By Onochie Anibeze
Sports Minister Ibrahim Isa Bio will today, in Johannesburg, lead a Nigerian delegation to FIFA office.
They are meeting with FIFAâ€™s Competition Department which already has office in Johannesburg.
The ministerâ€™s mission will be to explore the possibility of changing Eaglesâ€™ lodge during the World Cup from New Hampshire Hotel to Zimbali Hotel.
Hampshire did not meet Nigeriaâ€™s April 28 deadline to fix the fencing of the hotel that would have assured better security for a World Cup team.
FIFA had already documented Hampshire as Nigeriaâ€™s camp and if agreement had already been signed there could be legal implications especially if the hotel claims that they upgraded their facilities because of the agreement with Nigeria. â€œChanging at short notice may be difficult but it is possible,â€ our South African source said last night.
Bio will formally ask FIFA to change the hotel. But minutes after the meeting with FIFA was scheduled, Lars Lagerback, Nigeriaâ€™s coach also rejected the Zimbali Hotel that the minister opted for. Lagerback said that the chalets of Zimbali Hotel are far from each other and would not make for good monitoring of the team. Rather than stay in Zimbali,
Lagerback, we gathered, has opted to take the team to Waterfront Hotel inRichards Bay, the place originally selected as the training base for Eagles. Richards Bay is about two hours drive from Nigeriaâ€™s match venue and by FIFA rules for the 2010 World Cup no team will stay more than 45 minutes drive from their match venue. Lagerback had an answer to that yesterday.
Nigeria can stay at Richards Bay and move into the FIFA hotel for a match a day before kick off time.
South African sources said Bio â€œtried to muscle everybody and repeatedly told South African officials that he was Nigeriaâ€™s sports minister and was in South Africa to do things the way Nigeriaâ€™s government wanted.â€
One South African official was said to have been upset by the minister and she expressed her feelings loudly.
The Nigerian delegation later yesterday travelled to Richards Bay to inspect the place that Lagerback has now opted for. There were strong indications that the Nigeria Football Federation would lean towards the choice of their coach.
Choice of hotels for international competitions is always the responsibility ofÂ the head coach.
Nigeriaâ€™s case in the 2010 World Cup could be that of too many cooks spoiling the broth.
At the time other countries are concentrating on their players Nigeria is fighting over hotel accommodation. TheÂ sports minister, National Sports Commission, the Nigeria Football Federation are all spoiling for World Cup action with Lagerbackâ€™s staff not being left out. But hotel accommodation should not be source of distraction now.