Nwachukwu Emmanuel: Nigeria and FIFA in yet another dance of shame (Y! FrontPage)

by Emmanuel Nwachukwu


While FIFA forbids interference from government and it’s organs, it does not reject funding from those bodies. Isn’t that hypocritical some would ask?

When a child consistently fails and repeats a class, it’s either the teacher isn’t doing a good job of teaching the child, or the child can’t or don’t want to retain what he or she is taught. The Nigeria vs FIFA banning saga has now become a regular occurrence, that, any might be forgiven to assume erroneously that it is now a yearly ritual. For some of us, the constant noise of suspension or outright ban over “government interference” is becoming more irritating than embarrassing.

I was having a brief meeting with a client when I got a mail alert with a brief, but rather disturbing subject “FIFA suspends Nigeria”, and I inadvertently muttered “not again” under my breath. Once I was done with my client, I came online to read reactions from Nigerians, who, predictably were angry and bitter at the development. However, unlike in past occasions, I noticed that most Nigerians were angry at FIFA for what they called “abuse of Nigeria’s sovereignty”, “tactically shielding of corrupt officials” and “denying the piper from dictating the tune”.  The well-informed and respected Colin Udoh in this article [READ HERE] , took a very objective look at the issues raised by those whose actions led to the suspension by FIFA, I recommend you read it before you proceed with reading my opinion on other issues raised.  I shall attempt to address the three issues mentioned above that were raised by NNigerians in my interaction with them both on and offline.

Does FIFA rules that say secular courts or any other government organ or agency cannot interfere in football matters and dispute amount to an infringement of the sovereignty of the individual member states? While it does appear so, it’s not really so! FIFA is an independent organization that controls and organizes all football and football related affairs in the world. It’s membership is not mandatory, but nations that desire to take part in its activities are expected to not only register, but also agree to abide by its rules. Any nation that signs up to join FIFA, is assumed to fully understand what is required of such nation by first studying it’s rules and regulation and most importantly, agreed to abide by them always and not just when it’s convienent. Thus, when Nigeria as a nation decided to join FIFA in 1960, it is safe to assume that they whole-heartedly agreed to abide by all FIFA rules, including articles 13 and 17 that expressly stipulates that members must run affairs completely independent of 3rd party interference. For avoidance of ambiguity, the 1st and 2nd parties are the various member nation FA and FIFA (see this link to download the complete FIFA rules http://www.fifa.com/mm/document/affederation/generic/01/09/75/14/fifa_statutes_072008_en.pdf ). It becomes puzzling that any nation would turn around to sing the sovereignty song whenever they violate an agreement they entered voluntarily and after careful consideration. The moment we signed up to join FIFA, we legally ceded all sovereignty on football matters to FIFA. They are the regulators of the game and we must abide by the terms of engagement we agreed on. We cannot be plaintiffs, defendants and arbitrator at the same time.

One of the allegations against the Maigari led NFF that led to the current impasse is that they have corruptly embezzled funds meant for the federation, thus prompting many to say that FIFA, are by their constant suspension and ban, shielding and encouraging corrupt FA officials to mismanage funds, knowing they have some imunity from secular prosecution. The issue of corruption is a very sensitive one, it touches on the nerves of the society and always capable of eliciting so much emotions. The fact that many see FIFA is a den of corruption is not helping matters at all. However, we need dispassionately look at issues as independently as possible, less we throw away the baby and the bath water together. Like every organization, FIFA anticipates a situation were, for some reason, members of a congress feels they need to remove its officials and has made adequate procedures that should be followed for such removal. FIFA has also got disciplinary measures for those with proven cases of corruption. The issue that FIFA can’t be trusted to fight corruption with massive allegations of corruption hanging over its head does not in anyway give any member nation the grace to violate the rules. Like Colin Udoh pointed in this article, the tenure of the current NFF was due to expire in July, all that was needed was to either ensure they were not re-elected or properly impeach them. Both actions would have be in accordance with FIFA statues, then, the relevant security and anti-corruption agencies would have been very free to swoop and make them face justice. It’s rather interesting to note that the same script that was employed to bring in Maigari is now used to kick him out. I do not know if the Maigari led NFF exco are corrupt or not, I honestly would love to know, but, no wrong action can justify a noble intention. Abiding by rules are what makes us different from animals. If things must be done, then, it must be done well. The article 13 and 17 of the FIFA rules des not shield and encourage corruption anymore than the imunity clause for Presidents and Governors does.

He who pays the piper should be allowed to have a say in what tunes are played. I honestly agree with the above postulation, however, it isn’t as simple as A,B,C. While FIFA forbids interference from government and it’s organs, it does not reject funding from those bodies. Isn’t that hypocritical some would ask? Absolutely not! It’s important to note that governments are not obligated to fund their associations, so when they do, they are expected to wield as much direct influence as other non-governmental sponsors! It’s quite disheartening that, inspite of the massive marketing potential the ffootball rand is worldwide, African and particularly, the Nigerian football authorities have struggled to sell that brand. In a football crazy nation like Nigeria, it’s shocking that the NFF would always resort to begging the federal government for funding for almost everything. This gross failure to leverage on one of the biggest global brand has reduced Nigerian football to a pawn in political chess game of some government officials. Until the NFF and it’s sundry organs can become self-sustaining, it would always have to live with the irritating meddlesomeness of government and it’s organs, thus attracting the the constants FIFA suspensions, bans and it’s attendant negative media limelight. We cannot bend corners to achieve our targets and then turn round to cry foul when faced with the consequences of our choices.

The sorry state of our football as examplified by this current impasse is a reflection of our larger society. Every sector of our national lives are closely interwoven and can either grow together or would always crash one by one. The vicious cycle our football has found itself is clearly a reflection of the insincerity and deliberation actions of some just for selfish gain. While we generally agree that the bigger football family which is FIFA needs urgent attention, we can’t ignore the fact that charity begins at home.




Nwachukwu Emmanuel is a Retail Sales Manager with Slot Systems Ltd.. He is a social media strategist and a soccer pundit.


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.


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