It all began with the abysmal performance of the Super Eagles which culminated to their early ouster in the group stages at the on-going 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. A performance that fell short of the expectations of the government and people of Nigeria. The federal government quickly announced the withdrawal of the country from all international football competitons with immediate effect so as to restructure football administration and form a solid foundation for future successes of Nigerian teams.
The poor results in recent times had been source of sadness and shame to most Nigerians who see football as their main source of happiness and unity since successive administrations in the country had put nothing on ground to give them succour in terms of the provision of basic essential amenities. FIFA, sole organizer of Football world wide reacted swiftly by giving Nigerian government up to 5.00pm Monday, July 5, to reverse its decision or face a clampdown. That threat threw many Nigerians into sorrow with many saying the two-year withdrawal and subsequent ban is good enough to serve Nigeria a lesson. But those on the other divide felt it will further throw the country into football wilderness. The federal government initially stuck to its guns, then the confussion as to what becomes of Nigerian football set in. One thing or the other happened in a jiffy and the Nigerian government beat the FIFA deadline announcing the lifting of the ban. However while some hieved a sigh of relief some consider the federal government’s decision reversal as weakness. The Tide on Sunday sampled the views of some Nigerians on the political, Economic and social implications of the restoration to the status quo of Nigerian football.
Mr. Idowu Lawanson – Public Affairs Analyst
Thank God, the federal government saw reason and lifted the two-year ban on Nigeria’s participation in international football competitions. The ban which would have earned us a ban from FIFA would have had far-reaching implications than we can imagine for Nigeria.
Sportswise, we would have lost a lot. Nigeria would not have been able to take part in all CAF and FIFA organised football competitions while the FIFA ban lasts. That means we would have been automatically out of the African cup of nations for 2012, 2013 and the world cup of 2014 taking place in Brazil. All our Youth teams, U-17, U-20 and Women teams of all cadres that had qualified for or will take part in various football competitons would have been thrown out. No Nigerian referee would have officiated in any FIFA organised competition, and even if we decide, we are re-organising our football administration and teams, we cannot get friendly matches to play with any other country affiliated to FIFA. Any country that plays against a country serving a ban gets banned automatically. That is how powerful FIFA is.
Economically, all the grants in form of dollars which we receive from FIA for development of football will be stopped. No Nigerian player playing presently in the local league will be able to move to any club abroad to play football and all coaching programs, clinics, training courses, etc organised for coaches, referees, football administrators, medical personnel and even journalists by FIFA would have excluded Nigeria. A lot of Nigerian Youths who are planning footballing careers abroad as a means of economic emancipation for themselves and their families would have had their dreams shattered.
Of course, the political leverage which Nigeria gets by a Nigerian (Amos Adamu) being a member of the CAF/FIFA executive committee would have been lost. We would not have had any say in World Football as long as the ban lasts. Hosting of any football competition at all levels with all its attendant benefits would have been lost.
Thank God once again that the Federal Government lifted the ban before the sledge hammer of FIFA fall on us.
