OrderpaperToday – Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on Monday received the visiting President of the International Federation of Football Association (FIFA), Gianni Infantino, and Secretary General, Fatma Samoura on a visit to the National Assembly in Abuja.
The Senate President used the opportunity of the visit to appeal to warring factions in the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to sheathe their sword in the interest of football development in the country, according to a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Sanni Onogu.
The visiting FIFA team was led to the National Assembly by President of the NFF, Amaju Pinnick.
The Senate President urged the NFF executive to “seize the international recognition accorded Nigeria by the visit of the FIFA leadership to put the crisis plaguing the association behind them and commit to providing leadership for gainful football administration in the country,” the statement said.
Saraki told Mr. Infantino and his team that: “Apart from the major issue of reform and accountability, the key issue remains the development of our own football and I think Africa, as you said, is the greatest place such can come from.
“We are going to play our own role in creating the enabling environment. I am happy that fellow presidents of football associations in different African countries are here. I think your visit clearly shows that you are keen and you want to work with us in Africa. We must play our own role and that is why we must give all the support we can.
“And I think it gives me an opportunity to talk to the members of NFF that we must solve our problems. I think that with this kind of world recognition we have today, the only thing we can do is to show example here in Nigeria, how we think a football association should be run and we must put an end to the crisis we are presently going through.
“A lot of you professionals sometimes blame politicians that when we lose elections we don’t want to accept. But now we politicians are now reformed. When we lose elections we accept. I think football professionals too should learn from us.
“In this era of change, when you lose elections, accept and wait for when the tenure is over to re-contest. But to try and bring the house down because you did not win would not be in the overall interest of the country.
In his remarks, Infantino said that he was happy to be in Nigeria in view of the country’s passion for football, saying: “Nigeria is not only a big country but a great country. Africa is not only a big continent but a great continent. A great continent actually because it shares the great passion which is the passion I have for football.
“I was impressed yesterday coming from the airport to the city, to see how many people – boys, girls and kids – were playing football along the streets. You see that you don’t only love football; you really live football in this country.
“This must be cherished and protected. We need stability and unity to work in a serious way because Nigeria has a great tradition and a great passion for football and the whole of Africa has it. I was elected with a mandate for change, reform and to bring transparency and good governance into football. But also most importantly, to foster the development of football. And Africa has to play a key role in this.”