African Football) and FIFA to develop a comprehensive project that would improve both the physical fitness and educational aspects of match officials in the country.
Alhaji Ibrahim Gusau shared the NFF’s vision of nurturing a new generation of referees who could proudly represent Nigeria on the international stage.
The meeting also featured the presence of the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Sports Development, Alhaji Ismaila Abubakar, alongside notable figures from the NFF, NPFL, and the referees’ community.
In conclusion, this gathering of influential football stakeholders, under the leadership of Senator John Owan Enoh, signifies a crucial step towards enhancing the standards of Nigerian football.
The commitment to addressing issues related to the NPFL and referees, coupled with the collective determination to eliminate corruption and inefficiencies, holds the promise of a brighter future for Nigerian football.
As the nation’s football ecosystem undergoes internal reforms, it aspires to rebuild its reputation and secure a stronger footing on the international stage.