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International Football

DESPITE GOOD RUN, NIGERIA DROPS IN RANKING AS PREDICTED BY SPORTS VILLAGE SQUARE…FIFA EXPLAINS

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

 

As reported last week by Sports Village Square, the November 2017 ranking released this Thursday by FIFA has thrown up unpleasant surprise, sending down the ladder, the World Cup-bound Super Eagles.

From the previous 41st position, Nigeria has fallen down the ladder nine places to number 50 in the world. In essence, the good run of Nigeria in the past eight weeks has paradoxically brought the fortunes of the team down, rather than improving on it.

Flash back: Last week, Sports Village Square reported on the impending slump in FIFA ranking.

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This month, the Super Eagles were held to 1-1 draw by Algeria in Constantine and the team later inflicted a 4-2 defeat on Argentina, two-time World Cup holders and the world’s number four ranked team.

Instead of rising, the Super Eagles slumped in a FIFA ranking that has defied logic. Cameroon, which as at last month ranked 42 behind Nigeria played a 2-2 draw with lowly ranked Zambia and yet places 45, five steps ahead of Nigeria.

While FIFA puts Nigeria at 50, the parallel organisers of monthly ranking, the World Football Elo Ratings put Nigeria at 41 with a point haul of 1,691 as against the paltry 671.07 that FIFA gave to Nigeria.

The highly subjective ranking formula will confound even the best mathematician.  The formula is based on multiple factors that are summed up as P = M x I x T x C.

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 M states whether the match is won, lost or drawn. A win fetches three points while a drawn match has a point and a loss fetches zero.

  This is multiplied by I which stands for the importance of the match. A World Cup qualifying match is given the value of 2.5 as against 1.0 for a friendly match. So, Nigeria’s win over Malawi for instance will be 3 multiplied 2.5 which in itself should fetch seven points.

   In the ranking formula, the item stands for the relative strength of the opposition. The pertinent question is whether the item “T’’ had no bearing when a Nigerian side ranked 41st pummelled the fourth ranked Argentina in Russia earlier this month.

       According to FIFA, “the strength of the opponents is based on the formula: 200 – the ranking position of the opponents.
“As an exception to this formula, the team at the top of the ranking is always assigned the value 200 and the teams ranked 150th and below are assigned a minimum value of 50. The ranking position is taken from the opponents’ ranking in the most recently published FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking”.

So, the points obtained from the match are multiplied by the importance of the match and then the strength of the opposition and the continent involved.

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Most football analysts have often kicked against the FIFA ranking claiming that it is disproportional and does not often represent the relative strength of teams.

Owing to this, alternative rankings by football statisticians, such as that of World Football Elo Ratings and the rec.sport.soccer Statistics Foundation rankings have emerged.

According to an Associated Press (AP) report in June 2006 when the US team was ranked fourth in the world in April 2006, even their players were shocked and felt flattered! That was even after they were beaten 4-1 by Germany.

The ranking started in December 1992 and had been subject of intense debate. On at least two instances, FIFA has had to adjust the yardsticks.

According to FIFA’s explanations, the basic logic of the “calculation is simple: any team that does well in world football wins points which enable it to climb the world ranking.

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FIFA OFFERS EXPLANATIONS

In exchange of communication involving eleven different e-mails in 2013, FIFA explained exclusively to Sports Village Square’s editor -in-chief, why Nigeria dropped in ranking despite a win in competitive match and draw and lone goal loss in friendly encounters.

Giovanni Marti of the FIFA Media Department was the first to respond, providing two documents and giving a web link for further clarification.

He asserted that FIFA was not calculating the ‘results and rankings on a hypothetical basis’.

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The documents provided are Fact Sheets and frequently asked questions on the ranking. Giovanni explained that the ranking is not based solely on current results, but older results have impact on recent scores.

“It’s simply an accumulated depreciation over the past years…meaning that as some matches grew older, they are devalued according to a calculating scheme.

He backed up the claims with the score sheet of Nigeria’s matches since 2010.

After his response, other FIFA staff members – Nicolas Maingot and Matthias Kunz also joined in providing documents to back up the ranking.

The first set of match log sent was questionable. Nigeria’s matches carried wrong dates and were three years older than schedule.

