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Battle in Katsina for soul of Nigeria football




Katsina State is a frontline state as far as politics in Nigeria is concerned.

The state has its fair share of history, producing two presidents for the country in the late Musa Yar’adua and Muhammadu Buhari.

However, when it comes to football matters the state obviously takes a backseat as none of the football clubs from the state is yet to make any meaningful impact nationally let alone in Africa and globally.

It is not to say that the northern region of Nigeria has not produced world acclaimed stars in football like Dan Amokachi, Tijani Babaginda and lately Ahmed Musa, but no ‘big name’ footballer has come from Katsina; at least in recent times.

That said, Katsina is now on the verge of making history as it is set to host the 2018 Nigeria Football Federation Elective Congress.

Simply put, the state has the honour of deciding the future of football in Nigeria as the success or otherwise of Thursday’s Elective Congress will go a long way in deciding the fate of football in Nigeria going forward.

The elective congress is a ritual performed every four years and it is usually used to usher in individuals that would administer football for the next four years in the country.

Though the generality of Nigerians have their minds fixed on the 2019 elections, the NFF elections is equally an important poll and it is understandably generating a lot of interest.

There is no gainsaying that football is very important to Nigeria and Nigerians, hence whoever gets the nod to be the president of the Nigeria Football Federation and by extension, the other executive positions, will be held in high esteem even beyond the borders of the country.

While there has been ‘less tension’ leading to this year’s Elective Congress, it is will be perilous to assume that all is well and there will be no intrigues in Katsina on Thursday (September 20).

Already, four individuals have registered their intention to vie for the presidency of the NFF; including the incumbent, Amaju Pinnick, who is seeking to do what no other person has done in the post-independent NFF.

Mr Pinnick is seeking to rewrite history as the first back-to-back head of the football body in 61years after that of Father Slattery in 1957/58 in the then NFA.

Also seeking a comeback is Aminu Maigari, the head at the Glass House from 2010 to 2014.

Another man throwing in his hat to contest is Taiwo Ogunjobi, a former NFF general secretary and later board member as chairman of chairmen.

He is also a former footballer.

The last candidate is a relatively unknown Chinedu Okoye but who is confident of ruffling shoulders in Katsinaon Thursday.

He is also a former footballer, referee and the proprietor of Nigeria National League club, Bimo FC.

Aside from the NFF Presidency, there are also considerable interests shown in other elective positions on the NFF Executive Board.

As expected, the contestants have been waxing lyrics about what they will be bringing to the table if given the mandate to administer football in Nigeria from 2018 till 2002.

Mr Ogunjobi has made public his agenda to improve the fortunes of football in the country.

He promised that he would, among other things, be a bridge-builder should he win the race.

The Osun State FA boss who is often tagged as “The Oracle of Nigerian Football” has put forward an eight-point agenda to be implemented if he gets the top job at Glass House.

Top on his action agenda is “immediate reconciliation of all football stakeholders to come together as one happy football family”.

He has made a promise to establish an arbitration tribunal for the NFF to resolve internally generated conflicts “through transparent processes”.

Also, the former NFF scribe has promised to enhance the marketing and sponsorship departments of the football body.

Other programmes for implementation under an Mr Ogunjobi presidency include restructuring of welfare infrastructure, improvement of the standard of welfare of players and staff in the federation through newly devised means, grassroots’ development, the introduction of more youth-oriented competitions and also an improvement on current age grade competitions, to name a few.

For Mr Okoye who many see as an outsider in the race, the ex-Footballer with the Swiss League as well as a former Referee of the Swiss Regional League for almost a decade said he is the most qualified for the post.

Mr Okoye prides himself as the only Presidential candidate in the forthcoming NFF elections with an investment in the Nigeria Football Industry with his pet club-Bimo SC.

He has outlined a six-point agenda to stop bad officiating and match-fixing in Nigeria football, stop doping (Drug Use), stop corruption in NFF, enthrone transparency and accountability in NFF as well as develop facilities and competitions (especially Age Grade) across the States of Nigeria.

“I have the Passion, Vision, Mission, and the Drive to reclaim our Football from the graveyard where it is currently buried. I will make the desired CHANGE in our Football and bring some “Swissness” into Nigerian Football.

“Nigerian Football needs a BRAND NEW NFF PRESIDENT. Nigerian Football needs an NFF PRESIDENT that will NOT STEAL our FOOTBALL MONEY. We need an NFF PRESIDENT that will CARRY ALL FOOTBALL STAKEHOLDERS” Mr Okoye said in his campaign document sent to PREMIUM TIMES.

For Mr Maigari, he said he is not happy with how the good works he did in his first four-year tenure is being allowed to go down the drain hence he is looking for a return to right the wrongs and take football higher.

On his part, the incumbent, Mr Pinnick who is the 1st Vice President of CAF, he said he came out for a second term to steady the transformation of Nigerian football in terms of vision, youth development and more importantly to actualize the drive for the NFF to be self-reliant.

“There is a need for continuity for Nigerian football to prosper. There is this uncommon relationship between the Corporate World and our executive built on transparency and integrity. Before now, this relationship was non-existent. It is all for the good of the game that we want to show the light so that others coming after us will find their way. Once a structure is established, it becomes easy to manage”, the NFF president said.

There are two candidates vying for the first vice president’s position.

The incumbent, Seyi Akinwunmi, will be up against another South West chieftain, Sunday Dele-Ajayi.

