Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) 1st Vice President, Seyi Akinwunmi says only top referees would be given a chance to officiate games in the 2017 AITEO Cup.
First round matches of the competition take place on Wednesday, August 16, in various centers across Nigeria, and the drive for success from teams is, even more, this year with a record prize money on offer.
The winners of the male category would receive 25 million Naira – a massive leap from the two million naira that was previously on offer, with the women champions receiving 10 million Naira.
As the age-long competition grows in attention, and, obviously, in cash, the NFF wants to see an improvement in officiating – an area in the country’s football that, for decades, has been so pathetic, to say the least, and that has taken the shine off the once glamorous event.
“We want to try and make it a world standard,” Akinwunmi, who is also the chairman of the AITEO Cup organizing committee, told busybuddiesng.com in a telephone interview. “All the officiating would be done by the top echelon of our officials—referees, match commissioners, match assessors and so on.”
The competition, which involves 64 teams, will run until early in October when the most crucial matches will take place—the female final on the 2nd, and the male final on the 8th.
Akinwunmi believes the 2017 edition could set the stage for bigger events in the future. But he admits that any gains in future will likely depend on how successful this year’s competition turns out to be and if the sponsors, AITEO Group, are satisfied at the end of it.
“Don’t forget that if we do it well then the sponsor is happy and releases more money,” he said. “That’s our first port of call, make them happy—make Nigerians happy.”