Thursday, July 22, 2010

INTERVIEW: JUTH Returning To Premier League To Compete – Mailafiya

Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) Football Club vice chairman, Isa Mailafiya, has attributed his team’s success in the outgoing National League Division 1A where they are setting the pace. He spoke about his team’s ambition in the Premier League. Speaking in Jos, the seasoned football administrator said the dedication of players, of experience the technical crew, the hospital board and JUTH CMD, Dr.Ishaya Pam’s contribution as well as the management’s effort led the team back to the Premier League. He also gives the way forward for Nigeria league as well as Nigeria football. Here’s the excerpt of the one-on-one conversation:

How was the experience like this season?
It was a pleasant one from the beginning of the season. We are serious about our promotion ambition from the outset and we did our best to actualise the dream. We had six straight wins home and away consecutively, and it was not easy to achieve such feat. It was a great experience and we were able to sustain the tempo up till now.

JUTH FC has played in Premier League and National League Division I, how can you describe your experience at both settings?
They are two different settings. Honestly, dropping from Premier League was not a good experience that any team would wish to encounter. In terms of organisation and facilities, the Premier League is superior to the National League. The standard of football in the Premier League is good and higher than what transpires in the National League.
In the National League, we have to cope with strange facilities especially the pitches we meet at different venues after playing two seasons consecutively in the Premier League. But for the fact that we have played there before, we were able to adjust with the reality on ground. As it is now, there is room for improvement in the National League. I am of the opinion that the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) should have a separate board that will run the National League Division I. They will have time to address the problems facing the league like facilities and get sponsors.

What are the secrets behind JUTH FC success this season?
We have a formidable and experience technical crew that is dedicated to the team’s course. We also have a squad made up of experienced players mixed with young talented players who are eager to make names for themselves. There is continuity in the team because we retained a large number of our players from last season so blending and team work was easier. The management also did our best to see that we motivate the players based on our resources. And the great support we got from the Chairman board of director of the club, Dr. Ishaya Pam, the hospital management as well as other stakeholders too numerous to mention did the magic for us.

Your team has booked a place to play in the Premier League next season and you still have two games left to play in National League, and Premier League is to commence in September, don’t you think this will have effect on your team?
As it is now, we have made a return to the Premier League, even with two matches to go. The picture of the four teams that will play in the Premier League will be clearer after the last two games are played. Even then our Premiership status will be endorsed by NFF and NPL AGM but we won’t wait for that before we will start preparation for the season. We have already identified some of the weaknesses in the team and have identified some good players that will be recruited to beef up the team. Our technical crew too is still searching for the talented players that will be brought in to fortify the team for the task in the Premier League. Management has sound serious warning to the ears of the technical crew that any players to be recruited must be better than those to be dropped because JUTH FC is not a dumping site or centre for players’ rehabilitation. I am delighted that a lot of good players from Premier League clubs have signified intention to play for JUTH FC.

Having a demanding office job, how do you combine that with a tasking job of administering the club?
To God be the glory, hardly will you see an official of clubs in Nigeria having such dual responsibilities. As you have rightly noticed, the task of football management is so hectic that it needs full commitment from administrator but I am happy to say that I have been able to handle both without any stress or problems. This is because I have been used to it over the years and has become part of me. I have scheduled my programmes in such that both won’t suffer.

What are your set goals for next season?          
First, I want to remain on top this season and go ahead to be crown the National League winner. Next season, I want my team to maintain their Premier League status, but if continental ticket comes, we will grab it.

Your team is one of the few that does not owe their players entitlements. How are you able to sustain this?
Football running is capital intensive worldwide, but we have been able to successfully pay our players’ entitlements as at when due because in the first place, we don’t promise players what we can’t pay. All players that have played and are still playing for JUTH can testify to that. That has been our policy ever since. I think that’s why players are comfortable coming to JUTH FC. We have suffered in the past because of that because players ran away when we gave them offers and they see that it is smaller to what other teams offer them. But they end up knowing the truth later when they find out that a team lied to them (about their remuneration) and they could not pay what was agreed on. But we have overcome that as many good players want to come to JUTH FC now.

Why do you think Nigerian football fans prefer to pay to watch European league matches on TV rather than watch the Nigerian league matches at stadiums?
It is very sad that people prefer watching European league on TV than our league at the stadiums. It is embarrassing as far as I am concerned. It is observed often that whenever there is European games on TV and a live match at the stadiums, the stand will be empty. It makes nonsense of our league. The reason for this is that our local league is not yet matured and cannot measure up to what we have in Europe especially in terms of officiating, facilities and standard of play.
Transparency in match officiating is better off in Europe than what we have here, this aids their standard of play. Perhaps the officiating level here has to do with our attitude. In fairness to Nigerian referees the environment in which they operate, I mean our stadiums do not give them adequate protection to officiate according to the rules. They know the right thing but they cannot help it. Often at slightest provocation, fans will enter the pitch and dressing room to descend on referees, beat them up and even inflict injuries on them. In this kind of scenario, the referees do not have choices than to be biased in order to save their lives. Another reason is that the clubs in Europe are not run by government.

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