By Harry Awurumibe, Public Affairs Analyst
This Sunday in far away Kallang, Singapore, the Mighty Selecao of Brazil came from behind to force the Super Eagles of Nigeria to a 1-1 draw in a prestigious invitational friendly.
Fast- rising star, Joseph Aribo who plays his club football with a Scottish elite leaque had put Nigeria in front in the 35th minute of the explosive match. Eagles went to the first half one goal up.
But Brazil’s Casemiro found a space between Nigerian defenders in the 47th minute to tap in a rebound. The game ended this way as no team scored the winning goal in 90th minutes.
However, with the benefits of the international media, the Brazil versus Nigeria match in Singapore was watched today by thousands of fee-paying Singaporean fans, visiting supporters of both countries and millions of television viewers across the world especially in Africa and South American nations.
For millions of Nigerians who watched the game in a cable network, we all saw the Green-White-Green flag being carried into the arena. The Nigerian national Anthem was also rendered in the full glare and hearing of fans across the globe with our Super Eagles players standing at attention in respect of fatherland.
Millions of people in Singapore and elsewhere who were watching the match but who do not know or have heard about Nigeria before the match used the opportunity to know and see players from Nigeria.
Again, for 90th minutes the attention of the world focused on Nigeria for the good reasons evenas the match commentators were at intervals recounted Nigeria’s football exploits at the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup finals in all categories.
Perhaps, it is this type of international sports competition that Nigeria will receive a favourable media mention which cannot be quantified in monetary terms. This is a fact.
Nigerian government will need millions of dollars to place advertisements in the international media to get mentioned for just 60 seconds not to talk of a 90 minutes advertisements.
In fact, the best moments of Nigeria when Nigerians will have to pour out into the streets and hug each other not minding ethnicity, religion and age are when our national football teams or sportsmen and women win international trophies like in 1980, 1994 and 2013 when Nigeria lifted the African Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Same happened when Nwankwo Kanu led Nigeria’s U-23 team, Dream Team 1 won Olympics Gold medals in Atlanta, USA in 1996. On that occasion Nigerians sang and danced into the night from Maiduguri to Lagos, Calabar, Enugu, Warri, Ibadan and Owerri where Kanu was born and raised to stardom.
No other sector aside sports especially Football has brought Nigeria worldwide fame in the past and present days. None, no matter how much of the national budgets that have been alloted to them have brought international recognition to Nigeria as a nation like Football has done.
Yet, the Federal Government of Nigeria on whose name our national football teams are representing the country wearing the national colours is not bothered about the constant assault on the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) leadership led by Mr. Amaju Melvin Pinnick.
For the past four and half years when Pinnick and NFF Executive Board Members were democratically elected in Warri, Delta state and re-elected in Katsina, Katsina state last year, those who lost in the election have used everything legal and illegal including blackmail and mere mischief to pull Pinnick down without success.
At a point last year, it took the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo to stop Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) from placing a blanket international ban on Nigeria after folks fighting Pinnick’s Board “invaded NFF Glass House” in Abuja to occupy the place in a Commando way to the disapproval of FIFA. Nigerian government was made to sign an undertaking before world football governing body FIFA put the sledge hammer on shelf waiting for anymore misadventures of the “Pinnick Must Go” ringleaders.
In the face of all these distractions, Pinnick and NFF Executive Board have continued to ensure that the Super Eagles, Olympics Eagles, Flying Eagles, Golden Eaglets, Falcons, Falconets, Flamingos, Super Sand Eagles and three other national teams are doing Nigeria proud at International competitions.
Never before have our national teams been playing international friendly matches like the one Super Eagles played today in Singapore against Selecao of Brazil. Eagles had last three weeks played out a 2-2 draw with Ukraine in Dnippro.
Since Pinnick led NFF Executive Board came into office four years ago, no FIFA break has come without Super Eagles playing an international friendly match.
This is a big plus to the board and the secretariat under the able supervision of an academic, coach and astute football administrator, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi.
Indeed, if Pinnick led NFF Executive Board is to be allowed to concentrate on the job by their traducers and be given the chance to execute their plans for football in the remaining three years, Nigeria will be better for it hence the Federal Government should end the Witch-hunt which Amaju Melvin Pinnick and NFF Executive Board Members like Mallam Shehu Dikko and Ahmed Fresh are currently facing in the hands of the same Federal Government agencies for the Good of Football.
Unless the Federal Government recognizes the power of football towards fostering national unity, youth empowerment and also use it for international diplomacy as well as a Public Relations tools, football in particular and sports in general will continue to suffer neglect while other spheres which have never attracted any international recognition to Nigeria for their excellent performances among their counterparts in the world will cart home the largest chunk of the National Budget every year since Nigeria’s Independence in 1960.
I rest my case.