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NNL will be better — George Aluo


The second tier league known as the Nigeria National League, NNL in recent times has gained attention with clubs turning out excellent performances especially in the President Federation Cup currently ongoing.
We caught up with the Chairman, George Aluo and in this interview, he gives us an insight into the NNL as well as what to expect at the Super 8 and the forthcoming season.

Enjoy the interview.

Tell us about the just concluded regular season of the Nigeria National League

I want to give God all the glory for seeing us through a successful season. 
From my own assessment and report of our independent observers and assessors, I’ll say that the league was well-organised and for the first time, we saw teams winning away matches and picking maximum points on the road which was not the case prior to the coming of the current board of the NNL.
Shortly after we’re sworn in, I made it clear that the league under my watch will not be business as usual and we kept to that promise. Teams that tried to cut corners were sanctioned and in some cases, fines were imposed on them or they were banished from their home grounds; all these brought sanity to the league.
We will continue to work hard and improve the standard of the league.

How was the officiating in the regular season?

It was good and we were all over the centres to monitor the progress all through. To drastically reduce poor officiating and inducement of match officials by home teams, we made sure that referees indemnities were settled at least 72 hours before any league match. Apart from this, the league board also took care of their transportation, feeding and accommodation. We also organised seminar for our coaches before the commencement of the league, it helped us a lot in improving the technical knowledge of our coaches. All these enabled us to have a seamless league. Although we’re not there yet but we’ll keep on improving until we get it fully right.

How was the build-up to the ongoing Super 8

The build-up to the Super 8 was very excellent. Kudos must go to the Enugu State Governor, Peter Mbah, for accepting to host the Super 8. I believe that all the teams were fully prepared and we’re going to ensure fairness and that the rules are applied in all the matches because we want the best team to emerge as champion of the League and am sure we’ll get it right.

NNL teams created huge upsets in the Federation Cup, how will you react to this?

What this shows is that NNL teams are good and the players capable of playing for any of the NPFL teams. It also shows that our league has improved tremendously because if the league is poorly managed, none of the teams would have gone beyond the first or second round before exiting the championship.
I’m not only happy that they performed creditable well but am more excited that NNL teams defeated some of the best top flight teams in the country and it’s worth celebrating.
Having said this, I want to stress that we are highly excited with their performances and I want to assure Nigerians that the most important league in the country will continue to witness more improvement. 

What efforts are you making to bring in corporate bodies to support the second tier of the domestic League?

We’re really working hard towards that direction because no league can thrive without corporate sponsorship. To be sincere, it wasn’t easy for us prosecuting the just ended league with zero sponsorship but I must thank the NFF President, Alhaji Ibrahim Gusau, for his financial and moral support to the NNL.
But you must equally understand that we’re handicapped in getting a major sponsor because of the poor economic situation of the country, we shall keep on pushing. Part of our plans is to make the league attractive because no investor will like to put in his money where he cannot get any value for his investment. 
So, right now, we’re rebranding the league to make it more attractive. We’re also taking the issue of accountability serious as well as totally eradicate poor officiating because these are part of the things that scare away corporate organisations from putting their money in football.
Let me use this medium to appeal to corporate organisations to start taking interest in what NNL is doing. We’re not saying they should give us the money but let them emulate what GTI is doing with the NPFL; let them take care of referees indemnity and some other expenses and I am confident, our league will be the best lower league on the continent.

Are there special rewards for the best team(s) that excel in Super 8 except the tickets to the NPFL?

There are actually going to be incentives and there will be prize money for the winners. In this year’s Super 8, the winners will pocket N5m. Apart from the cash prize, all the participating teams will get branded footballs and other kits to enhance their training programmes.

How was the season for you as the chairman in all areas of operations?

I must have to confess to you that the league was in one aspect very challenging and in the other aspect very interesting. It was challenging because of lack of sponsors and adequate finance to prosecute the operations but I give God all the Glory that at the end of the day we were able to navigate through all the problems.  Another challenging aspect had to do with clearing of backlog of salary arrears the current board inherited but in the midst of all these difficulties, we were able to offset the salaries, increase referees indemnity, pay them promptly and I am happy to that we’re not owing any referee.
On  the interesting aspect of it, we organised the first ever seminar for NNL coaches in collaboration with the National Institute For Sports ( NIS ) at the Remo Stars Sporting facility at Ikenne, Ogun State, which attracted some of the best resource persons in the country led by the Technical Director of NFF, Austin Eguavoen, which was a huge a success.
I am equally happy that for the first time in the history of the second tier league, the issue of home teams winning at all cost became a thing of the past and at the end of the day, the best teams emerged victorious in the various conferences of the league.
What do we expect in the next season of the NNL…

In the next season, I want Nigerians to look out for a more competitive league. In doing this, we shall leverage on the successes we recorded this year, take a holistic review of some of the shortcomings of the league and improve on them.

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