By Jacob Ajom
Amidst plaudits going the way of the National Association of Nigerian Footballers over the decision by its leadership to withdraw the lawsuit instituted against the Nigeria Football Federation, a former Nigeria international, Sylvanus Okpala has said there were still many hurdles to cross before FIFA could un-ban the country from international football.

In a chat with Sports Vanguard Thursday, the former Enugu Rangers coach said that the issues that caused the ban were yet to be disentangled so, whoever expected a swift reaction from FIFA was only day-dreaming.

“To start with, I feel NANF’s decision to withdraw the case from court is coming a little too late. Look at the damage already done. For instance, the 2012 Nations Cup qualifier between Nigeria and Guinea has been put under serious threat as nobody knows what will happen next,” Okpala said, pointing out that aside the match, he did not believe the court could sit on the matter before the next hearing of the case which was adjourned to October 25th.

“Although I am not a lawyer, I know that to withdraw a case for an out-of-court settlement one needs to write formally, informing the court of that decision. Only then can the case could be halted as the two parties agreed and that can only be done when the case comes up for hearing. I don’t know how they will go about it but all this will be done before FIFA can believe us.”

Still bitter about the case, Okpala said as an affiliate of FIFA, Nigeria could not expect
separate set of rules to run her football.

“Rangers are owing me I took them to NFF Arbitration panel and I got justice, even though I am yet to be paid. I expected NANF to have taken their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sports instead of a civil court. If they did that we would not find ourselves in this mess.

You can recall that Odegbami went to FIFA, when he wasn’t satisfied, he went to CAS. He never went to a civil court because he knew what he was doing; not to run foul of FIFA statutes,” Okpala admonished, adding that even the recent crisis in the Nigeria Olympic Committee was settled amicably by CAS.

Still on the Guinea/Nigeria match, Okpala said, “I doubt if we can play this weekend. I believe we will get a new date but the problem remains, what if the new date does not fall on a FIFA free day. That means clubs will hold onto their players. And that means more trouble for Eguavoen and Nigeria.”

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