As Katsina State sets its sights on sports development, the man who is leading the charge as senior special assistant on sports to the Katsina State governor, Alhaji Aminu Balele Kurfi, in this interview with SALIFU USMAN, kicks against those insisting on the employment of a foreign coach for the Super Eagles.
As senior special assistant to governor on sports, what are you doing to make Katsina State a hub of sports development in the north and not just football?
In terms of football we were lucky to have a sound football association and director of sports, who happen to be sportsmen. We are diversifying and a lot is being done to develop other sports like handball, basketball, hockey, lawn tennis, athletics and a number of others.
We are doing a lot of things underground which I would not like to expose for now, because we want to surprise Nigerians in years to come. So, we are not only trying to make Katsina State a hub of sports development in the North; we are also doing so for Nigeria. We reasoned that, since football is a popular sport and you can’t hide it from the public, we must rebrand Katsina United and get everyone to see the club and how much the players can do.
We have been in Abuja camping for the past three to four weeks. Before now over 23 players of the club were not bona fide players of the club, because they were on loan. However, we have signed our own players whom we will groom to become players worthy of playing for other clubs at a competitive level.
We have played against some great clubs in the FCT and against some of the national teams and, we are getting better with these experiences.
With the inculcation of the National Sports Commission (NSC) as a department in the Ministry of Youth & Sport Development and the deployment of the former director-general to the Ministry of Niger Delta, do you think that those who insinuate that there is some bad blood between Minister Dalung and Yakmut are right?
Perhaps, there is some misunderstanding between the Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung and the former director-general of the National Sports Commission (NSC). I am not saying there is a misunderstanding between them, but we always did have a power tussle in sports between the minister and DG. If you recall the days of Hassan Gimba and Amos Adamu, you’ll understand what I am saying. Also, the era of Danagogo and Elegbeleye was no different.
This tusslel may have been responsible for the redeployment of Alhassan Yakmut out of the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development. Let me stop there.
The Rio 2016 Olympic Games is around the corner and some are insisting that we might be up for a repeat of the London 2012 disaster, as a result of poor preparation. Do you think so?
I’m afraid, I am more concerned about football and I strongly believe that we are going to win a medal in the male football event, but I can’t say if it will be gold, silver or bronze. As for other sports like athletics, boxing, weightlifting, table tennis, basketball and so on, I don’t know their level of commitment [to training].
There is utter commitment by the technical team led by Samson Siasia to the campaign of the U-23 to do well at the Rio Olympics.
The male U-23 side is working hard, day and night, on their strategies. They had a friendly match with my club, Katsina United, just last week and I saw how technical they were and their great attitude toward the game, team work and the degree of discipline they exhibited. They have a very good technical team and I believe that they will produce a very formidable squad that will do us proud in Rio Olympics, no doubt about that.
What we should be more concerned about is how are we going to get money to develop sports, particularly football, because it unites Nigerians, irrespective of their ethnic, regional and religious background. No doubt, we are going to do well in football at the Olympics. As for other sports, I don’t know. Perhaps, you should ask those in the ministry [of youth and sports development]. They should know better.
For me, our only hope for medal at the Rio Olympics is football, because we have a strong, sound technical team. If their camping allowances are paid on time and other forms of logistics are in place for the side to succeed, I wonder why they should not do well.
But the impression amongst many football observers is that the weight of coaching the Super Eagles [even in interim capacity] and the U-23 is too much for Siasia. Do you think these concerns are weighty?
Siasia is an experienced coach and he knows how to handle both teams. That is the practice everywhere in the world. The Olympics’ team is often coached by the national team coach. Take Brazil, for instance; Carlos Dunga, who is the coach of their national team, is also in charge of their Olympic team.
The idea of saying the job is too much for Siasia to handle is misplaced and, to a large extent, selfish. Those saying that are putting him under pressure. In the first place, they said they don’t have money and the NFF is bankrupt, yet they want to hire a foreign coach. The idea of a foreign coach for the Super Eagles is a scam orchestrated by sycophants in football to siphon money from the government. They are so fixed on doing this that they junket round the globe, claiming to scout for an ‘expatriate’ coach. As much as they may claim, what they are doing is not for the development of the game.
I want the NFF to learn to utilise resources in their possession. It is unfortunate that the NFF will give you a job and still go in search of a replacement for you. How do you think the coach will concentrate? They should stop putting Siasia under pressure and let him concentrate.