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Let’s stop playing Eve to FIFA

By Onochie Anibeze
THE draws for the FIFA U-17 World Cup will be made today in Abuja.
It will probably mark the end of what ought to be a short journey but which was made long by our people. And it favoured the FIFA men.

They yelled, jeered and fumed about our inability to maintain our sports facilities. Jack Warner, the man who must have lost count on the number of times he has visited Nigeria, couldn’t believe the state of the facilities he saw last when Nigeria hosted World Youth Soccer Championship in 1999. Everywhere he went, he cried for Nigeria.

And the press celebrated his lamentations. He was right. Why we cannot maintain some facilities has continued to amaze me.

As simple as watering of pitches is, Nigerians fail woefully to do it. I remember doing a story on what rain did to the pitch at the National Stadium in Lagos. The pitch was terrible for months. The grass had turned brown and some places were bare.

Then rainy season started. Just after three rain falls, the pitch was lush green, so lush that one hungered to play on it. I returned to the office to send a message to the sports minister in a piece titled, Minister, see what rain has done. Yes, what his ministry couldn’t do, rain did it for them. I imagined how our pitches would look like if they were being only watered, not to talk of other treatments that are required. I’m not sure my article meant anything to those in charge.

We are good in neglecting our facilities, not only in sports but also in other areas. What with National Theatre, Lagos? Hmmm.

Jack Warner has now made about four trips to Nigeria to inspect facilities for a cadet competition. Each time he came, the venues were yet to be completed. This created opportunities for more jeering, perhaps mudslinging and some efforts to make him and members of his delegation happy. All have been at huge costs that could have been avoided if we maintained our facilities.

His statement,  that  since we lacked the ability to make pitches green, it wouldn’t be bad if we resorted to artificial turfs, was a passing one which was misconstrued as a directive from FIFA for us to convert our pitches to artificial turfs.

This has cost Nigeria so much. Some venues have spent over N150m for just one field.
This would be enough to maintain a natural grass field for over five decades. I commend Calabar and Kaduna who stuck to their natural grass and are among the cities certified for the championship. It confirms that FIFA did not make it a directive.

They knew they would be wrong to do so. Now many of our stadia can no longer host track and field events. They have become only football stadia. Do I curse those who did this to us? I once wrote that if our people concentrated on the key areas like main and practices pitches, dressing rooms, accommodation, medicals and media facilities hosting the games would be assured.

But we went on to engage in other areas, wasting money and giving the FIFA men room to tell us how bad we are. But from the experience of many deeply involved in all these struggles to  host FIFA matches, some people have celebrated our bad situations for they are smiling to the banks.

I remember the activities of a former FIFA scribe in Nigeria and I know that these guys are no saints, they are human and open to the lollies of magnanimity. But like the former FIFA scribe, time shall, someday tell on them.

All over the world, we are known more for corrupt practices than some of the good things that we also do. People have reaped where they did not sow. Our visitors are no saints.

They know Africa, they know that Nigeria is one of the best dancers in the industry of sleaze and they tried to dance with us. Interestingly, some are beating us to what we thought was our game. Those involved understand what I’m talking about, the Salt Lake Cities that they have made of this Under 17 FIFA World Cup.

But I don’t blame them. We created such rooms and shouldn’t cry over spilled milk. Some are bizarre, so bizarre that I will never support any bid to host a FIFA event if this is the way. I’m not absolutely sure this is FIFA’s way.

It is our way and we asked them to join us. But I know that they are no saints and I wouldn’t blame them but our people, our system, the same system that allows looters of our economy to continue thriving in their actions both in government and private sectors. If this is the way, may FIFA never come our way again. But I know that they are no saints and we played the Eve.

That we must stop.


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