The Minister of Sports and Chairman of National Sports Commission, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, on Wednesday expressed confidence in the ability of the Supper Eagles Head Coach, Stephen Keshi, to take the team to the 2014 World Cup holding in Brazil.
Abdullahi, however, said that should Keshi request for additional technical support, the NSC and the Nigeria Football Federation would be willing to grant his request.
The Minister, who was briefing State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting, presided over by Vice President Namadi Sambo, also ruled out a foreign technical adviser for the national team.
He said: “But going to the World Cup and given the targets we are setting for ourselves, as you know every game is a learning opportunity, just as players learn during games, we believe coaches also learn during competitions.
“But of course, we will be open to reviewing all options and if Coach Keshi, whom we believe has done a very good job to put this team together from AFCON up to to this time, if he feels he needs additional technical support, we are going to give it to him.
“But we are confident he is capable of doing the job and if there are issues we can always talk about them.
“But we have confidence in his ability to lead the team to the World Cup.”
Abdullahi, said he briefed Council on the victory of the U-17 team at the just concluded World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and presented the trophy.
He spoke further on what he told council members: “I also noted in my brief to Council that in all these achievements, including the AFCON we won in January after 19 years, and the athletics championships in senior, junior and youth categories, all these put together has positioned President Goodluck Jonathan as the most successful President in Nigerian sporting history.”
The Minister also spoke on the preparation towards the World Cup, saying: “As you well know, the season has just ended, the national teams have shut down for the year and this gives us opportunity to review performances through the year.
“We played two matches in the last couple of weeks.
“One in Calabar and the one in London against the Italian national team.
“And if you look at the two games, you could see that the profiles are different.
“Of course, the competitions were different but also the games were different in terms of approaches.
“We have received reports from outsiders but we are going to sit down with the coaches to review all these.”
Asked about the salaries being owed Keshi, the Minister said it affects national team coaches generally and not just Keshi.
He, however, said that representation has been made to the appropriate quarters for intervention.
He said: “I don’t think it is about Keshi.
“It is about salaries of coaches in the national teams. It is not just the Super Eagles or even the lower teams.
When the issue was brought to my attention I asked the Football Federation to explain because don’t forget that the Federation employed these coaches and not the National Sports Commission.
“They explained why they have been having difficulties paying and their explanations sound reasonable even though I felt they could have handled the situation differently.
“But then we have made representations to the appropriate authorities to give special intervention to enable the Federation cross this difficult financial path they have found themselves.
“And if I may tell you, one of the major reasons the federation has found it difficult to meet some of its obligations is that success in sports comes with enormous price.
“But like in the past when the national teams were not winning now we have won almost every single game. For every single game they win you have to pay match bonuses and match bonuses cannot wait, it should be paid immediately.
“So, when you are drawing from the same pool of fund to pay the match bonuses and the commitment that keeps piling up, then it becomes very difficult for you to meet some of these statutory obligations.
“We believe all these things should have been done differently but we are working towards addressing that and very soon it will be done with.
“Even this morning, it is part of what I’m trying to sort out.”
On what the Commission intend to do to help the family of Friday Njengo, the Golden Eaglet player, who lost his life recently while on national duty, the Minister said: “On the issue of the player, Friday Njengo, who unfortunately died after the accident, it is really tragic to us because this is a young man with such a bright prospect.
“So, we have sent representation to the family and of course all players on national teams are under insurance cover.
“So we believe that the payment of the insurance will be done to the family but in addition to that, the Federation after the burial will think about what it can do for the family.”