International Football Ban Nigeria, FIFA On War Path

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Following the dismal performance of the Super Eagles at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has suspended the participation of the country’s national teams in football competitions for two years.

According to the President, the two years period is expected to be used to turn around and re-focus football in Nigeria.

The country spends hundreds of million of naira on the national teams especially  the senior side (Super Eagles) that had  its worst outing in South Africa. The suspension therefore followed the report presented to the President by the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on 2010 World Cup and the incumbent governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi.

Rt. Hon. Amaechi, who spoke on national television network explained the reasons for the suspension and pointed out that Nigerian Football would be overhauled. He said Federation of International Football Association would be notified on the development.

However, the suspension of the country’s participation in football has elicited various reactions by many football loving Nigerians with regard to its propriety at this point in time.

Speaking with The Weekend Tide, Mr. Christian Oyo, a football enthusiast who resides in Port Harcourt said the action of the President in suspending the nation from football competition was timely because of the corruption that had eaten deep into the fabrics of the country’s football governing body. He said that he would have preferred it if the action was only intended to overhaul the Nigeria Football Association which he described as being responsible for the nation’s football woes.

He regretted that the action would have negative effect on development  of football in the country. He said that it was a big setback on the country’s football. He urged the President to have a re-think on the matter and come out with a more pragmatic steps on how to move the nation’s football forward.

He said when Nigeria withdrew from the African Nations Cup during late Sani Abacha’s regime following a face-off with South Africa over the killing of Ogoni-nine, the development of football also suffered a setback. According to him, “Nigeria has not fully recovered from it till date.”

Mr. Oyo said millions  of football loving Nigerians would miss the favourite team, the Super Eagles and pointed out that football was one thing that forged unity among Nigerians of all walks of life.

The football lover urged the President to rescind his decision on the suspension but advised him to sack the NFA to usher in a new lease of life for Nigerian football.

He regretted that the huge sums of money were committed into the Super Eagles 2010 World Cup campaign in South Africa that did not yield any positive result. Mr. Oyo noted that he was surprised that it took such a long time for the nation to realise that its football was going down the drains, but expressed hope that the identification was a recipe for a recovery.

The football enthusiast explained that Sports had employed many youths in the country and warned that football should not be allowed to die.

Also speaking, Mrs Kelechi Akpelu, a health worker praised the decision of the federal government to overhaul the nation’s football and stated that the overhaul was long over due.

She pointed out that the performance of the Nigeria Football Assocation had left much to be desired. According to her, “the Nations Cup had exposed the Super Eagles’ lapses. I don’t blame Coach Lars Lagerback for the poor performance of the national team. I blame the NFA. NFA is very corrupt and rotten.

Mrs Akpelu said that the show of shame in South Africa was deplorable. According to her, a competition that gulped more than N900,000,000 million should have yielded better result. Nigeria did not even win a match in such a competition. It was alleged that the Chairman of Nigeria Football Federation went to South Africa with his wives and four children. It is pathetic that nobody thinks about how to contribute to the development of the country, everybody thinks about how to rape the nation’s resources”.

“Come to think of it, the nation has been where it is because of bad leaders. Bad leaders in every facet of the economy have run everything aground in this country. What Jonathan has done is proper. He is God sent. We need bold people like Jonathan to move the naton forward and not people taking sides with evil.”

She said football authorities in the country are very corrupt. “Look at how they went to South Africa to book for $60 hotel, even FIFA did not approve the hotel. The same people went to FIFA to ask it to approve the hotel because they collected bribe from the hotel authorities. The Glass House stinks. It really stank”, Miss Akpelu noted.

Also speaking, Prince Chinonye Okoha, a businessman, who resides in Port Harcourt described the dissolution of the NFF and NFA as long overdue. “Without it, it would have been difficult to move our football forward. Look at what Ghanaians are doing. Their Coach even earns much less than the Nigerian Coach but the Nigerian campaign in South Africa was a fiasco. Nigeria didn’t record a victory in the first ever World Cup that was played in African soil”, he stated.

He said Sani Lulu and hsi colleagues had performed poorly as a result of greed. “The authorities at the Class House had dented the country’s reputation. We are happy with what Persident Jonathan has done but we have reservatioin over the suspension of the participatioin of the country in internatioanl football competitions. What is need to turn our football around is upright leadership. It is important for all the square pegs in a round hole to be replaced.

We don’t need to stay away from international football competitions just because of bad leadership that can be rooted out,” he further stated.

He said all hands must be on deck to turn our football around. The businessman remarked that Nigeria couldn’t afford to do without football for two years and explained that it was only in the game of football that people of this country were united and relieved of their economic hardship and realities of the time.

Prince Okoha warned that unless the suspension was reviewed, it would be more disastrous than one could have imaged. “It is not enough to just dissolve the board without fishing out the bad eggs and prosecuting them. In this country, everybody believes that the high and mighty are untouchable. It is this mentality that has robbed us development. While the culprits are prosecuted, we cannot allow our football to die”, he stated.

