By Kayode Tijani, Abuja
The Ambassador of France to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Denys Gauer has expressed the keen desire of France to forge closer ties with Nigeria football as it has done in the areas of trade, security and politics.
Speaking in Abuja on Wednesday, during a courtesy visit by the leadership of Nigeria Football Federation, led by president Amaju Pinnick, Mr. Gauer noted that football is an important tool for unity and integration in Nigeria, and praised the feats of Nigeriaâ€™s various National Teams in global competitions over the decades.
â€œPresently, Nigeria is Franceâ€™s number one trading partner in Africa. We have also made good progress with regards to collaboration in the political and security areas.
â€œWe are keen for stronger ties in football. We know football is a major factor in Nigeria and personally, I have a good idea of the power football because I spent time in Iraq and the only time the Shiites, Sunni and Kurds groups came together as one was whenever there was a football match.â€
Pinnick, who was in company with Mr. Shehu Dikko (2nd Vice President/LMC chairman), Dr. Mohammed Sanusi (General Secretary), Bola Oyeyode (Director of Competitions), Ademola Olajire (Director of Communications), Chikelue Iloenyosi (SA, Security), Tunde Aderibigbe (Head, Protocol), Christian Emeruwa (Integrity Officer), Nasiru Jibril (PA to President), Emmanuel Ayanbunmi (protocol officer) and Ayo Olu-Ibidapo (media officer), thanked Mr. Gauer for his personal intervention that saw Super Eaglesâ€™ backroom staff being issued visas eventually for two friendly matches in Europe last month.
â€œWe cannot thank you enough for your kind intervention, and we are determined to build a relationship with your mission and France as a country.
â€œThe present NFF administration is committed to making positive changes in the Nigeria game. Our people are passionate about the game and it is a potent tool for integration, for national regeneration and for unity and peace. Our vision is to develop Nigeria football to the highest level possible.â€
Pinnick also recalled how the Super Eagles defeated Franceâ€™s senior team in a friendly in Saint Etienne in June 2009, and said the NFF would work with the FFF towards another high â€“profile friendly between the two countries.