Each time the country is banned by FIFA, the development of our football suffers. This is why government must do everything possible to avert another FIFA ban
Except the current crisis rocking the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) is urgently resolved, the country may be banned by FIFA. The apex global football governing authority has warned Nigeria that unless the Amaju Pinnick-led board is restored, the country would be banned from all FIFA organised football events with effect from August 20.
The trouble in NFF is not new. It has been with us for a long time. While the World Cup was on, in Russia, Mr. Solomon Dalung, the Youth and Sports Minister, announced that to give effect to a Supreme Court order, the Amaju Pinnick-led board should vacate office for the Chris Giwa faction. The order seemed bizarre but was not strange. Keen watchers of events in the nation’s football house are familiar with a pattern which put any NFF board on the spot and eventually sack it during the World Cup every four years. The unwritten soccer law in Nigeria is that football is too juicy to be managed by one set of people for a considerable period. Such practice has left the country with a four-yearly ritual of sacking any subsisting NFF board, usually after the global football Mundial.
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When FIFA got a hint of the latest leadership crisis during the Mundial in Russia, its President, Giovanni Infantino, held a press conference and warned the country of the implications of its new action. It is public knowledge that FIFA does not tolerate government interference in football matters. Where there is a dispute in any affiliate federation which has defied resolution, the final recourse is the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) based in Switzerland. Such matters are not for the regular courts.
For fear of imminent ban, the country’s authorities took what would appear to be uncoordinated measures to stave off a possible ban. First, the government ordered the operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) to flush out the Giwa-led faction from the NFF’s Glass House, following which the Pinnick-led board returned to the house. Despite the condemnations that trailed the recent invasion of the National Assembly by the operatives of the DSS, the Giwa-led faction, which was reportedly aided by some security operatives, returned to the football house which it occupied since then in apparent defiance of the President’s earlier order.
A lot of vested interests are at play and they take advantage of the lacunas in the laws governing football in the country. First, there is the issue of what the appropriate governing law for the football federation should be. Whereas, FIFA recommends that any of its affiliate bodies should be christened as “federation”, the law in the country has not been amended to reflect that and move football away from being a parastatal of the Sports Ministry and the vexatious Decree 101 that subsumes it to government control. Secondly, all kinds of vested interests with dubious intentions tend to find their way into football administration and such interests work against the development of our football.
It is a very depressing situation the country has lived with for some years and which has done grievous damage to the growth of the game. That football is big business all over the world is not in doubt. But the way we organise it has denied us of its benefits. Sadly, those causing trouble in NFF do so for selfish motives.
Now that we have only a few days to put our football house in order, we must not allow the opportunity slip. If the country is banned, it would not be the first time. The country was banned after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil for government interference. The country had also been banned for age-cheating involving our age-grade teams to FIFA events. Each time the country is banned by FIFA, it is the development of our football that suffers. This is why government must do everything possible now to avert another FIFA ban.