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Choice of politicians as officials stunted Nigerian football, says Atere

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Fatai Atere


Former junior international, Fatai Atere, has said the appointment of politicians as administrators has stunted the growth of football in the country. Speaking to The Guardian on Friday from United States, Atere stated that he had expected that by now, the country’s political leaders would have realised that it was someone with football background that should oversee the running of football in the country.

“The current football administrators we have in the country don’t know how to handle anything. Even when I was playing, we had to beg for everything. The thing has become worse now that people have to resort to paying money for them to be put in a team.

“Imagine at the China ‘85 Under-16 Adidas World Cup, the officials never believed we could qualify for the final, which we eventually won. We had to wash the jerseys we used in the preliminaries for us to play with them in the quarterfinal, semifinal and even in the final game for the trophy, when there should have been jerseys for every match in the knock out stage.

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“What this mean is that the officials had expected us to be beaten for us to leave the competition so that they can keep the rest jerseys for themselves. And the question you ask is, ‘Why do they have to do that?’ I am just telling you a little of what these administrators have been doing in the Nigerian soccer that do not work for us and they are still doing it up till now,” he said.

Atere, who said he had opportunity of playing professional football in England after his trials with English club, Tottenham Hotspur, added that the country’s administrator thwarted abruptly his attempt at making it into professional cadre.

“After playing in the U-20 ECOWAS Cup, I left the country for trials in England at Tottenham Hotspurs. The club wanted to sign me for £1.5 million, but the then Nigeria Football Association secretary, the late Mr. Patrick Okpomo, declined my clearance to play for the club, saying that I was a government property and that I cannot be signed.

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“That is why top players like Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka when he was asked if he will play for Nigeria or England, he said no that he wants to play for England. Why would anyone blame him for that? There are people who have played the game and they know it well. They have good education background and not those who have not played the game before.

“These are people who are ex-internationals, who have gone through the rudiments of the game, played the game to highest level and are well qualified to become administrators. They understand what good kits meant to sports men and women, the allowances as motivation, securing travelling documents on time etc. When it comes to picking the players, they leave it to the coach to do his job,” he said.

Atere, who graduated from the Youth Sports Federation of Nigeria (YSFON), added, “The current Nigeria Football Federation president, what does he know about football? Even the minister of sports, what does he know about sports before he was appointed? We don’t need political appointees to run sports in our country again. Nigeria should learn from other other countries, where you have those that have played the game before serving as administrators, because they understand the need of sports men and women better. I pray that one day everything will change but it might not be during our time.”

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ECOWAS CupFatai Atere
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