As the Nigeria Football Federation and football stakeholders deliberate on the performances of the Home Eagles at the justconcluded 2016 African Nations Championship in Rwanda, what continues to bother close watchers of the game remains the non-availability of kits for the players and technical crew members of the national teams.
As the team left for their pre-tournament training tour of South Africa, the eggheads of the NFF assured millions of Nigerians that the team’s kit were already in place but that was not to be as the training kits were not even available for the players when they arrived the venue of the competition.
Confirming the development, a top official of the team told The Point that “the new kits arrived our camp in Rwanda about the time we were about playing Tunisia in our second game.” Sadly, this is not the first time that a Nigerian national team will be having a kitting problem with the power brokers at the NFF.
During the preparations for the 2015 U-23 African Cup of Nations in Senegal, Head Coach of the team, Samson Siasia, was also involved in a kitting saga with the NFF, a situation that almost cost him his job after he granted an interview with a Lagos-based radio station where he confessed bitterly about the kitting problems the team was facing.
“It took me so much courage to come out with this, but it is embarrassing. We don’t have training kits up till now, we wash and wear,” hinted Siasia.
Interestingly, not even the all-conquering U-17 team got all the kits required going to the U-17 World Cup in Chile. “Yes, the players were not able to exchange jerseys with other teams because all they had was a pair of jerseys for the matches,” a member of the squad revealed to The Point in a chat.
The NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, admitted during the signing ceremony of Nike’s three-and-half-year kitting deal in London last year, that the federation negotiated with the American sportswear company from a difficult position, but was quick to add that the partnership with the renowned sport kitting company, would chart a new way for Nigerian football.
“We negotiated from a weak point; that weak point was that no company was willing to talk to us. There was nothing we didn’t say to them. We even weighed up the country’s population and the value of the returns from the sale of jerseys,” he said.
To make matters worse, many Nigerian football fans have found it impossible to purchase the replica Nike jerseys, as they are not available even from the official Nike shops in Abuja and Lagos.
At the time of going to press, an email enquiry sent to the NFF’s Assistant Director (Communications), Ademola Olajire, on where fans could buy the jerseys of the national team in Nigeria had not received a reply.
The deal NFF entered with Nike that would run from April 1, 2015 until April 1, 2018, was expected to see the sport kitting company provide the NFF with kits worth $750,000 (about N149m) in the first stanza. Sadly, 10 months down the road, Nigerians have not felt the dividends as the cry for the kits continue.
It is worrying to hear about the rumoured noises coming out from Nike’s camp over not too impressive recent performances of Nigerian teams in international competitions.
However, since the deal commenced last year, Nigeria have excelled in most competitions within the period. First, the U-20 team got to the quarterfinals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand; the Falcons were on parade during the FIFA Women’s world Cup in Canada; the Golden Eaglets won the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile; the Dream Team VI were also champions in the African U-23 Nations Cup in Senegal in December; while the CHAN Eagles qualified for the 2016 African Nations Champions in Rwanda. Unfortunately, the team failed to get past the group stages.
Finally, as the NFF and Nike hit the last leg of the first part of the $750,000 (about N149m) deal, only time would tell if the wait for the Nike jerseys was worthwhile