The incumbent, Ibrahim Gusau will battle club proprietor, Patrick Ubah for the slot of chairman of chairmen on the board.

For other positions on the executive committee, Rabiu Inuwa, a member of the present board, is the only candidate from the North West.

The battle in the North Central has been somewhat narrowed with the withdrawal of FCT FA chairman, Musa Talle.

However, Ahmed Yusuf ‘Fresh’ and honourable Suleiman Yahaya-Kwande, ranking members of the board, have to contend with Busari Ishola, chairman of Kwara State FA.

Similarly, incumbents Babagana Kalli and Musa Duhu from the North East have to contend with Farouk Yarma Adamu.

In the South East, Chidi Ofor Okenwa (presently Chairman of the Nigeria National League), will vie with Enyimba FC chairman, Felix Anyansi-Agwu (ranking Member of Board); Jude Obikwelu (Vice Chairman, Anambra State FA); Emmanuel Ochiagha (Vice Chairman, Imo State FA) and; Emeka Inyama (former Chairman of the NNL and former Chairman of NFF Marketing and Sponsorship, and also Chairman of NPFL side Abia Warriors).

From the South West, only Ganiyu Majekodunmi, chairman of Ogun State FA, is seeking an Executive Committee member position. From the South-South, Oswald Atuake from Cross River State is up against Emmanuel Ibah, chairman of the Akwa Ibom State FA.

Elections into the NFF Executive Committee 2018-2022 will hold as scheduled on Thursday, September 20 in the city of Katsina.

World football –governing body, FIFA as well as the Confederation of African Football has both named their observers to Thursday’s elections.

If neither Amaju Pinnick nor Aminu Maigari wins, the Nigerian football governing body will be having its 36th leader since its foundation in 1933.


Odion Ighalo shares throwback Photos



AFCON Qualifiers: Ighalo tops 24-man list of invited players for Seychelles tie


Super Eagles player, Odion Ighalo has shared his throwback photos, revealing his journey in football. Ighalo while posting the photos said, he has paid his dues.

Ighalo is the top scorer in the ongoing 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers.

The Changchun Yatai player is the leading top scorer ahead of the tournament scheduled for Cameroon in 2019.


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Juventus forced me to leave



Juventus forced me to leave

AC Milan striker Gonzalo Higuain said he was treated very well by Juventus — right until the moment they forced him out of the club to make way for Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Argentine moved to Milan on loan in August after two seasons at Juventus, where he won two Serie A and Coppa Italia titles.

Higuain also scored 55 goals in 105 appearances in all competitions.

His departure, which he said was not his decision, came shortly after the Turin side signed five-times world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid.

Higuain, in an interview published on Thursday, said he felt something was amiss when he was left on the bench for the Coppa Italia final against AC Milan in May.

“That day, I had the feeling inside me that maybe something had broken down. And then they signed Ronaldo,” he said.

“The decision to leave was not mine. I gave everything for Juventus, I won several titles, after which Cristiano arrived.

“The club wanted to make a leap in quality and they told me that I could not stay and that they were trying to find a solution. The best solution was Milan“.

Still, Higuain said there were no hard feelings.

“Mine is a feeling of affection because they treated me very well,” he added. “Companions and supporters have given me huge affection. But I did not ask to leave. Basically, everyone says it, they sent me away.”

Higuain, who will take part in his first derby against Inter Milan on Sunday, has scored four goals in his first nine games for Milan.

“Milan have given me something more after a World Cup which wasn’t great,” he said. “I found what I was looking for.”


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World number one, Halep, withdraws from WTA Finals



World number one, Halep, withdraws from WTA Finals

World number one, Simona Halep, on Thursday pulled out of next week’s World Tennis Association (WTA) finals due to a lower back injury.

“It’s always difficult to withdraw from a big tournament. Actually, I think it’s the first time in my life. So it was a tough decision but it’s better for my health.

“My back is not OK. I didn’t practice for the last four weeks. I’m not ready to compete at this level and I’m still sore. It’s not easy to go on court and compete at this moment.

“The decision was tough for sure,” the 27-year-old Romanian said on her verified Twitter account of an injury sustained during training ahead of the Wuhan Open last month and later diagnosed as a herniated disc.

Halep has enjoyed a stellar season, which saw her reach the Australian Open final before winning her maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open.

“I wanted to finish 2018 on a high after such an incredible year, but sadly my back injury hasn’t healed the way we hoped it would and I need to put my long-term health first.

“I’m sad I won’t be able to play the fifth and final edition in Singapore, but I’m confident this is the right decision and will do everything I can to be back fighting my place at the WTA Finals next year.

“Singapore is a special city and I’m sure the fans will enjoy seeing some fantastic women’s tennis this week,” she added.

Despite withdrawing from Singapore, Halep is guaranteed to end 2018 as world number one for the second year in a row.

In her absence, Kiki Bertens, who finished ninth in the Race to Singapore standings, will be making her WTA Finals debut in the last version of the tournament in Singapore after a five year run in Southeast Asia.
The 26-year-old will be first Dutchwoman to compete at the season-ending showpiece in more than 20 years, since Brenda Schultz-McCarthy lost in the first round in 1997.

Bertens has won three tournaments this season, including a victory over Halep to claim the Cincinnati Masters title.

Angelique Kerber, Naomi Osaka, Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki, Sloane Stephens, Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina have also qualified for the $7 million event which will move to Shenzhen next year.


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