As Coach Gernoit Rohr leads the Super Eagles out to play Tanzania in today’s dead rubber 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Uyo, President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick has tipped the German-born trainer to make the Eagles fly high again, reports JOHN EGBOKHAN.
A new coach, Gernoit Rohr has been hired to coach the Super Eagles. What considerations informed his choice and given the lean finances of the federation, how do you intend to fund the salary and is there a guarantee that he is going to stay in the country and have the programme that you have for the other team Before answering the questions, let me quickly say that Rohr told me that he was really looking forward to managing a great nation like Nigeria and that he was grateful for this opportunity.
During my last interaction with him, he was talking to some of his colleagues in big clubs asking them of the Nigerian players in their teams. We have a coach, who will bring the German discipline and French finesse into our team He is very passionate about football. He played for Germany, Bayern Munich. He comes with a deep knowledge of African football, both at national and club levels. He was the one who discovered Pierre Aubameyang when he was coaching Gabon.
During our interaction, I was so stunned the number of Nigerian players he knew, even some that I didn’t know. He was calling his colleagues abroad, trying to find out of Nigerians in their clubs, one factor that Nigeria coaches are not known for. Being a coach goes beyond coaching players in the field. It is also about networking, leadership and the other factors you bring into the game.
He also has the advantage of being a multi-linguist, as he speaks French, Italian, German and English, which means that if he wants a player in Germany, he can call the coach and he will speak the German language to him. There are a lot of advantages that one gets for having such a coach around.
In answering your question on where he will be staying, I can inform you that a Nigerian has volunteered to pay and furnish the apartment. Is it possible for them to take care of the two years that the coach is going to stay with us? Yes, of course. What we are trying to do is for them to be paying the money, on a quarterly basis, to our financial consultant, Financial Derivatives, who will then pay the coach but as you know, all our money must go into the Treasury Single Account before it gets to the coach’s account How about the other coaches? We are already making a representation to another company, and within the next two months, we would get a response. How much do you get for running the NFF? We try to be open, as much, as possible in the federation.
Before we came on-board, the former administration were getting about N1.3 to N1.5bn. Because of the drop in oil prices and the economic situation, we are getting N57m to N67m, which based on the present exchange rate is barely $120, 000 a month to service 11 national teams. Our sponsors are not immune from the economic downturn. It is very difficult for them to keep their part of the deal, to the extent that those whose contracts have about four months to expiration, refused to renew their contract, leaving us with about two companies.
On grants from FIFA, before, we were getting $250, 000 but since Infantino became President, he increased it to $1.25m. $750,000 goes for infrastructure, capital projects and that matter, we have decided to build a small hotel, where we would keep most of the junior national teams when in camp. The truth is that a huge chunk of money is spent camping these teams but with the NFF Suites, we would have taken care of accommodation during camping. As of now, we are owing an airline firm about N160m; we are owing hotels over N200m The last regime spent a lot of money on camping because if you want quality results, you must put good money into preparations. In football, money answers almost everything. You must spend money to get results. I woke up, very early yesterday, feeling almost depressed. But a top citizen called me and helped to reduce that depression.
I worry a lot because, as an example, if the Super Eagles are playing, you will invite 25players. Their tickets to come to Nigeria will be about $250, 000 for all of them . If we charter an airplane, we pay about N57 to N67m. Then you pay allowances and bonuses.
If they win, each player gets $5000. That is about N300m. If we have a budget of about N800m a year, you can see the kind of difficult situation we are in.
Nobody on the board earns salaries. What we get is when you travel you get estacode, but when was the last time anybody got it? I can’t remember. On FIFA’s grants, they send inspectors to monitor the $750,000 for the capital projects, while $50,000 is for youth development, $50,000 for women football, $50,000 for secretariat services and another $50,000 for technical issues.
That is how they are going to spend it. These are the real challenges. Would you say you made a mistake taking up this leadership position in NFF? When I decided to go into this, I prepared myself for the good, the bad and ugly. One thing I do when I wake up everyday, is to pray to God to grant me a good day because I believe so much in praying and it has really helped and shaped whatever I have done. My wife, who is from the eastern part of Nigeria, chastises me for putting so much into football, despite the fact that it is not paying me back.
But I am not relenting because I believe that we will get things right sooner than later. Is qualifying for the 2018 World Cup one of the targets for the new coach and how realistic are you on this? Yes, he has been mandated to qualify us and I believe we can. But we must work extra hard to realise this target. And once we qualify, I believe he can get us to the semifinals because the players are young and enterprising.
The former coach of the Eagles, late Stephen Keshi was buried, with so many issues being raised over the lack of honour given the coach by the NFF and Sports Ministry. As the President of the NFF, can you clarify issues because an account has it that you were not present at the interment in Ilah? This is not something I want to talk about. But, we heard that the NFF abandoned Keshi during the burial. It was said that no representative of the NFF was the burial and that he was not honoured. You must set the records straight, given the differences you had with Keshi, before he was sacked by your board I would have preferred to stay silent on this because of the high respect I had for Keshi before his death. This is not the sort of issue one wants to comment on but it pains me when people try to turn the truth on its head.
Right from the night when Keshi was being taken to the hospital, I got a call from the brother in-law and when he gave up the ghost, I could not sleep again. I quickly went to Benin that morning. It’’s clear, that from the beginning, I was in touch with the family and even before he was buried, I was with them. I had meetings with them. I told them the federation was ready to play any role they wanted us to play.
I got permission of the NFF to purchase the casket used to bury Keshi. It cost N3m. It’s unfair for people to say we abandoned Keshi. He was my good friend. Forget the professional differences, he was a great friend. The NFF paid for all the decorations in Asaba and Benin. I payed for them, even though,it was on behalf of NFF. These are personal funds, which I hope, one day, the NFF will return to me. All those jerseys that the ex-internationals like Augustine Eguavoen and others wore, we paid for them to honour Keshi. I hate saying this but people will not understand the relationship I had with Keshi.
Please, forget our professional differences; we had a very good relationship. In 2010, before Siasia was appointed Eagles coach, Keshi was in my house in Warri, watching a programme on TV, when they announced Siaisa as the new coach and his first response was, “Amaju, these people don start again”, and I told him that “your time will come”. We were very close but you should understand the difference between professionalism and personal relationship and understand that there are various committees with roles to play and I cannot sidestep them. I followed Keshi’s corpse from the mortuary to the church. We were there for two hours. Even when the in-laws came out to speak, they singled me out for commendation. We drove to Ogbe stadium, where I did the kick-off for the novelty match. I was there for two hours.
From there, we drove to Asaba for another service and later had meetings with members of the family to appraise the situation. I was told the minister and permanent secretary were coming the next day. I immediately called the Delta State Governor, Sen Okowa, who told the director of protocol to arrange to make elaborate arrangements for the burial.
The Governor said they would hold a reception in Asaba. I returned home but on the next day, I started sweating, feeling very unwell. Even if there were threats from the villagers that I should not come to Ilah, I was bent on attending the interment.
But the signs I woke up with, were not good at all. My vice-president called and advised me to stay away because of my poor health. He told the technical director to attend the interment. He also called the Sports Ministry’s permanent secretary to tell him of the situation and even though I still wanted to attend the interment but then when my wife called and begged me, I decided to stay back.
But, I did everything that I needed to do to ensure a successful burial for Keshi. If you put the money I spent together, it was not a small amount and I am not sure if NFF will pay me back. I hate saying this and I regret saying it but I just want people to understand that I am bonded with the family and I remain bonded with them.