Another football enthusiast, Mr. Sampson Ikonwa, who spoke with The Weekend Tide said that the decision to suspend the country from international football competitions was not well conceived and urged government to do the proper thing.

Mr. Ikonwa stated that the world football governing body won’t be happy with Nigeria for interfering with football. He stated that there was a remote possibility that FIFA could even ban Nigeria for this singular action.

He said that the circumstances in Nigeria were different from what obtains in advanced countries of the world, where football is managed by autonomous bodies.

The social critic said that there was no way, the federal government would allow things to go wrong for too long in football, when it remained the sole sponsor of the game in the country.

According to him, “one thing that has hindered our football is the claim that FIFA was not comfortable with interference. This situation made men like Sanni Lulu tin gods at the Glass House. There is certainly no way that our football would have continued the way it was, it was headed for the rocks.”

Mr. Ikonwa remarked that there was need for the country to inject new blood in the management of Nigeria’s football. He regretted that the board of the NFA and NFF were peopled by corrupt men, who were only interested in their selfish gains.

He said such people had outlived their usefulness and were no longer worthy to handle anything relating to football.

The social critic lauded President Goodluck Jonathan for taking the bull by the horns. He said that he was optimistic that the overhaul of the football house would yield positive result.

He expressed regrets over the huge investment in the country’s national team that failed to yield result. “In spite of more than N900,000,000 million that was spent on the campaign, the Eagles had their worst outing in South Africa, losing two games and drawing one. The worst thing is that Nigeria was beaten by Greece, the underdog of the group. It was horrible”.

He urged President Jonathan to rescind the decision to suspend Nigeria’s participation in international football because, according to him, “it will set the country back.”

Also speaking, a Port Harcourt based businessman, Mr. Ikechukwu Onuoha, said the ban was not proper. “You don’t throw away the baby with the bathe water”, he said.

He said though the football authorities in the country had outlived their usefulness, putting the country’s football in jeopardy would not be the appropriate step to take at a time and praised President Jonathan for identifying the problem with Nigerian Football and confronting it squarely.

He regretted that most of Jonathan’s predecessors failed to tackle the problem and attributed the failure of the Super Eagles to negligence on the part of past leaders.

The businessman explained that football had been a uniting force among Nigerians and warned that football should not be allowed to die, and noted that it was important that Nigeria doesn’t miss out of international football competition because of bad leadership.

Onuoha urged Nigerians to continue to support the present administration because of innovative leadership.

Mr. Endurance Akpelu, an Arsenal fan, who resides in Port Harcourt, said that the Super Eagles fiasco was premeditated because of its performance at the African Cup of Nations.

He said that Nigerians at home and abroad had much confidence in the Super Eagles but for this crop of players.

The Arsenal fan, who is also doing his court/chamber attachment in Port Harcourt expressed regrets that despite the huge sum of money spent at the campaign in South Africa, the Super Eagles did not justify it.

Mr. Akpelu noted that he was not surprised that the Federal Government suspended the country’s participation in international soccer competitions. According to him, “the huge investment in Nigeria’s 2010 World Cup campaign in South Africa could have been used to create employment for the teeming unemployed youths but everything ended up in a fiasco. It is regrettable. Nobody should blame Federal Government for taking such a decision. It is only natural to avoid waste”.

He said that the Glass House had taken the country for a ride for a long time and commended President Jonathan for his timely intervention. He noted that the dissolution of the board was timely but implored the federal government to rescind its decision to ban Nigeria from international soccer competition for two years.

The law student said that Nigeria would not do well in 2014 World Cup if it stayed away from football for two years. He said its implication for the country would be so grim.

Mr. Akpelu recalled that Nigeria’s former Head of State, late General Sanni Abacha, had done a similar thing when he denied Nigeria from participating in African Cup of Nations hosted in South Africa. He said  late General Abacha had as a result of the face-off between South Africa and Nigeria over the hanging of Ogoni nine stopped the Eagles from participating in South Africa.

He said that particular denial worsened the state of our football and warned that such thing should not be allowed to happen again.

The Arsenal fan urged the federal government to consult with Nigeria’s ex-internationals and football managers to proffers a way forward.

Meanwhile, the Federal House of Representatives has urged President Jonathan to reconsider his ban on national teams for international football competitions.

In a resolution pressed last Thursday the lawmakers said the ban will negatively impact on Nigerian football and added that the presidency should evolve other ways and means of tackling the development of football administration and development in the country.

However, in a swift reaction, the federal government said there is no going back on its decision to ban all national football teams in participating in international soccer competitions.

Sports Minister, Ibrahim Bio, said the decision was based on national interest and the need to re-position football in Nigeria.

Bio explained that the ban period will be used to groom local talents and re-organise our national teams.

Similarly, FIFA has issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the federal government to rescind its decision to ban Nigerian football teams from participating in international football competitions.

In a statement, FIFA threatened that it will suspend Nigeria from all FIFA-organised football competitions if government fails to rescind its decision with 48 hours.

 

Goodluck Ukwe/ Chidi Enyie