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FIFA BAN: Why my heart bleeds

Last week Monday, I wrote in my column   in the Vanguard Newspapers that we will be banned by FIFA. The closing paragraph was  “…..Let no one be deceived that the bluff of a FIFA sanction can be called. It will paralyse football in this country, turn us into a pariah state and hit the youth of this country who will be thrown out of all football competitions until we learn to operate by the rules  “

Surprisingly, there were other shades of opinion, insinuating that we will not be banned, that everything was ok. Now we know better,    the workings and the the Statutes of FIFA.

Tamuno Danagogo, Sepp Blatter and Aminu Maigari
Tamuno Danagogo, Sepp Blatter and Aminu Maigari

What about those who welcome the ban to “help us develop our football” Must we shut out our game to enable us develop? What sort of development are we talking about here where we will be barred from courses, seminars, clinics and conferences that are held   globally daily to advance the sport?

How do we gain when we operate outside of FIFA regulations geared towards “……youth and development programmes to improve constantly and promote the game globally in light of unifying, educational, cultural and humanitarian values…”?

Just yesterday, Friday, FIFA released new pieces of teaching materials for referees. if we are banned, there is no how we can benefit therefrom.

FIFA Statutes Articles 13 and 17    say if you are not satisfied with the conduct of those running the sport, come together and send them packing. It is as simple and as straight forward as that.

On July 9, incidentally my birth date, FIFA descended on us.   (Spoilt the day for me )

Part of the FIFA statement on the suspension read:

“ ….The most immediate effect is that Nigeria will not be entitled to participate in the upcoming FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup (5-24 August 2014) should the suspension not be lifted by 15 July 2014……” And this is where my heart bleeds.

The Falconets were on their way out of the country to tune up for the FIFA U-20 Women World Cup Canada 2014 scheduled to hold August 5-24.

To get to this stage the Peter Dedevho tutored girls beat South Africa 6-0 in Nigeria and completed the rout in Joburg 1-0. By July 15, the South Africans are expecting the call to proceed to Canada, to the detriment of our girls. God forbid.

Next week end, FIFA U17 World Cup Champions the Golden Eaglets of Nigeria are due in the Congo Democratic Republic for the U-17 CAF qualifiers to be played in Lubumbashi. If by the 15th our issue is not resolved the Golden Eaglets will be walked over.

On July 19th in Windhoek, Namibia, the draw for the 9th African Women Championship (AWC) will be held and Nigeria is one of the eight countries that has qualified. By early next week, if we do not put our house in order, Nigeria will be replaced in the draw in a competition that will serve as the continental qualifier for the FIFA Women World Cup in 2015.

And now the big one. By September 5, the Group matches to determine qualifiers for the  African Nations Cup, Morocco 2015 will commence and Nigeria, defending champions may not participate.

These, depict success going forward. Aside the effort and finances expended to get to this stage, we are about to see the hopes and aspirations of a generation of youth disappear   in a whiff .

These are the immediate casualties of the present FIFA suspension. The youths of this country are in for a raw deal if we do not react, and fast too. Worse, I do not have to go back to tons of clichés as regards what football does for the psyche of Nigerians as regards unity, togetherness and oneness of mind and spirit.

For the avoidance of doubt and to the best of our knowledge, FIFA does not contest the sovereignty of any nation nor does it go into contest with the laws and constitution of any country. For lack of a better way to put it, let it be said that . “………FIFA dey where they dey, we go join them….”

To be a member of FIFA, you are required “…to apply in writing to FIFA General Secretariat,….”  and when considered, agree ….. “…..always to comply with Statutes, regulations, directives and decisions of FIFA and of Confederations and to recognize the Court of Arbitration of Sports ( CAS) “ Article 13.

FIFA does not dispute, especially in Africa, the contributions, financial contributions of government towards the development of sports, so much that FIFA and CAF recognize and will insist on Government guarantees as regards the hosting of its programmes and activities.

When it comes to elections, its statutes are clear and unambiguous. Are we saying today in 2014, that despite what happened   to us in 2006 and 2010 we are claiming ignorance of the workings of FIFA? We stand accused of not advising the new Minister properly

In the last one week we have been told how the Maigari board was given millions of naira and dollars to execute the FIFA World Cup. Very instructive is a letter emanating from the sports ministry dated July 2. I want to believe that these monies were   released after a budget  presented by the NFF was approved.

If , after coming back from Brazil, the government is not satisfied with the way monies were spent or disbursed, it has the right to query the NFF. But how will they retire such sums and respond to queries, if they are reporting daily to the SSS and do not have access to their offices?

For the millions of naira that we are told were released and given to the NFF, the Aminu Maigari board has no option than to account for such. They should and they must.

Sports,   football is my culture medium. Sports made me what I am today and I will jump at anyone who misappropriates funds meant for the development of sports.

Once again, I want to take us back to 2010. Immediately we came back from South Africa, allegations of financial impropriety were leveled against the Lulu board. A Congress was properly convened and the Lulu board voted out, after which the EFCC stepped in. FIFA did not raise an eye brow.

(Surprisingly, four years after the issue is still in court, yet to be resolved, making a lot of people believe that allegations were made just to paint them black. Here we go again.)

This time, where did we err?

When the Government, through the Honourable Minister acted on the court injunction and appointed an Acting Secretary General to run the affairs of the NFF, we erred.

The minister then went further to address a congress that was not properly convened. I believe the minister has been served the letter FIFA addressed to Lawrence Katken, Acting Secretary General of NFF, which said in part : “…please note FIFA does not recognize any person or organ not elected in compliance with the Nigeria Football Federation ( NFF) Statutes ( article 17,para2and3 of the FIFA Statutes) and therefore does not recognize any decision taken by the extraordinary General Assembly referred to in your above mentioned correspondence, and for the sake of clarity, the decisions taken at the extraordinary General Assembly are considered null and void…..”

FIFA then adviced Mr Katken. “ ….Finally we draw your attention to the fact that FIFA will now refrain from communicating with any other parties than the duly elected NFF officials which are the NFF President Mr Aminu Maigari and the NFF General Secretary Mr Musa Amadu.

We thank you for taking note of the above”

How did we expect FIFA to grant audience to any delegation in which the NFF President was not part of ?

We plead, on behalf of the youths of this country and the development of the game here in Nigeria, let swords be sheathed, let football administrators come together and   revert to status quo for the purpose of moving ahead to the Congress ( Supreme and legislative body of the NFF ) that has been convened for August 26.

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