Mr. Barisi Legbara Wifa, Public Relations Officer, Rivers State Sports Council
The issue relating to the reversal of the ban by the federal government; looking at the background of why he took that decision as a leader, you don’t sit down and look at a long lasting decay in the system and you don’t react. He has sent the correct message to them in the glass house that it is not business as usual. If they had private funding that would have meant something that government cannot control them. But if government is the one funding everything she must demand accountability. And that accountability is to say, perform. The lackluster performance of the Super Eagles was why he took that decision. A lot more things has happened and we have closed our eyes in the past. The President said that time has passed; this is his own tenure. And as a leader, he has every burden on his shoulders to take decisions that will be in the best interest of this country particularly when tax payers’ money is involved. Some of the areas that were affected by the decision include the female football which is a department of the glass house, the age-grade championships. So if he did not reverse it, the women will not go out for other tournaments because it is also supervised by this same persons. His decision was let us close our doors for two years and look inwards and reprepare for the next events that are coming. That again touched on CAF; which means that we shall not be part of the nation’s cup not just FIFA organised tournaments. So its reversal was just to say, “look, I am sending a signal that it will never be business as usual”. So if they are going out for future tournaments, they must also understand that the President must be able to take a valid decision on why he is spending tax – payers money. Some on-lookers may see this reversal as a little bit of playing politics along the line of international football federation in order not to get the other people affected by the ban. Because if he says “No, no, no”, and FIFA now says ‘I ban you’, Nigeria will be affected in all departments of football not just the Super Eagles category. But we cannot also look at it exclusively from that angle without saying that there must be justification for spending this huge money on them. Look at the state of the roads today. People are crying foul about the roads. NUPENG is already making case for the condition of the roads. And so people should begin to know that other sectors of the economy are demanding for this same money that is now being spent without getting satisfaction. So the demands are huge and the decision must not always favour everybody.
Barr. Igbikiberebima T.
The decision of the Federal Government to withdraw the Senior National Football team, the Super Eagles, from participation in football tournaments organised by FIFA in the next two years is bound to be controversial.
This is, however, to be expected given the fact that the performances or some would prefer non-performance of the team, the football federation and the sports ministry have never been free from controversies.
Unexpectedly, the President made a U-turn and rescinded his earlier decision. What this means politically is that Mr. President did not make proper consultations before making the pronouncement. It also shows the President is weak. I say so because FIFA as an international organisation cannot defeat a sovereign state like Nigeria as FIFA is not bound by public international law. FIFA, regardless of its super national character and popularity is no more than a mere association of football federations. States like Israel, North Korea and Iran had continuously disregarded UN resolutions and nothing has happened to them. Economically, one cannot say what Nigeria stands to benefit from FIFA organised competitions if not a total waste. The tax payers money the country would have used to better the lives of the ordinary Nigerians, is being wasted in the name of participation. Nigerians should think.
Mr. Mene Teeh – Public Affairs Commentator
Every well meaning Nigerian will appreciate the decision by President Jonathan to rescind his earlier ban on our football so as not to fall to FIFA’s ban. We also have to recognise the fact that Nigeria is under performing in almost all organised football competitions the world over, be it in men, women or even age grade tournaments in which it normally holds sway in time past. Nigeria has abundance of talents in sports and football in general, and normally always referred to as second only to Brazil as highest football talents exporter to Europe and other continents.
Our football is only being bedeviled by mal-administration, misappropriation and misuse of funds, high handedness and breach of statutes and sometimes secrecy. A ban would have done more harm than good to our football thus the need to hail the federal government’s reversal of its earlier stand. Nigeria failed to turn up for the 1996 Nations Cup held in South Africa and was further banned by CAF, when we were defending champion and fifth in the world rating having won in Tunisia and did well in USA 1994. Let me tell you that the break in continuity at that time is what has put our football in the present state of quashiokor and we ourselves now know that any other break will signal the final burial of our football. With a good administration in place we can still build, giving ourselves a moment of truth, where we will spend a two to four years of developmental programmes. We can’t develop our sports nay football in isolation. We must compete with others. If our people can’t run football, let us swallow our pride for the four years to hire foreign technocrats to show us the way, afterall we have them in all our systems that are working. We can’t afford to lose the following because of a self-inflicted ban. Nigeria will not have played in even CAF organised competitions by local clubs while frustrated Nigerian Players will look for countries in which they can change nationality in order to play international football. Nigeria would have been suspended from FIFA Goal Project 2; will not be eligible to host the 2012 nations cup which it has been placed on standby should Gabon and Equatorial Guinea fail to meet up. Our Professional players looking for transfer to some countries will not find it difficult. The inactivity of our players in international competitions will reduce our FIFA’s seeding to an all-time low which will be hard to make up when we are finally unbanned.