I’ve capacity to reposition Association of Nigerian Professional Footballers
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.