George Aluo
ExclusiveSports

Exclusive: Nigeria can’t afford to miss 2026 World Cup, it’s task for next coach – NNL Chairman Aluo

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Nigeria can’t afford to miss the World Cup again, and it has all it takes to win the World Cup in 2026, the Nigerian National League Chairman, Mr. George Aluo, has said.

With the Super Eagles gearing up on who will become the next coach, homegrown or foreign tactician, Aluo said qualifying for the Mundial and surpassing the feat that Morocco achieved in Qatar in 2022 should be a major target for the next coach of the Nigerian national team.

Aluo, in an exclusive interview with PerSecondNews, also disclosed the new strategies that have turned the fortunes of the NNL, with winners for the first time going home with a pay cheque.

The officiating standard has also greatly improved in the league; with referees no longer at the mercy of the home team, the NNL has settled all the indemnities of match officials from match day one.

Persecondnews reports that before the commencement of this season, the Nigerian Football Federation tasked arbitrators officiating in the league to be top-notch professionals and always exhibit uprightness.

With the League Southern Conference concluding in three weeks, Aluo said: “I’m happy with the level of officiating that we have this season. The era when the league was the best on paper is over.

“Before this season, there has been no season that NNL has been able to pay referee indemnities. Right from week one until the end of the season, we have paid all indemnities. That’s enough incentives right from the relegation play-offs in Kano when this board came on stream in July 2023.

“All the clubs that came to Kano were pleased with the officiating; before we came on board, the referees had been at the mercy of the home team. Like they say, ‘he who pays the piper dictates the tune’.

“Anybody who has been following the league since week one will tell you that the biggest improvement this season has been officiating; this is not something you say in a vacuum that officiating has improved.

“The yardstick for determining good officiating in a league is the outcome of matches—the number of away team victories and draws in the league.

“This statistic favours the NNL because teams are winning on the road, and we have not had any major incidents. So we are proud of what we have done so far in terms of officiating.”

PSN: With teams jostling for tickets for the Super Eight, what is the price tag for winners, and which venue will play host to the best eight teams in the NNL?
Aluo: One of the conferences has ended. Sokoto United and Sporting Supreme have both clinched the tickets for the Super Eight.

Another conference will end this weekend for those in contention: the El-Kanemi Warriors, Nasarawa United, and Wikki Tourists. El-Kanemi are through to the Super Eight, so the second ticket is a straight fight between Nasarawa United and Wikki Tourist, and the other conferences in the Southern region will end in another three weeks.

In the next couple of days, we will announce the venue for the Super Eight. It is going to be a neutral venue where all the qualified teams will have the freedom to express themselves and have a smooth sail into the Nigerian Professional Football League.

For the first time, the winners of the Super Eight will go home with five million naira. We sealed a deal with our kit partners to provide footballs to all the teams in the league. The most valuable player, the best goalkeeper, and the highest goal scorer will also get additional incentives from our partners. These are baby steps that will mature with consistency, I assure you.

“The league is getting better; before now, there was no prize money for the winners in the league. We are starting from somewhere, and by next season we will get bigger. We are calling on corporate Nigeria to invest in the league.

PSN: They have been stunted in their transition from the domestic league to the national team. How can we change this narrative?
Aluo: Kudos to the NFF for appointing capable hands to run the various tiers of the Nigerian League. With time, the appointments and their policies will rub off on the national team. The era where we rely solely on foreign-based players will be over soon. I am not an advocate for inviting players, whether you are playing in the domestic league or the foreign league; the challenge is, let’s get the best wherever you are.

If the best is from home, so be it. Nigerian players are Nigerian players irrespective of where they play their trade; let’s not reduce their quality by saying they are home-based or foreign-based players.

PSN: What would you be looking out for in the next Super Eagles coach?
Aluo: The man that will deliver, the man that is supposed to take us to the World Cup, because Nigeria missed the last edition, we cannot afford to miss the Mundial again. Whoever is picked must take us to the promised land; the target is to qualify us first and surpass the feat achieved by Morocco; it’s not impossible.

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