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NFF election and Doherty as agent of change

Afolabi Gambari

BY Afolabi Gambari

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In a country where football development has come to be viewed only from the lens of participation in major competitions, failure of the Super Eagles to qualify for Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup represents a huge blow, if not a dreadful setback. As much as the incumbent NFF administrators – from the President downward – have tried their utmost to justify another term in office with the coming election into the board, it has been a tough job indeed convincing Nigerians at home and abroad of their capability to take the country’s football to the desired level.

Nonetheless, the gargantuan task of giving Nigeria a fresh breath is not enough to disinterest individuals who are eager to bring on board the ideas required to create new inroads to future development. It is therefore not a surprise that a London-based enterprenuer and Team Nigeria UK Founder, David Doherty, is bringing himself forward for national service at this dire time. Although Doherty is little known, he doubtless has unquenchable ambition to make a positive difference as one of the aspirants aiming to succeed the reigning NFF president Amaju Pinnick.

Doherty’s battle cry on his aspiration is “change” which he believes has a two-prong focus: making retired and active footballers the real actors and making the football to run itself away from the current excessive reliance on public funding. In what is a clear break from the past, he has made it a cardinal principle neither to blame past football administrators for the dreadful turn of event nor to present himself as lacking in value addition.

Those who have worked with Doherty often describe him as “solution -based” ambitious man who would rather keep his ace close to his chest. It is even more so at this time that he would have to contend with enemies, as it were, in the race to rescue Nigeria football from further descent. As he has humbly admitted at different fora, however, the incumbent administration has fallen short. Perhaps, only the incumbent president himself would not so admit, except that he would be hard pressed to prove otherwise, especially as he has fashioned his administration solely on competitions – a plan that has not bode so well so far, considering the Super Falcons also recently wobbled to fourth place finish at the Africa Women Nations Cup in Morocco, despite being the defending champions. Doherty is just short of concluding that Nigeria football has slipped into coma, but he has not hidden his assertion that a lot of work needs to be done in the years ahead if the country must take its proper spot on the pedestal of world football. It is on this premise that he believes a change of guard at the helm of Nigeria’s football administration is of utmost necessity.

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While many see Doherty as a diasporan Nigerian in the United Kingdom, he is quick to call himself a home-boy, proudly brandishing the credentials of bringing top football scouts from the UK to Nigeria quarterly to pick talents for Team Nigeria UK, a project he has run successfully for several years and which focuses on helping Nigerian teenagers within the age bracket make a combined career in football and education in Europe, in addition to opportunity for sponsorship for the players-cum students. The Team Nigeria project is also affiliated to clubs in the UK, which gives it the leverage to pursue and achieve individual goals for the teenagers.

The electoral statutes of the NFF can be quite worrisome, especially for a candidate as Doherty who is perceived to be “outsider”, which brings him on the spot with regard to his qualification. But, he is unfazed. Nor was he also bothered about talks that the NFF hot seat is reserved for only moneybags, a class he doesn’t lay claim to. As far as Doherty is concerned, he would rather wait for the electoral law to see how things pan out for himself and other aspirants. As far as he is concerned, moneybags are handed the task of running an establishment in vain if they lack the required knowledge, experience, capacity and contacts to administer.

He wouldn’t be dissuaded by the presence of Nigeria ex-internationals among the NFF presidential aspirants as well. Not that he disregards the experience of the former players, however. But he believes in his own capacity to rival their expertise in football administration, bringing his player management, diplomacy and contacts to bear.

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Doherty, in his intentional desire to spearhead a new dawn for Nigeria football, has got what qualifies as “words on marble”: Hear him: “Before voting people into public offices, the voters should try as much as possible to find out the track record or antecedents of the candidates. When they vote people into office on the ground of sentiments, then they should not expect good results or change.” It is a direct message to Nigeria football stakeholders on whose shoulders now rest the responsibility of handing the country’s moribund football a new lease of life.

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