BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
When an error, assumption or even both become the norm, a body and the society live in ignorance. Unknown the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) or possibly a determined refusal to accept the facts, the Nigeria football governing body clocks 90 years today having been formed on 21 August 1933 in Lagos.
But on the crest of the NFF is a inscription: “Founded 1945”.
One day, it shall come to pass when the true foundation date will be acknowledged.
The NFF is today 90 years old, an age that in Latin is called “Nonagenary Jubilee” but known as “Granite Jubilee” in other climes. Like in other aspects of Nigerian life, football and indeed sports generally, suffer from poor documentation.
No official of the NFF has come forward to defend their claim of the body being ‘founded in 1945’.
Their assumption emanates from the fact that the national cup competition, now called Federation Cup, began in 1945 as ‘Governor’s Cup’.
This itself is a distortion of historical fact on Nigerian football as the first three editions of the competition was not even organised by the then NFA but by the Lagos and Districts Amateur Football Association (LDAFA) which is now Lagos Football Association.
Verified archival materials have confirmed that the Nigerian football governing body was founded on Monday 21 August 1933 at house number 42, Broad Street Lagos. The building still exist, even with the same address.
Also, all the facts on the actual foundation date of the football governing body still exist and verifiable at the Nigeria National Archives at the University of Ibadan.
On the front page of the then Nigeria Daily Times of 21 August 1933.
On the front page of the then Nigeria Daily Times of 21 August 1933.
Despite overwhelming and documented evidences, it has been very hard, if not impossible, to get official recognition for the foundation date of the NFF which began as NFA on August 23, 1933.
The foundation meeting was held that day at the 42 Broad Street, in Lagos. The building which still exists today was then known as Health Office.
The founding officials were: Henry A. Porter as President while three Vice Presidents were appointed.
They were: Frederick Baron Mulford, Sir Adeyemo Alakija and Dr. Isaac Oluwole. The Secretary/Treasurer was James Mead who worked at UAC in Lagos.
The report of the foundation was published in the 25 August 1933 edition of the Daily Times.
Their first Annual General Meeting, as reported by the Daily Times of February 22 1934, took place in Lagos on Monday 19 February 1934.
The meeting decided to seek affiliation with The FA in England. A check by the Sports Village Square at the offices of The FA in London was very revealing. The minutes of meeting of The FA on 4 June 1934 shows under item 10 that: “The Nigeria Football Association was admitted to membership under Rule 5 of the Rules of Association.”
The affiliation was also reported in the Nigerian Daily Times edition of 14 September 1934. Reputable FA in England could not have registered a non-existing body.
The Nigerian Daily Times edition of 14 September 1934 reported the first Annual General Meeting of the then NFA, yet they don’t believe they existed before 1945
The various regimes of the NFA/NFF since 2003 have found it difficult to accept and effect the actual foundation date of the body. They are more concerned about a perceived global backlash they could receive for just realising the actual birth date of the Nigerian football governing body.
Regarding the assumption that the national competition started in 1945 and linking that to the foundation of the football governing body is an assumption based on fallacy.
Documented evidences discovered by Sports Village Square point to the fact that the Governor’s Cup was not a product of the then NFA but that of the Lagos and Districts Amateur Football Association (LDAFA) which is today known as the Lagos FA, the oldest football association in Nigeria having been established in 1932 by Henry A. Potter, the same man who founded the NFA the following year.
The LDAFA and not the NFA called for entries for the maiden edition of Governor’s Cup as published in the Daily Times of July 30, 1945.
The LDAFA, which already had two other competitions –War Memorial Cup and European Cup –, called for entries for the maiden edition of the Governor’s Cup. This can be found in the Daily Times edition of July 30, 1945.
As at the time, football competitions in Lagos were along racial lines. The War Memorial Cup was open to all affiliated clubs and scratch teams affiliated to the LDAFA while the European Cup was for all affiliated clubs of Europeans living in Lagos.
