Tunde Adelakun, a football consultant to FIFA and CAF, sports journalist and Special Adviser to the Nigeria Football Federation(NFF) on International Relations in this interview with NIYI ALEBIOSU and NURUDEEN ALIMI, sheds light on how he finds himself in the football business, his roles at the NFF as well as his views on the way forward for Nigerian football. EXCERPTS:
How did you find yourself in the football fraternity?
I played the game, and had to quit it for school because during my days as a young boy people who want to go to school were never encouraged to play football. So, one way I thought I could get myself involved in the game was to start writing about it and became a sports journalist, thereafter, I moved to the United Kingdom where I worked with the BBC and later Skysports covering African football. Since then, there has been no looking back. I am actually a trained Estate Surveyor and Valuer but I think I have forgotten how to measure houses now because football has taken over me completely.
How important is your role at the NFF?
My role is suppose to be very important because anything outside the chores of Nigeria I am suppose to be in charge of it especially when it comes to the relationship between the NFF and other international organisations like FIFA, CAF and fellow football federations. I do all I can and I have always enjoyed it from the days Sanni Lulu, Aminu Maigari and now Amaju Pinnick. They give me the free hands to do all I can to foster relationship between the NFF and other international organisations.
As one of the major stakeholders in Nigeria football, What do you think can be done to the Super Eagles to have a coach that will stay much longer with the team, establish a strong relationship with the players in order to achieve optimal results?
The modern game of football is changing drastically. Long term coaches are not very much available theses days, but what we need to do and one of the things I subscribed to is Amaju Pinnick’s policy of achieving a sustainable football culture for the country. A culture where people will be able to embrace football, think football and dream football in every way possible. The issue of the coach is a very difficult one, because initially we were looking at rebuilding the country’s football image. We have done well in the age group tournaments we need to get effective transition into female cadre and that is a long-term aspiration, how we can get a transition policy that will get us from our age group success to the Super Eagles level, that is a long term policy but we also have a short term policy because the administration is suffering from lack of success at the moment because I won’t call it failure but a lack of success. Lack of success in the fact that for the first time in a long time Nigeria has failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations in two consecutive times and if we do not qualify for the 2018 World Cup, then that means this administration basically has failed. The task in the short time is to get us to a point that we will qualify for the World Cup.
What are the challenges you are facing while discharging your duties at the NFF?
Obviously at the start of this present administration the NFF started out with a major brand of football in Africa and in the World. Everybody wants to associate with them, Presently there are few sponsored projects going on. Then the issue of political instability when one faction takes the other to court and try to distrupt things. It put potential sponsors off, It put them off and draw us back two to three years. So, sponsors who have signified their intention to do business with us are pulling back and asking us to put our house in order before they do business with us. And that is one of the major challenges we are facing at the moment, we are no longer a respected brand because we do not even know who is going to be at the Glass House tomorrow it keeps changing and until that stabilises we won’t make headway. That is one of the problems militating against the discharge of my duties.
The Africa/EPL monthly award, What is it all about?
Basically, I am an advocate for heroes I think that those of us who are doing this business, there are agents, there are consultants among us. We would bot be where we are if people have not sacrifice themselves to do well for our country and our continent at large. I say it all the time that the authorities even the ones I work with do not recognise our heroes. when they die, we will bring out all the big grammars to eulogise them but what happens when they are still alive? We need to recognise them and that is why we designed that award to show that people are watching, there are kids who want to be like them and let us give them award to encourage them to keep conducting themselves very well and so we started with English Premier League looking at African players every week and give the outstanding ones a monthly award based on their performance, based on what they do on and off the pitch and that has been going on for two years now.
You intend to distribute High Blood Pressure monitoring device to ex-internationals in the country. Can you please shed more light?
When I set up Heroes Never Forgotten, My desire is as the name implies never to forget our heroes. When some of them were playing, we never cared about them, and a lot of them go into coaching for example. Now shortly after the death of late Super Eagles coach, Shuaibu Amodu’s death, Bitrus Bewarang the President of Nigerian Coaches Association said 75% of Nigerian coaches are hypertensive which is understandable, hypertension comes with the job even back in England. So, one of the things I felt we should do to start with is to look for our own heroes especially those who are still active in football who will because Stephen Keshi and Shuaibu Amodu had High Blood Pressure before they died and nobody cares about them. Therefore, we want to make sure we look after those who are still alive by distributing the monitoring device to every coach and every ex-players that has served Nigeria, let us give them that means to monitor their blood pressure from the comfort of their homes and everywhere they go so they do not need to go to the hospital to do that and that will be the first stage. I want to make sure that this charitable foundation does it well, I have started by procuring 20 of such monitoring device which I am going to deliver free later in the year to the first 20 in the group of coaches. I am starting with the 1980 set of players that won the Africa Cup of Nations for us, they should come out wherever they are, we will give them the device so that they can go and be monitoring their blood pressure and then we can now organise seminars to educate them about the lifestyle to adopt which will enhance healthy livings and how to maximise the potentials in the monitoring device.
On a final note sir, what is your advice for the country to bring back the good old days of the 80s and 90s?
It is a big task, In 1980, we hosted it and we had a set of passionate players, in 1994, we were very raw. But the unfortunate thing now is that those who are clamouring for the return of Clemens Westerhof may not know that he can not find the terrain as condicive as that of 1994. That time the players were looking at him as a father figure and that is no longer there. So I think the structure needs to be changed. We need to build Nigerian football as marketable brand that people will want to subscribe to. If it is a brand that we are accountable to sponsors, stakeholders and the media then we now take it to the players and players will feel our passion and they will definitely have the zeal to go to the pitch to win for us. It is a very long process and that process must start from the Glass House and if we know what we are doing, then the job is done.