The Action Congress (AC), has called for an urgent investigation into the report that almost all members of the Nigerian Under-17 team preparing for the forthcoming 2009 FIFA Under-17 World Cup are over- aged.
In a statement issued in Lagos on Sunday, by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said it was particularly shocking and disappointing that the discovery occurred just two months to the World Cup, to be hosted by Nigeria, giving the country little or no time to replace the over-aged players.
It said the implication is that Nigeria will send a make-shift team to the competition, with the result that it faces a first round elimination from a tournament that is costing the countryâ€™s taxpayers billions of naira to stage.
â€œEven with the best team that is adequately prepared, Nigeria faces an uphill task in the competition, having been zoned into the â€˜group of deathâ€™ with Germany, Argentina and Honduras in the round-robin first round.
â€œNow, with the possibility that Nigeria will field a make-shift team at best, the country stands no chance in the forthcoming tournament. This will be a shame of international proportion and we need to fish out those responsible for selecting the team and slam them with appropriate sanctions to prevent a recurrence,â€™â€™ AC said, adding that football is too important to Nigeria as a source of unity to be toyed with by unscrupulous officials.
The party said the investigation must also unravel the role played by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), especially in the selection of an Under-17 team that is packed with old men who should be getting ready to retire from football.
It expressed surprise that any football official can still attempt to deceive the footballing world by passing old men as Under-17 players, at a time that great advances in technology, including Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), has made it possible to more effectively determine the true ages of players.
The party also recalled that Nigeria has previously been banned for fielding over-aged players in FIFA age-grade tournaments, and wondered whether the countryâ€™s officials have learnt any lesson at all.
AC said another fallout of the discovery of over aged players in the Nigerian team is the shadow it has cast on our national passports, adding: â€˜â€™Afterall, all the over aged players have travel passports showing they are under-17 years!â€™â€™
The party said the attempt at cheating by the Nigerian Under-17 handlers is reflective of the way things are now being done in all spheres of life, especially politics, in Nigeria.
â€œIt is common knowledge that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and INEC have teamed up to cheat Nigerians of their votes in the name of elections.
â€œJust imagine for a moment that INEC Chairman Maurice Iwu is the President of FIFA. All participation nations will be kitting men as old as 30 years and above to play in the Under-17 World Cup, with resultant undeserved victories like the type INEC has been declaring all over the nation in favour of the PDP!â€™â€™ it said.
In a related development, AC has slammed the track and field world governing body IAAF for its racist harassment of the South African runner Caster Semenya, who powered to a gold medal in the womenâ€™s 800 metres event at the 12th World Athletics Championship in Berlin, Germany.
The party said the controversy over Semenyaâ€™s gender is an unnecessary distraction from the stunning performance she put up in Berlin, and that the only reason she has been put up for ridicule by the IAAF is that she is black.
â€œEven the IAAF broke its own rule of not disclosing the identity of an athlete who is being investigated for any infraction until the outcome of the necessary tests has been known.
â€œEnough is enough! Semenyaâ€™s manager as well as her father, grand mother and all who know her have attested to the fact that the athlete is a female. What else do they (IAAF) want? Do they want her to run naked?â€™â€™ AC queried