7th October, 2010
The news that Federation of International Football Association, FIFA, has suspendedÂ Nigeria from international football came as a rude shock to many Nigerians early thisÂ week. FIFA had taken the decision as a corrective measure to ensure that the FederalÂ Government does not interfere with the administration of Nigerian football, which hasÂ dropped to its lowest ebb among the comity of football playing nations.
The ban on Nigeria means that all the national teams including the Super Eagles cannotÂ feature in any international football tournament until further notice. Unlike in the midÂ 90sâ€™ bans placed on Nigeria by the world soccer governing body and its African affiliate,Â CAF, when the nationâ€™s teams were suspended for specific periods of between two to fourÂ years, the recent suspension by the Joseph Sepp Blatter-led FIFA isÂ not too harsh toÂ contend with because itâ€™s not time bound. What this implies is that if the authorities inÂ Nigeria are ready to seek an immediate redress by correcting the irregularities asÂ pointed out by FIFA, our national teams can return to the global community and play theÂ game within the shortest possible time.
But before such supercilious aim can be achieved, FIFA, in its letter to the countryÂ demanded that all court cases against the apex football ruling body, Nigeria FootballÂ Federation, NFF, be withdrawn with immediate effect. Also, the world football rulingÂ authority, which faulted the removal of the Acting Secretary-General of NFF, Musa Amedu,Â wants the decision reversed.
Another grouse that FIFA has against Nigeria, and which it wants an immediate reversal,Â is the peace deal that allowed last seasonâ€™s Premier League to end without relegation.Â The illegal deal, according to FIFA, was understandably brokered by the Sports Minister,Â Alhaji Ibrahim Bio, who doubles as Chairman of the National Sports Commission, NSC.
Our football administrators need not be told that FIFAâ€™s decision is in conformity withÂ the rules guiding the game, especially the issue of fair-play, which were notÂ demonstrated by the Minister and his advisers. We want to point out that the decision notÂ to have any team relegated from the Premier League at the end of last season was an errorÂ and a disgrace to our professional league.
In fact, that action alone has undermined the progress already achieved by the NigerianÂ league, which has been struggling to climb the ladder of professionalism for many years.
No country has absolute right to interfere in the running of football and that is whatÂ FIFA has demonstrated with Mondayâ€™s suspension of Nigeria.Â We should see this period ofÂ ban as a wake up call for Nigeria, an opportunity to right the wrongs in our nationâ€™sÂ football administration.
The FIFA statutes state clearly that affiliated football federations cannot be taken toÂ any law or civil court, which the National Association of Nigerian Footballers, NANF, hasÂ done with an injunction placed on the NFF before Augustâ€™elections.
In our opinion, Nigerian football will suffer a serious setback if our apex footballÂ body, NFF, remains banned. That is why we should use this dark period to quickly addressÂ the lull in our football. The Super Eagles, who appear to be training in vain in AbujaÂ will miss weekendâ€™s Africa Nations Cup qualifier against Guinea, while the Super FalconsÂ will also miss the African Womenâ€™s Championship, AWC, slated to kick off in South AfricaÂ by end of this month.
The cheery news, however, is that the contempt of court charges instituted against someÂ NFF officials, including the FIFA Executive member, Dr. Amos Adamu have been thrown out.Â We also heard that Amadu returned to his post as Acting Secretary-General of NFF onÂ Tuesday, while the other crises are being resolved by the feuding members of the footballÂ community in Nigeria.
If these are addressed and normalcy returns to our troubled football administration, suchÂ accord would automatically bring back the Alhaji Aminu Maigari-led board, which FIFAÂ claimed was legally voted into office. It is our belief that FIFA will graciously liftÂ the ban on Nigeria and accept our teams back to the international football community ifÂ the authorities can handle the situation with maturity and diplomacy.
Our nation desires positive football administration, which in the long run would help theÂ likes of Obinna Nsofor, Obafemi Martins, Uche Kalu and Osaze Odemwingie amongst otherÂ young players actualise their potential. Sports generally is big business and ourÂ football industry can still be what it used to be when the national teams brought laurelsÂ to our dear country. A vibrant football culture takes youths away from drugs, kidnapping,Â armed robbery and other violent crimes that makes the society insecure for all.