The phrase: “Founded 1945” adorns the circular emblem of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).
It stems from the fallacy that the organisation was established in 1945 even though no one could verify the precise date the presumed event took place that year.
No fact exists to back the dateless foundation except that the present day’s AITEO Cup started as Governor’s Cup that year.
The Governor’s Cup had since changed to numerous names such as the Challenge Cup, Coca-Cola FA Cup and later Federation Cup till last season.
However, the link of the establishment of the Governor’s Cup and the founding of what is the NFF today is yet another erroneous belief in Nigeria’s football history.
Documented evidences 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 1930 by Henry A. Potter, the same man who founded the NFA three years later.
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.
“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.
A non-existing body could not have been registered by reputable FA in England.
As stated earlier in another story, the first secretary of the NFA, Joseph Mead told the first AGM 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.
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 154th 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”.
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 NFA went into coma during the World War II. After the 1934 first AGM, the NFA was in a state of inactivity, especially in the period of the World War II when all attention was on the Essential Work Order, according to a Daily Times report of November 8, 1947.
It was 14 years after formation, that the NFA was reconstituted. Even then, that cannot be taken as foundation date just as FIFA, founded in 1904, but inactive for 26 years till the 1930 inaugural World Cup did not take the commencement of its competition as foundation year.
This is also the case with The FA founded in 1863 but had its first FA Cup match eight years later in 1871, yet did not claim that as its foundation year.
The first time the phrase “Founded 1945” crept into the NFA letter head in correspondence with FIFA was a letter dated March 17, 1981 announcing a new executive led by Co. Mike Okwechime.
Before then, all correspondences with FIFA had just the affiliation year.
By Kunle Solaja for sportsvillagesquare