By Ikeddy ISIGUZO, Chairman Editorial Board
YEARS of FIFAâ€™s deceit has finally caught up with it in its relations with Nigeria, a country that FIFA treats with the lowest standards when it matters in implementing its statutes. For decades, Nigerians have appealed for FIFA to intervene in governmentâ€™s wholesale administration of football in Nigeria.
FIFA hid behind its fingers, refusing to admit that Decree 101 that ran Nigerian football from 1992 and still exists as a Nigerian law was interference. In summary, this law says the Minister of Sports has the final say in administration of football in Nigeria.
It might just be the law that the Minister of Sports could rest on in effecting the changes that the Federal Government want in Nigeria football. FIFA lived with this law for 18 years and cannot suddenly reject it.
Concerned Nigerians cried to FIFA about this. The same Sepp Joseph Blatter, whether as Secretary-General or FIFA President knew about Decree 101. What did he do then?
Talks of FIFA banning Nigeria or expelling it from football have been on the lips of corrupt, incompetent and lazy football administrators whose only response to charges that they should lead the country through better standards has been to wave the FIFA ban as if this country cannot survive without football.
FIFA is unconcerned about the incompetence of the Nigeria Football Association represents. It remains deaf to allegations of theft of public funds, money that belongs to Nigerians. FIFA is not bothered that the NFA wantonly disregards the same Statutes that FIFA claims government is violating when it asks the NFA operates with a measure of decency.
Does FIFA know how much the Nigerian government spends (wastes) on football annually? Does it know that the NFA refuses to democratise its operations?
Would FIFA say it has not received complaints that the State Football Associations in Nigeria are not elected but appointed contrary to Article 21 (5) of the NFA Statutes.
According to Article 21 (5), â€œState Executive Committee: a) Each State Football Association shall be composed of twelve (12) persons, four (4) elected from each senatorial district made up as follows: Chairman, 2 Vice Chairmen, 9 Ordinary Members b) All the above officers shall be elected at the Annual General Assembly of the State Football Associationâ€.
No State meets theseÂ criteria as State FAs are appointed, not elected, and do not reflect the geo-political and democratic opportunities of the NFA Statutes. The NFA Board which FIFA recognises, apparently based on the Statutes, is inherently illegal. Complaints to FIFA about these matters are ignored, probably an indication of the opaque way FIFA operates.
Corruption and a huge does of incompetence have ruined Nigerian football. FIFA encouraged the ruination of Nigerian football over the years by refusing to pay attention to the complaints that flowed regularly into its offices in Zurich. Its concern over Nigeria, in this instance, is that a proper investigation of the comatose state of the game in Nigeria would indict FIFA.
Right from the cases of over-aged players that NFA officials promote, to the scandals of thefts and undemocratic tendencies, FIFA would issue warnings that government was interfering.
By our laws, the Nigerian government can ask the NFA to account for public money it spends. FIFA calls this interference. The $8 million earned for qualifying for the World Cup is not NFAâ€™s money, it belongs to Nigerians who expect that the NFA should account for it. FIFA also sees this as interference.
Was FIFA not embarrassed by the poor standards of local organisation that attended the FIFA U-17 Championship in Nigeria last year under the superintendence of the NFA? What did it do about the construction of pitches that floated at the drop of the rains? Or the low quality of services availed the teams?
Blatter and his colleagues in Zurich might not have heard that the competence of the NFA led Nigeria to pay a fine of $125,000 for breaching accommodation contract in South Africa for the Eagles. Why did FIFA not query Nigerian officials for ignoring its official World Cup hotel for the Eagles?
FIFA says the NFA election should go ahead, as usual, ignoring complaints about policies that the NFSA adopted to exclude other contestants from the polls. Some of the measures were the deadlines set for the collection and submission of forms, all of which were to be concluded while the responsible football officials were in South Africa for the World Cup. FIFA rated the brazenness of this move adequately democratic.
The Federal Government should be more far reaching in implementing this decision. Measures to ensure that football is better organised must be effected in the two year duration. One area that should get attention is the re-structuring of the system for players to access the national teams, especially the junior teams, which should be nurseries, but which corrupt NFA officials fill with men on the verge of retirement.
It is expected that at the end of the self ban, Nigerian football would have improved. Hopefully too, FIFA should have cleansed itself of interference, through negligence, of Nigerian football.
Threats of expulsion from FIFA should not stop the Federal Government from rescuing Nigerians from the vice grip of a football administration that is so soaked in incompetence that it gleefully led Nigeria to its worst Nations Cup performance in 26 at the 2008 edition in Ghana and while it was at it, its Chairman ensured that his posters were pasted in Kumasi.
Nigerians surely deserve better standards of football administration than the mediocrity that FIFRA supported over the years with Decree 101.