FIFA President Gianni Infantino has poured encomiums on the Amaju Pinnick –led NFF, saying the Nigerian Federation has shown excellent vision and focus, and has taken giant strides over the past two years.
The world’s number one football administrator, who also condoled with the NFF and the family of Kano Pillars’ player Chinedu Udoji who died in a car accident on Sunday night, stated this and more at the post –FIFA Executive Football Summit press conference in Lagos on Tuesday:
NFF Presentation: I will start by commending the support that we got from the NFF for this program. Excellent work was done by the NFF team to facilitate the holding of the Summit and FIFA is grateful for this. The presentation by the NFF President was brilliant, and it captured the great work that the administration has done over the past two years. The plan for Mini-Secretariats and Football Pitches in all the States of Nigeria deserves applause and support of everyone involved in Nigerian Football.
FIFA Executive Football Summit: The Summits are the lifeblood with which we intend to run the game henceforth. Each is a meeting of between 15 and 20 Presidents and General Secretaries of Member Associations drawn from three confederations. Here, we had people from Europe, Concacaf and of course Africa. We discussed the future of youth competitions, including the idea of increasing participating teams for the finals of the boys and girls’ events, and to make it annual instead of biennial. However, it would now be one championship and not of different ages.
Nigeria, having won the FIFA U17 World Cup an unparalleled five times and been at every youth tournament for the girls, is one of the foremost countries in world football with regards to youth competitions. We praise the commitment of the Government and people of Nigeria to youth competitions and football generally.
We also discussed a possible World League for the women, which idea will be developed and presented very soon, and of course we discussed the Football Development Programme as well as the eligibility of players and issues around transfer of players.
Video Assistant Referee at Russia 2018: This is not cast in stone, as the meeting of IFAB (International Football Association Board) of March 3 will take a decision on this. The signs are positive. I used to be sceptical about the VAR but statistics now show 99% perfection, which is better than when we started. I think that even at the FIFA World Cup, players and nations will prefer to wait a few seconds to confirm the authenticity of an important decision rather than live with the pain for the rest of their lives. The minutes needed to avoid the clear mistake of a referee are no more than what is usually wasted deliberately or spent attending to a player badly tackled.
An African Country Winning The World Cup: There has been incredible progress made over the years in the game everywhere, not only the strong nations. And at the last World Cup in Brazil, we saw four-time winners Italy and 1966 champions England sent packing by Costa Rica. So much is now possible and there are a couple of strong African teams heading to Russia. My objective at FIFA is to develop football at the highest level around the world and in all places. We will begin to see the results of this investment very soon.
Plans for Women’s Football: I have talked about the plan for the World Women’s League. We are also increasing the investment in the women’s game and also to generally encourage the other confederations to start continental competitions for women clubs. Only in Europe do we have this presently.
Constant Crises in African Football Administration: FIFA is really concerned because this should not be the case. Football is peace; football is love so we don’t want to see crises. We are working and talking with African Governments to avoid interference in football administration. Now, the message is clear that FIFA would not tolerate this. We are also working with Mr. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda who is also President of African Union, to launch a number of projects shortly to drive home this message.
Enforcement of Rules on Transfer of Players: The rules are there and they must be enforced with new vigour. We need to make the system simpler and clearer. For me, the solidarity and training compensation should be paid upfront before a transfer can happen. We are looking critically at this because even though it may not be a high percentage, it means a lot to the clubs that train the players.
How Ready Is Russia for the World Cup? I met with President Putin a few days ago and I can tell you that Russia is 99 per cent ready for the 21st FIFA World Cup. Of course, there are a few paintings to be done and some bolts and knots to be tied in some venues, but on the whole they are ready.
We are going to have a great FIFA World Cup in Russia this summer.