By Onochie Anibeze

“Will this   championship still kick off on Saturday? Things are not going on well,” one official said on phone from Calabar yesterday.
“We 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 there’s no money,” one official complained from Kaduna.

“The problem didn’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,” a top member of the Kano sub-seat of the Local Organising Committee told us.

The draw for the FIFA U17 World Cup held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja. L-R, Engr. Sani Ndanusa, Minister of Sports, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, VP recieving the U17 trophy from Mr. Jack Warner, FIFA, VP

“The 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 don’t know how fair it will be to bother Lagos with the responsibilities of LOC. But we know that LOC is looking for money.” This was the way an official told their Lagos story at the weekend.
“We are expecting money. Since we started, only N20m has been allocated to Abuja that will host nine matches including the opening and closing  matches.  We hope

that they will approve money for us to start work,” 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 championships  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.

“I 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,” one football official said, adding “trouble is looming, the Federal Government should rescue the LOC.”

But one insider said that “yes, 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.”
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 Nigeria’s preparedness.


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