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When You Fall below Disgrace

By Ikeddy Isiguzo
AN organisation like the Nigeria Football Association, which excels in duplicity, cannot act differently no matter how serious a matter is or its implications for the country.

When it is dealing with international organisations like FIFA and CAF, NFA calls itself the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF. It manages to maintain this falsehood in its relationships with other institutions and sustains this illegality in signing contracts.

Act 101 of 1992 that created the NFA is one of our laws. It gave the name of the organisation as NFA and that is the name it uses when it wants money from government. How the National Assembly for years has approved budgets for the NFA and allowed a body that the law does not know called the NFF to spend, is one of the mysteries of Nigeria’s legislature.

NFA, steeped in illegality, has no qualms in fielding over_aged players. For years, strident protests have attended the fielding of over_aged players in international competitions. Some people’s idea of patriotism is to keep quiet even if they have information that can stop the decay.

Those who have raised their voices have been tagged enemies of Nigeria. The stalled growth of the game has direct bearing to the fact that those who should have matured to the senior team attain retirement in their youth. It is not a mystery. Old men, some too old for the senior team, are fielded in age_grade competitions – they win, Nigeria celebrates. The façade continues.

When Nigeria failed to use the opportunities that the 2009 U_17 FIFA Championship presented to probe the mess, the football authorities had no choice than to carry on more defiantly.

Anyone shocked by the news that two Nigerian players were dropped from the team for the Africa Youth Championship “on technical reasons” would want to know what the cerebral NFA secretariat was doing when it fielded unqualified players for the competition.

The “mistake” places Nigeria on a technical handicap. The victory over Ghana is not a cover for the incompetence of the NFA (part of that incompetence is refusal to use its legal name). It will be futile to suggest that anyone be punished in a body that thrives in its legendary illegality. Who was punished when Victor Moses flew into Nigeria but could not play because nobody in the NFA knew how to obtain his change of nationality?

Fortune Chukwudi, captain of the 2009 U_17 team that finished second, was accused of being over aged. Our standard excuse for not investigating age cheats used to be lack of proof. Someone still included him in u_20 team in 2011. He was dropped at the last moment.

Chief Adokiye Amiesimaka, a flying winger in the victorious 1980 Nations Cup Green Eagles, former Rivers State Attorney General & Commissioner for Justice, in his weekly column, two years ago, stated that Chukwudi was over aged.

He provided proof and made it public.  As Chairman of Sharks Football Club in 2002, Adokiye knew Chukwudi as an 18_year_old, who registered in Sharks’ feeder team. Neither Chukwudi nor the NFA refuted the allegation.

Nine years after Chukwudi told Sharks officials that he was 18, someone had the temerity to include him in the U_20 team.

For how long would the Federal Government continue to reward thieves who the NFA helps to masquerade as patriots? Obviously, nobody cares about the dent on Nigeria’s image from use of over_aged players. Why do Nigerian officials think that they can get away with cheating, always?  Soon the players will be lined up for undeserved rewards.

Have we fallen so far from dignity that we cannot see the disgrace this situation presents? What is it about winning that will reduce us to cheats?

We are reaping bountiful rewards for cheating. We have not played in the final of the CAF Nations Cup since 2000. There are hardly any indications that we would soon. We can no longer compete with the best because we have built false standards and accepted them.

Government refused to investigate the 2009 team. Apparently, it has more important things bothering it than football teams that cheat.

I think that government should be concerned. The illegal name of the NFA is too fundamental to be ignored. Secondly, NFA officials who have decided to darken Nigeria’s image by presenting over_aged players should be punished unless government has adopted cheating as official policy.

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