Sports Minister Urges Collective Responsibility for Tangible Progress in Nigerian Football

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AbujaNigeria’s Honourable Minister of Sports Development, Senator John Owan Enoh, met with key football stakeholders to discuss strategies to elevate Nigerian football, emphasizing the need for a united effort to address the sport’s challenges NEGROIDHAVEN has confirmed.

The Minister convened a high-profile meeting in Abuja, bringing together the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), the NPFL Club Owners’ Association, and the Nigeria Referees Association (NRA). The meeting built upon previous engagements with football stakeholders and aimed to lay the groundwork for comprehensive growth in the Nigerian football scene.

Senator Enoh stressed the importance of focusing on the conduct and operations of clubs and match officials. He expressed disappointment at the recent exclusion of Nigerian referees from AFCON 2023 duties, deeming it a blow to the nation’s football reputation.

“Officiating is an integral part of football that can either make or mar the development of the sport,” he asserted. “Our football cannot be said to be developing if our referees are excluded from international tournaments year in, year out. As a ministry, we are concerned because this does not bode well for the nation’s reputation.”

The Minister used the bitter AFCON 2023 experience as a call to action, urging the football community to address internal issues. He emphasized the necessity of combating corruption and kickbacks, asserting that putting the house in order internally is a prerequisite to enhancing Nigeria’s reputation in the international football arena.

Addressing NPFL Club Owners, Senator Enoh emphasized the need for clubs to operate professionally. This involves prioritizing player welfare, club licensing compliance, security, infrastructure development, and proper handling of contract matters, among others.

“Club owners must also rally their supporters and provide security to ensure the protection of referees who often feel threatened and work in danger,” he added.

In response, Alhaji Ibrahim Gusau, President of the NFF, stated that the Federation has initiated changes to improve the performance of referees. He explained that younger individuals are now being supported to take up officiating roles, and a collaborative project with CAF and FIFA aims to enhance both the physical and educational aspects of match officials in Nigeria.

“We are working to ensure that young referees can earn FIFA refereeing badges, making them relevant on the international stage for an extended period,” Gusau said. “Training programs are in place, focusing on the education and physical fitness of match officials, while addressing the specific challenges we face.”

The meeting was attended by several prominent figures in Nigerian football, including the NFF President, 1st Vice President, General Secretary, NPFL board representatives, and officials from the Nigeria Referees Association and NPFL Club Owners.

The Honourable Minister’s call for collective commitment to football’s progress underscores the urgent need for all stakeholders to unite, cooperate, and take responsibility for the sport’s development.