I’ve ca­pac­ity to re­po­si­tion As­so­ci­a­tion of Nige­rian Pro­fes­sional Foot­ballers

Ti­jani Ba­bangida:

Weekly Trust - - Cover Interview - David Ngobua

Ahead of the forth­com­ing elec­tions into the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Nige­rian Pro­fes­sional Foot­ballers, NANPF, on De­cem­ber 4, a for­mer in­ter­na­tional and lead­ing pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, Ti­jani Ba­bangida has said he has the ca­pac­ity to lead the as­so­ci­a­tion to en­vi­able heights. In ad­di­tion, the mem­ber of the Su­per Ea­gles squad to the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France and mem­ber of the all con­quer­ing At­lanta Olympics Dream Team 1 said he is mo­bil­is­ing his for­mer team mates to fully iden­tify with the as­so­ci­a­tion.

What would you say is your rea­son for en­ter­ing the race to lead the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Nige­rian Pro­fes­sional Foot­ballers?

I have joined the race be­cause the time has come for us, es­pe­cially those of us who are for­mer in­ter­na­tion­als to give direc­tion to this im­por­tant as­so­ci­a­tion. It is our re­spon­si­bil­ity to help the present gen­er­a­tion of play­ers. As you can see, the body is not yet an as­so­ci­a­tion in the true sense of the word. It is only when we have a formidable as­so­ci­a­tion that we would be able to help the younger ones.

What do you think will give you ad­van­tage over other can­di­dates who are vy­ing for the same po­si­tion with you?

With hu­mil­ity, I have played foot­ball at the high­est level. When I re­tired from ac­tive foot­ball, I re­turned to the coun­try and I was made the chair­man of FC Taraba. I ad­min­is­tered the club for over five years from the pro­fes­sional league to the NPFL. I was also an as­sis­tant to Sun­day Oliseh in the na­tional team. I doubt if there is any­thing the elec­torate would need more than what I have told you to vote me as the next pres­i­dent of the as­so­ci­a­tion. I don’t think my op­po­nent has bet­ter cur­ricu­lum vi­tae. I have the pre­req­ui­site ex­pe­ri­ence to drive for­ward this as­so­ci­a­tion. I know the prob­lems of Nige­rian foot­ballers.

What are the ma­jor chal­lenges that Nige­rian pro­fes­sional foot­ballers are fac­ing in their re­spec­tive clubs that you would ad­dress, if elected pres­i­dent?

I know there are usu­ally prob­lems of con­tracts. Most times clubs don’t re­spect their con­tracts with these play­ers. It is com­mon to see clubs sack­ing play­ers who have run­ning con­tracts with them. They are sacked with­out pay. I also know that most of the clubs don’t pay salaries as and when due be­cause money ap­pro­pri­ated are ‘cor­nered’. And any­time play­ers com­plain, they are said to be in­dis­c­plined. There are so many things the Nige­rian player faces in the hands of clubs. I want to have a very good re­la­tion­ship with the Nige­ria Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion, the League man­age­ment Com­pany, LMC, the clubs and other rel­e­vant foot­ball stake­hold­ers in or­der to ad­dress some of these is­sues.

Do you think you will get the nec­es­sary sup­port from club chair­men who are usu­ally ac­cused of deny­ing play­ers their en­ti­tle­ments?

I be­lieve they will co­op­er­ate with the as­so­ci­a­tion in their best in­ter­est. Most of them know me. Some were col­leagues when I was there. Some were there some weren’t. I can as­sure you that we are go­ing to have a won­der­ful work­ing re­la­tion­ship with the club chair­men. We shall give them their due re­spect and ex­pect that they in turn would re­cip­ro­cate our ges­ture.

Could you elab­o­rate on your vi­sion for the as­so­ci­a­tion?

As we speak, I can­not say we have any formidable struc­ture on ground. Since it is not pos­si­ble to build on noth­ing, we shall try to make the as­so­ci­a­tion to be fi­nan­cially sta­ble. A lot of work needs to be done but I am ready to make the nec­es­sary sac­ri­fice. We need to have a well fur­nished sec­re­tariat from where we can op­er­ate and peo­ple will take us se­ri­ously. We can­not be taken se­ri­ous when we do not have a con­tact ad­dress. If we are go­ing about cap in hand, no­body will take us se­ri­ously.

How much sup­port are you ex­pect­ing from your for­mer team mates?

I have started con­tact­ing my for­mer team mates so that they can call the as­so­ci­a­tion their own. We need all hands to be on the deck for us to move for­ward. Since the as­so­ci­a­tion came into ex­is­tence, this is the first time that some of the big names in Nige­rian foot­ball are will­ing to come in. It is go­ing to be a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence this time. I have con­tacted al­most all my for­mer team mates. Talk of Pas­tor Taribo West, Kanu Nwankwo, Vic­tor Ikpeba, all of them and they are hun­dred per cent ready to come in and sup­port the as­so­ci­a­tion. This is our own as­so­ci­a­tion. We need to sup­port one an­other. All the for­mer play­ers who are suf­fer­ing in one way or the other, we need to sup­port them. We can­not aban­don our own. If there is any­thing we want to present to the NFF, we would have a plat­form to stand and dis­cuss with the fed­er­a­tion.

To what ex­tent will the as­so­ci­a­tion sup­port re­tired foot­ballers who are not as priv­i­leged as some of you?

That is what I am telling you. Our pri­or­ity will of course be on those who are ac­tive be­cause they need to be guided prop­erly but even those who have re­tired will be given their due at­ten­tion. We don’t want the un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent of late Rashidi Yekini to hap­pen again. So our hands are open. We would be for the young and old. Once they have any prob­lem, they should come to us. If we can han­dle it, fine, if it is be­yond us then we take it to the NFF for in­ter­ven­tion.

How do you fancy the chances of the Su­per Fal­cons who are up against the Bayana Bayana of South Africa in the fi­nals of the 2019 AWCON in Ghana?

It is not go­ing to be an easy game for ei­ther of the sides. Any team that has reached the fi­nals of any com­pe­ti­tion be it lo­cal, na­tional or in­ter­na­tional is not a push over. To get to the fi­nals, such a team must have gained ex­pe­ri­ence and must be in the best form of their lives. The South Africans are in the fi­nals for the first time and they want to win their first ti­tle. And con­sid­er­ing the fact that they beat Su­per Fal­cons in the group game, they will be mo­ti­vated to do it again. On their part, the Fal­cons had a very dif­fi­cult semi-fi­nal but they came through. And look­ing at their pedi­gree in the cham­pi­onship, they are the most suc­cess­ful team so the South African girls too know what they are com­ing up against. If the Su­per Fal­cons can main­tain the right at­ti­tude and men­tal­ity, they will surely tri­umph over South Africa. They have the ca­pac­ity to win.

Su­per Fal­cons star striker, Asisat Oshoala cel­e­brates after scor­ing one of the penal­ties for Nige­ria against Cameroon in the semi-fi­nal match.

Ti­jani Ba­bangida

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