NIGERIA has played itself to her favourite position inÂ global matters â€” irrelevance. We used the FIFA U-17 World Cup to display national ethos of playing of skewed standards. Many things have been said about the poor standards Nigeria brought to a competition meant to breed the next generation of footballers, who would hold the global sphere with their skills.
The Federal Government has glibly promised to probe the rot that those who should know say was a constant part of the planning and execution of the competition.
Nigeria has little choice but to use the abundant opportunities that this competition offers to clear the bogey of cheating in age grade competitions. The pretence that the problem does not exist because FIFA has elected not to be involved in our mess is not enough defence.
When Nigerian officials field over-aged players for youth competitions, they compromise the future of Nigerian football, they create the false impression of a bright future and they get awards for cheating.
Our standard excuse for not investigating age cheats used to be that there was no proof. Chief Adokiye Amiesimaka, a notable contributor to the Green Eagles 1980 Nations Cup victory, former Rivers State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, wrote in his weekly column that Fortune Chukwudi, captain of Nigeriaâ€™s FIFA U-17 World Cup team was over-aged. Amiesimaka is not a frivolous fellow, anyone who knows him would testify to that.
He had proof and they are already public. When Amiesimaka was Chairman of Sharks Football Club seven years ago, Chukwudi registered in Sharksâ€™ feeder team as an 18-year-old. Neither Chukwudi nor the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) refuted the allegation.
FIFA said it was satisfied with information it had on Chukwudi since it ostrich-like prefers to ignore the existence of the issue. The NFF, on its part, has the most caustic abuses for anyone who asks about Chukwudiâ€™s age.
With the euphoria of Nigeria qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, the NFF believes it is in an unassailable position to continue misdirecting our football.
For how long would the Federal Government continue to reward thieves who masquerade as patriots? Is anyone concerned about how these cheats have been diminishing the image of Nigeria? Why do Nigerian officials think that they can get away with this cheatings? The cheek of it is that they expect us to applaud their cheating and reward them for a spectacular performance in an U-17 competition, where the average age of our team could have been above 24 years.
The world used to be concerned, and then laughed at us. Now, its attitude is to ignore us. What is FIFAâ€™s bother if we have decided to kill our football? Has our cheating in age grade competitions not condemned us to poor results in more important competitions, the World Cup? We have not played in the final of the CAF Nations Cup since 2000.
When would government investigate the age cheats?
Nigerians are waiting!