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For instance, Nigeria’s 1-0 defeat of Benin played on January 16, 2010 was captured as having been played on January 15, 2006. All matches of 2010 were captured as 2006 and a day earlier than actual.

Those of 2011 were similarly captured as those of 2007 and so on.  Considering that age is an important factor on current ranking, it is envisaged that it could have had negative impact on Nigeria’s total point haul.

Match results are depreciated according to age. A team’s total number of points over a four-year period is determined by adding the average number of points gained from matches during the past 12 months; and the average number of points gained from matches older than 12 months depreciates yearly.

Matches played four years ago are discounted to have 20% value. Those older than four years have zero value as they are deleted. Match average from Year 3 have a 30% value while those of last year have 50% value and the ones of the current year carry full value of 100%.

It was explained that four years, covering one World Cup cycle, are taken into account in calculating the ranking.

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When the issue of wrong dates were brought up, Giovanni Monday sent another e-mail with another log for Nigeria explaining that his colleagues from the Ranking unit gave him another version as in the earlier one, the dates slipped in the excel-list when programming.

“But now my colleagues remark that everything has been controlled and everything is correct. There are no effects on the current points that Nigeria have”.

In other words, only matches played since January 2010 are taken into account in the November 2013 ranking as some earlier matches which reflected in October and September 2013 have waned off.

For instance, in the September 2013 ranking, the earliest match that featured was the 1-0 defeat of Mozambique in a 2010 World Cup qualifying series played on October 11, 2009.

Employing the 12-month cycle, the match was wiped off in the October 2013 ranking which began with the 3-2 away win against Kenya on November 14, 2009.

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In the ranking released in October 2013, a Nigeria’s 3-2 away win in Kenya had been wiped off as it could not make the four-year calendar cycle. The calculation thus began with Nigeria’s 3-1 loss to Egypt in one of the opening matches of the Angola 2010 Africa Cup of Nations.

In that match, Nigeria had zero point.  So, while the September rankings took into consideration 17 games played in 2010 for instance, the matches had reduced to 16 in the November ranking.

The calculation  for November 2013 thus run: In a cycle spanning from the 3-1 loss to Egypt in January 10, 2010, to the 1-0 loss to Guinea in Conakry on October 10, 2010, Nigeria played 16 matches and obtaining 5,567.68 points the average of which comes to 348 points.

But when the points are discounted at 20% according to the four year cycle the matches have passed through, they come to a discounted value of 69.6 points.

If the explanations offered by FIFA four years ago were to be taken now, it means matches that Nigeria had played as at November 2014 had been wiped off.

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A new cycle began with the 0-1 loss of Nigeria’s home based Eagles to the 2015 Africa Nations Cup –bound Cote d’Ivoire. The match was played in Abu Dhabi on January 15, 2015.

It was followed up two days later with a Nigerian 2-0 defeat of Yemen. The third match that must have been taken into account was the 0-1 loss to Uganda in Uyo in a match organized to mark Vincent Enyeama’s 100th cap.

With the calculations that FIFA is employing, it might take another decade before Nigeria breaks into the top 20 in the monthly ranking.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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International Football

New twist in Cameroon football coach crisis

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA

The coaching crisis in Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions has taken a new dimension as the football federation, FECAFOOT, led by former international, Samuel Eto’o goes in direct confrontation with the coaching crew appointed by the sports ministry which also picks the bills.

  According to a Cameroon official who will not like to be named as he was not authorised to speak on the matter, the claims and counter claims of both the sports ministry and the FECAFOOT led by Eto’o had been heard and decided by the conciliation and arbitration chamber of the Cameroonian national Olympic committee, which is a court in charge of sports cases in Cameroon.

  “What is in contention is not the position of the Belgian coach, Marcc Brys, but that of the Cameroonian assistants attached to him.”

  The source explained to Sports Village Square that although the employment of Brys by the sports ministry was initially contested by Eto’o, the former player has come to accept the situation.

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  “In Cameroon, there is always a techenical crew of nine to 11. The foreign coach is allowed to bring in two foreign assistants, while the others are always Cameroonians.

  In this case, the sports ministry approved the list of two foreign assistants by Brys while also announcing another set of local assistants that included former international, François Omam-Biyik, one of the stars of Italia ‘90  and the scorer of the goal that gave Cameroon a 1-0 win over a Diego Maradona-inspired  Argentina.

