By Onochie Anibeze
“Will thisÂ Â championship still kick off on Saturday? Things are not going on well,â€ one official said on phone from Calabar yesterday.
â€œWe need information. I have been involved in past events hosted by Nigeria. Things were tough but this one in particular is confusing. There are no activities. Everything is stalled. They say that thereâ€™s no money,â€ one official complained from Kaduna.
â€œThe problem didnâ€™t start now. It started long before now. We kept asking Abuja to direct us but they have not been doing so. They said money is their problem and there were no clues on how we can raise money on our own,â€ a top member of the Kano sub-seat of the Local Organising Committee told us.
â€œThe government of Lagos State has done all that they are expected to do. The only things left undone are the ones the Main Local Organising Committee (LOC) is expected to do. Time is against us. I donâ€™t know how fair it will be to bother Lagos with the responsibilities of LOC. But we know that LOC is looking for money.â€ This was the way an official told their Lagos story at the weekend.
â€œWe are expecting money. Since we started, only N20m has been allocated to Abuja that will host nine matches including the opening and closingÂ matches.Â We hope
that they will approve money for us to start work,â€ said a top official from Abuja.
These reports came from the centres that will host FIFA Under 17 World Cup. They are not the type of reports expected on a world championship that will kick off this Saturday. But this is Nigeria and it may not be unusual to those who have been following trends in the country. From getting the venues ready to putting structures in place for organisation, there have been mounting problems that are already foretelling crisis. FIFA officials got a little dose of it when some of them arrived a few days ago and there were no official vehicles for them.
Japan and Switzerland are expected to arrive today and as at last night the two buses assigned to them were The Young Shall Grow buses. They had no airconditioners. In world championships of this magnitude, new buses and new cars are assigned to teams. The name of such championshipsÂ is usually inscribed on the vehicles. Unless there are last minute changes, teams will ride in The Young Shall Grow buses and the like all over the country. There are hopes that the governors of the host cities may intervene. But transportation is a responsibility of the LOC.
â€œI think that the money released to the LOC has been exhausted and they need more funds to get the championship going. If nothing happens, the crisis will be huge and Nigeria will be disgraced,â€ one football official said, adding â€œtrouble is looming, the Federal Government should rescue the LOC.â€
But one insider said that â€œyes, let the Presidency help but the LOC must account for the money already released to them because what was released was enough to take care of some of the problems we are encountering now.â€
FIFA vice President, Jack Warner, had said in Cairo during the just concluded Under 20 World Cup that Nigeria should learn from the good organisation Egypt put up. The statement was an indictment on the LOC. It followed the reports he had been receiving about Nigeriaâ€™s preparedness.