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Mr Anthony Kodjo Williams needs no introduction, especially within the business and sport communities. He comes from a family with pedigree in both fields. The late father, Chief S B Williams, was not only a very successful businessman but also presided over Nigerian sports as chairman of the defunct National Sports Commission, NSC.
Kodjo at the time was learning the ropes as it were, and sizing up his father’s big shoes. Our path crossed during my numerous visits to the family house. I was the national president of the Sportswriters Association of Nigeria (SWAN), at the time Chief SB, as he was fondly called , was at the helm of affairs of Nigerian sports. He was our patron and a regular financier of our programmes. Only our grand patron, late Bashorun MKO Abiola was ahead of him in supporting the association.
Kodjo is seen by many people in different ways. To some, he is a stubborn, arrogant spoilt child born with silver spoon in his mouth. Yet, to others; he comes across as a very articulate, passion-driven young man who is ahead of his time. Anyhow you look at it, he has kept the family flag flying, maintaining his father’s legacy in both business and sports.
For those who see him as brash, his short tenure as the chairman of the Nigerian Football Association is a testimony. But his brilliant contributions and ideas of how the round leather game should be run support the position of those who think he was ahead of his time. His passion and vision for the game are not in doubt. Kodjo has demonstrated capacity and courage.We have not been in touch for many years, but I hope he remembers the short romance.
He was in his full elements as a guest of Channnels Television sports programme on Tuesday this week. Though I strolled into the programme late and didn’t get his full submissions, the bit I got was enough to know his drift. The summary of his views is that Nigerian football is witnessing stunted growth and requires radical steps to get us to where we should be in the committee of football Super powers. His rage and fury didn’t not spare the Sports ministry and the National Institute for Sports, NIS.
Brutally, Kodjo accused the NFF leadership of abdicating it’s responsibilities in the administration of football in Nigeria. Specifically, he frowned at the level of independence being enjoyed by the League Management Company, LMC. According to him, the LMC is conducting its affairs as if it is a parallel football governing body in the country, with no oversight functions by the NFF. This is nothing but the truth. This viewpoint has been made severally in this column.
However, the LMC is not completely responsible for this anomaly. In most cases when the LMC had referred football matters to the supposed parent body, the NFF had responded with documented docility. The issue of erring referees is a case in point. Poor officiating has been identified as a major factor affecting the development of the local league. The league managers appear to be helpless as they have no hand in the appointment of referees. All allegations of compromise against some identified Referees Appointment Committee members have never been investigated. Instead, such people are rewarded with more appointments even at continental level.
There is no doubt that our local league has improved significantly over the years. Nduka Irabor started the revolution while Shehu Dikko brought his marketing creativity to bear. But instead of sustaining the momentum, the organisation of the local league is on the decline. Poor officiating, violence at match venues as well as the issue of television rights, nearly marred last football season. As the new season is about to kickoff, what has changed? Nothing. That Nigeria May be heading to Russia without players from the local league sums up the tragic state of football development in Nigeria today.
Again, NFF should be held responsible for paying lip service to the development of our football at the home front while concentrating on foreign based players. Until last year, England never featured at the finals of any global age group competition. They went back to the drawing board, invested in youth football development and last year England emerged World champions at both Under-20 and Under-17 World Cup tournaments.
The former NFF boss also identified funding as another factor militating against the development of the game, but quickly pointed out that funding will remain an issue unless our football is properly packaged and branded as is the case in Europe and many African countries. As far as he’s concerned, our football is being under-marketed while our administrators are being carried away by the little successes so far recorded.
Not long ago in this column, we commended the leadership of the NFF for the modest achievements recorded in recent times. We highlighted those achievements and advised that that Amaju Pinnick -led executive should be allowed to continue in office. Expectedly, their paid agents didn’t come after me. But will definitely do so when their masters are criticised. We are all stakeholders and the country belongs to all of us and not the property of some individuals.
Kodjo Williams’ rage was hard on the moribund National Institute for Sports, NIS, and called for the scrapping of the institution for out living it’s usefulness and lacking in capacity to carry out its role of training and grooming Nigerian coaches.
He identified lack of technical know-how as the bane of Nigerian coaches, insisting that our youth and female teams would have made more impact globally under well trained and exposed coaches. To him, playing for the national team is not enough credential to handle our youth and female teams. What Kodjo did not add is that appointment of coaches for our youth and female teams has become a rehabilitation programme designed to reward individuals who have godfathers in the Glass House.
The Ministry of Sports has failed completely to initiate youth development programmes for all sports as a deliberate policy to revamp the ailing sports sector, he observed. Unfortunately, the minister of Sports appears clueless; not knowing when to stamp his authority.
The recent mishap that resulted in Nigeria losing three points to Algeria in a World Cup qualifier is a test case for him. Does he realise that if Nigeria had been disqualified from going to Russia because of the carelessness of those running our football, the APC administration would have been scandalised out of office. He must take over the investigation and ensure that the culprits are punished.
Till next week, keep attacking.