Abeokuta, the rocky capital of Ogun State was the centre for another genuine move to galvanise the development of Nigeria football from the grassroots, with the launching at the weekend of the South –West States Football Forum – a body that promptly emphasized that it was not in competition with any zone, but has been borne out of the compelling need to ensure co-operation among the States for the good of the Nigeria game.
NFF President Amaju Pinnick and Deputy General Secretary, Emmanuel Ikpeme attended the summit of the six States and applauded the move that will see the Football Associations in the zone collaborate and coalesce forces to have the best regional football co-operation in Nigeria, whereby football administration and delivery is beneficial not only to the youth playing it but to all stakeholders of the game.
At a meeting with Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State on Friday morning, Chairman of the forum, Barrister Seyi Akinwunmi (also the 1st Vice President of NFF), underscored the forum’s mission as a vehicle for the South –West States, a non –political association formed without prejudice to any other zone in the Federation, and constituted to transform football administration and hold regular tournaments by adopting international best practices.
An excited Governor Amosun, a consummate athlete in his youth, immediately endorsed the forum, pledging to rally the other governors in the zone to support the forum’s noble objectives.
“I must confess that I am indeed very happy to see the calibre of people that have come together to be part of this idea and work to enable the rapid development of football in the South –West. This is heartwarming, and I believe that if these people can sit inside one room, half of the problems of Nigeria football is solved.”
At the meeting with Governor Amosun and the summit proper were Akinwunmi (also chairman of Lagos FA), Hon. Akin Akinbobola (secretary), Alh. Ganiu Majekodunmi (chairman, Ogun FA), Chief Taiwo Ogunjobi (chairman, Osun FA), Mr. James Odeniran (chairman, Oyo FA), Ayodeji Desmond Alabi (chairman, Ekiti FA) and Dele Ologbese (vice chairman, Ondo FA).
There were Chief Jonathan Ogufere (one -time president, WAFU), Chief Adegboye Onigbinde (former FIFA technical advisor), Chief Kashimawo Laloko (founder, Pepsi Football Academy), Mr. Fabio Lanipekun (former broadcast guru), Comrade Titus Adegbehingbe (former FIFA referee), Dr. Rafiu Oladipo (president-general, Nigeria Football Supporters Club) and Alh. Tade Azeez (president, Nigeria Referees Association).
There were also former NFF Board Members Ayo Omidiran (also a notable women’s football sponsor and ranking member of the House of Representatives), Barr. Leye Adepoju, Mr. Deji Tinubu and Chief Segun Odegbami, as well as former Green Eagles’ ace Dr. Felix Owolabi, Hon. Bukola Olopade (former Commissioner for Sports, Ogun State), Mrs Sarah Jumoke Adebisi (vice president, NRA), Mr. Kunle Soname (Nigeria National League), Princess Ruth Olayinka (general manager, Ekiti United), Mr. Dotun Coker and Mr. Bisi Osunleye. Top journalists, coaches, referees and ex-players also came. Secretaries of the Football Associations in the six States were also in attendance.
NFF President Pinnick eulogized the role that the South West played and still playing in the development of the Nigeria game, saying the zone has served as the launchpad in coaching, refereeing and administration.
Speaker after speaker also appreciated the quality of football personnel in the zone, and endorsed the forum’s objectives: to put the South West zone in the front burner of football destinations in Nigeria; to synergize the football development programmes of the South West; to create a forum of convenience for South West States aimed at the development of young talents in the region; to facilitate the development of football administrators/referees/coachesand others in the zone through regular courses and workshops; to engender the establishment of world class football academies in Nigeria and; to bring back the glorious days of football in the South West zone.