  “That is where the problem is. FECAFOOT also submitted a list of technical crew that included Brys and his two foreign assistants but dropped the names of the local assistants with new ones.”

  In essence, there are two lists with both having three names as same, but differ on the rest.

 According to the source, the list submitted by the sports ministry was upheld by the tribunal which threw aside that of FECAFOOT.

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  In another twist, FIFA has already removed the name of Marc Brys from the profile of Cameroon on its website. Only the name of national women’s coach, Jean-Baptiste Bisseck is listed.

The removal of Brys’ name is happening a second time as it was first removed at the end of last month before being reinstated.

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International Football

Cameroon’s appointment of Brys as manager suspended by sports tribunal

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Marc Brys

Cameroon’s appointment of Belgian Marc Brys as head coach was suspended by the country’s top sports tribunal on Tuesday following the petition of an amateur football club.

The country’s sports ministry stirred controversy last month when it named 61-year-old Brys as manager of the Indomitable Lions without consulting the football federation (FECAFOOT).

The move sparked a dispute between the sports ministry and FECAFOOT, which said the government had made a unilateral decision.

In response, it asked its president Samuel Eto’o to propose a national coach and other management staff for the national side within 72 hours, deepening its standoff with the sports ministry.

Eto’o kept Brys as head coach but named different assistants, technical, medical and administrative staff.

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An amateur club, meanwhile, took the matter to the Arbitration and Conciliation Chamber of the Cameroon National Olympic and Sports Committee.

In a provisional ruling on Tuesday, the court suspended the FECAFOOT appointments while it fully examined the matter. Concerned parties have 24 hours to appeal.

FECAFOOT in response said it “reserves the right to refer these decisions to FIFA, as they hinder the preparation process for the forthcoming sport events.

“The Emergency Committee of FECAFOOT will meet immediately to take appropriate measures,” it said in a statement.

Soccer’s world governing body FIFA has strict rules against government interference in national federations and has frequently banned countries when governments get involved in federation affairs.

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The president of the Cameroon Association of Amateur Football Clubs, Balla Ongolo Henri, had previously said Eto’o’s appointments would damage Cameroon’s image and disrupt preparations for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers next June.

Brys, 61, penned a contract on May 8 as head coach of the Indomitable Lions following the dismissal of Rigobert Song in February. FECAFOOT did not attend the signing ceremony.

The sports ministry says it has acted in accordance with national and international regulations.

Reuters

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Amokachi, Adebayor and Amanda Dlamini confirmed for CAF African Schools Championship Finals

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African football legends, Emmanuel Adebayor, Daniel Amokachi and Amanda Dlamini are some of the top names that have been confirmed for the Continental Finals of the CAF African Schools Football Championship 2024 scheduled in Zanzibar between 21 – 24 May 2024.

The CAF African Schools Football Championship is the school’s competition that includes over 44 African countries with over 800 000 participants of Boys and Girls under the age of 15.

This is the second edition of the competition that is not only focused on Football but also on a number of programmes including Young Referee’s Programme, Young Reporter Programme and Safeguarding. 

Adebayor, CAF Player of the Year in 2008, represented Togo at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany for their only appearance at the tournament. Ex-striker for Arsenal, Manchester City, Real Madrid, and others, the Togolese star has had a successful career, earning over 85 caps with Les Eperviers.

Nigerian football star Amokachi played 42 international matches for the Super Eagles. He participated in the 1994 and 1998 FIFA World Cups and was part of the team that won the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 1994 and the Olympic Games in 1996.

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Former Banyana Banyana (South Africa) captain Dlamini played in two TotalEnergies CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations competitions where they finished third and second in 2010 and 2012, respectively. She is one of the few footballers, both in the men’s and women’s national teams to reach 100 caps.

Dlamini recently made history when she became the first female to be part of the world commentary feed at the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations Cote d’Ivoire 2023.

Also on the list are local stars Abdi Kassim Sadalla, former Tanzanian National Team Captain, and Hilda Masanche, Head coach of the Tanzania U17 Women’s National Team.

The Legends will feature in various activities to promote and support football development among African youth.

The finals will bring together talented young players from across the continent, providing them a platform to showcase their skills and passion for the game.

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-CAF

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