In both instances, the teams paid entry fees of five shillings. The War Memorial Cup later changed to Mulford Memorial Cup to honour the man who did so much for football in Nigeria that he was affectionately called “Baba Eko” (respected elder of Lagos). He was one of the pioneers of the NFA.
Another fact to show that the Governor’s Cup was the creation of the present day Lagos FA can be gleaned from a write up in the Daily Times publication of November 6, 1946 in which the LDAFA Chairman, Frank G. Lloyd wrote that the Governor’s Cup presented in 1945 was in the custody of the LDAFA.
Frank G. Lloyd, Chairman of Lagos and Districts Amateur Football Association (LDAFA) in a letter published in the Daily Times edition of November 6, 1946 affirming that Governor’s Cup was owned by LDAFA and that plans were underway to transfer it to NFA in 1947.
“This season (1946), as an experiment, invitations were issued by the LDAFA to numerous provincial associations. It is also intended that the Nigeria Football Association shall shortly be re-organised in order that it may provide a more effective vehicle for the experience gained in Lagos to provincial association.”
This proves that as at November 1946, the NFA was not organising the Governor’s Cup. It was in 1947, when Captain D.H. Holley became the LDAFA boss and also emerged the chairman of the NFA that the NFA began to organise the Governor’s Cup competition.
At the annual general meeting of the LDAFA on February 26, 1948, Captain Holley announced the transfer of the Governor’s Cup to the NFA.
Another pointer that the NFF was not founded in 1945 was the fact that it was first affiliated to The FA in England as far back as 1934. Reputable FA in England could not have registered a non-existing body.
As stated earlier in another story, the first secretary of the NFA, Joseph Mead told the first Annual General Meeting in 1934 that an application had been forwarded to The Football Association (The FA) in London for affiliation.
That led to another opening in the search for the true origin of what is now known as the NFF. A letter, which was dispatched to The Football Association in England by this reporter was responded to by David Berber, the Public Affairs Officer at The FA.
Letter from The FA in England affirming that NFA , now NFF, existed before 1945.
He wrote in part: “I can advise that the name of the Nigeria Football Association first appeared in the FA Handbook for the season 1938-39 in the list of our affiliated associations. The NFA secretary at that time was F.B Mulford, with a Lagos address.”
That is an indication that the body had existed before 1945. Then a visit to the offices of the oldest football body in the world which will, on October 26, celebrate its 155th anniversary resulted in more startling revelations.
The minutes of the meeting of the council of The FA (England) held at 22 Lancaster Gate London on June 4, 1934 revealed that under item number 10, “The Nigeria Football Association was admitted to membership under Rule 5 of the Rules of the Association”.
Minutes of meeting of the Council of The FA held on June 4, 1934. In Item number 10, “The Nigeria Football Association was admitted to membership under Rule 5 of the Rules of the Association”.
The affiliation of the NFA as an associated member of The FA was reported in the Nigeria Daily Times edition of September 14, 1934.
Like FIFA founded in 1904, the then NFA went into coma during the World War II. After the first AGM in February 1934, the NFA was in a state of inactivity, especially in the period of the World War II when according to Daily Times report of November 8, 1947, “all attention was on the Essential Work Order”.
It was 14 years after the formation that the NFA was reconstituted as reported by Daily Times of November 8, 1947. A similar scenario was that of FIFA, founded in 1904 but was inactive for 26 years till the inaugural World Cup of 1930.
FIFA did not alter its foundation year to the commencement of the World Cup. This is also the case with The FA in England, which was founded in 1863 but had its first FA Cup competition eight years later in 1871. Yet, the world’s oldest FA did not claim 1871 as its foundation year.
The first time the phrase: “Founded 1945” crept into the NFA letter head was in a correspondence with FIFA – a letter dated March 17, 1981 when a new executive led by the late Col. Mike Okwechime was announced. Before then, previous correspondences had just the affiliation year.
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