BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
On Monday, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) escaped a ban by world football governing body, FIFA. But this Tuesday August 21, the federation is 85, even though officially, the body thinks it is 73 on an unknown date this year as reflected in its emblem. The emblem of the football body as well as other official insignia state that NFF was ‘founded in 1945”.
As it is this year, the anniversary of Nigeria’s football governing body has always passed unnoticed, owing to improper record keeping which has made its officials to erroneously take the body’s foundation to be an unknown day in 1945.
“Founded 1945” now adorns the badge of the NFF. But no fact exists to back up the 1945 dateless claim, except the general belief that the Governor’s Cup which changed to Challenge Cup, later the Coca-Cola FA Cup and the Federation Cup and now AITEO was instituted that year.
Efforts to enunciate the facts on what was previously known as the Nigeria Football Association (NFA) to the successive boards since 2003 had always been rebuffed.
But www.sportsvillagesquare.com asserts that verifiable archival materials have revealed that the NFF was founded at 7pm on Monday August 21, 1933, at house number 42, Broad Street, Lagos. The building still exists.
All the facts on the actual foundation date are verifiable and still exist. The facts were passed to the former Minister of Sports, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi and the immediate former NFF president, Alhaji Aminu Maigari as well as his successor.
The same have been passed to the current sports minister, Solomon Dalung who promised to look into it.
All are possibly still studying the documents presented to them. The documents had earlier been presented to the regimes of the then NFA/NFF – Ibrahim Galadima and Sani Ahmed Lulu as well as a former minister of Sports, Abdulrahman Hassan Gimba in 2008.
A presentation of the documents was made to the Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima-led NFA board on April 9, 2003. This was followed by a similar presentation to Alhaji Sani Lulu board on March 6, 2007, at the Lagos liaison office of the NFF.
There is no official reaction as all just promised to look into the documents. Alhaji Aminu Maigari was more receptive to dig a little bit into the documented evidences provided, but he was overwhelmed by the crisis that trailed the tail end of his tenure.
The current NFF president, Amaju Pinnick also has the documents since June 7, 2017, but no official reaction at the moment. He however told a gathering at the launch of “History of Nigeria Football’ written by Wiebe Boer that the issue of the foundation date of the NFF would be tabled before the congress of the NFF. The unfolding leadership crisis of the NFF may have been an impediment.
Most of the evidences on the actual foundation date of the Nigerian football governing body can be found at the Department of National Archives at the University of Ibadan.
The August 21, 1933 edition of the Nigerian Daily Times, which later changed to Daily Times, carried the advertisement of the meeting of football enthusiasts who planned to form a central organisation to be named Nigeria Football Association.
It called on interested people to attend. The venue was the Health Office, 42 Broad Street, Lagos. The building still exists as the Lagos Island Local Government Primary Health Clinic.
- Invitation to the inaugural meeting and foundation of the Nigeria Football Association as published on page 6 of Nigeria Daily Times of August 21, 1933.
Four days later, the foundation of the NFA was reported in the Nigerian Daily Times of Friday, August 25, 1933, under the headline: “Nigeria Football Association.”
It was reported that 30 delegates attended the foundation of the NFA. One Henry A. Porter was appointed the first ever NFA boss.
The Nigerian Daily Times of August 25, 1933 that reported the foundation of NFA on August 21, 1933.
He went by the title: ‘President.’ Porter was also the founding chairman of the LDAFA (now Lagos FA) in 1932, and secretary of the Public Works Department (PWD) club.
An architect, historical facts about the Centenary Hall in Abeokuta, Ogun State also revealed that Porter who was the senior architect at Public Works Department (PWD) also designed the historical building in Abeokuta.
Other pioneer officials of the then NFA included three vice presidents –Adeyemo Alakija, Dr. Isaac Ladipo Oluwole and Baron Frederick Mulford (a white expatriate fondly called Baba Eko).
Joseph Mead was the pioneer secretary. According to the newspaper report, the NFA had 10 affiliated clubs at its foundation. They were Abeokuta and nine Lagos teams that accepted to become parent clubs.
The nine founding parent clubs were Afric, Olympics, Health, PWD, Muslims, Railway Institute, Marine, Spalding and UAC.
The only definite refusal among Lagos- based clubs to become a parent club was the Police club which argued that a national association was an approach towards professionalism.
At that time, even up to the 1950s, professional football was scornfully regarded. For instance, in an article in the Sunday Times of September, 20 1953, NFA Secretary, R.B. Allen, never hid his hatred for professional football as it was regarded as capable of corrupting players.
The maiden annual general meeting of the NFA was fixed for January 1934. But it did not hold until Monday, February19, 1934. A half page uptight positioned report of the first annual general meeting of body was published in the Nigerian Daily Times edition of February 22, 1934, which is also available at the Department of National Archives at the University of Ibadan.
Nigerian Daily Times edition of February 27, 1934 which reported NFA’s first annual General Meeting that took place on February 18, 1934.
The secretary, Mead, complained that the response to invitations issued to clubs and districts to become members was poor.
He read a report dealing with efforts to popularise the idea of a national association. Mead stated that principal centres had been contracted on the aims and objectives of the NFA. But it seemed it was not a popular idea.
The newspaper account of the first Annual General Meeting of the then NFA revealed that the only definite acceptance of invitation to become district associations was from Abeokuta, Lagos Amateur and Lagos European Amateur Associations while Ijebu Ode promised to inaugurate a district association and league in the following season.
But more significantly, Mead reportedly told the meeting that an application had been forwarded to The Football Association (The FA) in London for affiliation.
That led www.sportsvillagesquare.com to another opening in the search for the true origin of what is now known as the NFF. A letter was dispatched to The Football Association in England by this reporter.
David Berber, the Public Affairs Officer at The FA in a response dated April 2, 1996, wrote in part: “I can advise that the name of the Nigeria Football Association first appeared in the FA Handbook for the season 1938-39 in the list of our affiliated associations. The NFA secretary at that time was F.B Mulford, with a Lagos address.”
That is an indication that the body had existed before 1945.
Letter from The Football Association, England confirming that the Nigeria FA existed before 1945.
Then a visit to the offices of the oldest football body in the world which will, on October 26, celebrate its 155th anniversary resulted in more startling revelations.