Friday Nwankwo Kujah has given his blessing to the election of Ifeanyi Ubah as Anambra State FA boss. In this exclusive interview with Extra Time Sports Editor, ANDREW EKEJIUBA and Thompson Victor, the reknowned FIFA licensed player’s agent speaks on the state of Nigerian league, Super Eagles AFCON miss and the crisis currently going on between the NFF led Amaju Pinnick and Amb. Chris Giwa’s faction. Excerpts:
Can you describe to our esteemed readers your impression on the state of the Nigeria Professional Football League?
I am very happy seeing what Shehu Dikko and Salisu Abubakar are doing; many people who joined football recently didn’t know the training Salisu Abubakar went through. He was the first Secretary of the Pro-League who travelled outside the shores of Nigeria to upgrade his knowledge of the game with the English Premier League and so many other European countries. Joined with the experience of Dikko, and Nduka Irabor (seasoned journalist, former House of Assembly member), the sky is NPFL’s limit in this regard.
Today, teams can win away matches in the NPFL and one cannot predict who is going to win matches now with ease. I’m so happy with way our league is going, it’s lovely!
What aspect of the League has improved so far this season?
In terms of the referees they are trying, you can’t get there in a day. In terms of decision making by the League Management Company, they are fine and I will urge supporters to attach themselves to various clubs in the league. I am not blaming them for supporting teams in Europe, but they should as well attach themselves to clubs here in Nigeria. As for me, I am from Anambra State and I support Abia Warriors, FC IfeanyiUba , Enugu Rangers, as well as Eyinmba FC. People should attach themselves to teams and wear their jerseys. You cannot keep on supporting clubs outside Nigeria because charity begins at home.
Which player(s) have actually caught your attention so far this season?
I think Chisom Chikatara has improved a lot and Chibuzor Okonkwo, because I have seen him play everywhere along the defence line to the defensive midfield role; it’s rare to see a defender like that and I think he is one of the best in the league. I am still yet to judge the best players this season.
Let’s come down to the Nigeria Football Federation; what’s your take on the crisis currently going on between the NFF led Amaju Pinnick and Amb. Chris Giwa’s faction?
It is only we Nigerians that are allowing Giwa to be tossing us around and beating about the bush, as well as mocking our football. If Giwa has anything to contribute to Nigerian football, I will stand by him an allow him run our NFF. But Giwa has nothing to contribute because NFF is not a political ground, and he is an ambassador that should be talking about contesting for governorship and other electoral positions.
Giwa has a football team, let him groom his players to become champions and make impact in the continent; he must let people know he has an ambition for his team. He cannot even upgrade his team and he wants to govern Nigerian football.
The records are there to enlighten him. Amaju Pinnick was the Deputy Chairman of Warri Wolves, if I may be right, he is the creator of Warri Wolves and you know it did not take long for Warri Wolves to get to the limelight. He was also a Commissioner of Sports who also built a good name for Delta State football. The same thing can be said concerning Ibrahim Galadima. He is one of the best football administrators I have ever seen; check his records and it speaks for him. All these noise by Giwa are mere distractions and its high time football lovers stand up and cut him to size.
What did you think made Nigeria not to qualify for the 2017 AFCON that will be held in Gabon next year?
Over celebrating of our players when what we have are only average players was a major factor, coupled with the continuous changing of national coaches was also responsible for our failure. You can see the game against Egypt, those boys that Samson Siasiia selected, if they can blend well then the sky will be our limit. It is the first time in 2 to 4 years that we saw the Super Eagles playing like that.
Watch those games again and you will see what I am talking about. I think after Rio Olympics we are going to build a national team that will surprise the whole world.
After the Super Eagles failed to qualify for the Nations Cup, some Nigerians have clamored for the NFF to hire a foreign coach instead of local coaches, what is the way out?
There is no problem with that. They should know that we don’t have such money to pay any foreign coach. We should avoid a situation whereby we will owe the foreign coach. If we have the money to pay a foreigner, then no problem at all! You attach people like Siasia, Amokachi and the rest of them to monitor and understudy the so-called foreign coach.
On the 4th of May, 2016, Fifa remembered Late Rashidi Yekini; what do you remember about him?
Yekini was a wonderful friend; he was one of the players I respected for what he did for Nigeria in the soccer field. I call him “bros” Yekini. I remember transacting a lot of businesses with him. He relied so much on First Bank, Dugbe, in all his businesses and I did travel from Lagos to the Bank and did some transactions, both for his bonuses and the rest of them for him. I thank Fifa for remembering him, while we at home don’t remember what the ‘Goal King’ did for this great nation with his skills.
Ifeanyi Uba was recently elected as the chairman of Anambra State F.A., what do you think about the election that brought him to power?
There is nothing wrong with the election and I think for a person like that to be coming into Nigerian football we should thank God, especially Anambra football. All the youths in the state stood up for him because they had nobody and they believe their future is bright with him.
Ifeanyi Ubah has a programme for youth empowerment in terms of football; we no longer produce stars again because football has died in Anambra State for many years. Give Ifeanyi Ubah a year and see how he will rebrand Anambra State football. He will transform Anambra and Nigerian football. If he can come to the petroleum sector and under seven years his company is one of the best, look at Authority Newspaper, look at when he handled TAN, he is always in the news and he is never a loser!
It was only when he finished third in the governorship election in Anambra less than 2 to 3 months of campaigning that he tested defeat because some people betrayed him. Everything about Ifeanyi Uba is wonderful, look at his club, and I believe people from Anambra will enjoy good football administration. Those that are against his election are not from Anambra State.
With his election as chairman of Anambra State FA, what do you think he will bring to Anambra football?
I have said it all, just wait and see, Anambra people will be jubilating. Ifeanyi Ubah that I know for over 30 years doesn’t like to lose and he has great passion for football. He has passion for Anambra and youths empowerment. Before two years Anambra will produce some of the best footballers in the country and best FA chairman.
As a football agent, what is your advice to upcoming stars in the NPFL?
They should not be in a hurry and should always be straight forward. They should not sign any contract unless they have someone to mediate for them. They should not talk to any administrator or club’s chairman in this regard, but they should allow their agents to do the talking. As a footballer you have the right to have an agent. Your agent may be your family member or a Fifa licensed agent. All they need do is just go out there and play their game and leave an agent to do the whole talking for them. The reason a player needs an agent is just for the protection of his image.
QUOTE: “Ifeanyi Ubah that I know for over 30 years doesn’t like to lose and he has great passion for football. He has passion for Anambra and youths empowerment. Before two years Anambra will produce some of the best footballers in the country and best FA chairman.”