BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE PAST
- September 1953 – FIFA erroneously blacklisted Nigeria.
- December 1960 – FIFA queried Nigeria for ill-treatment of Referee Kenneth Aston (inventor of red and yellow cards) and the Ghana team.
- July 1965 – FIFA fined Nigeria for withdrawing from 1966 World Cup qualifying series.
- May 1971 – FIFA suspended Nigeria for non-payment of annual subscription.
- December 1989 – FIFA banned Nigeria for two years in age graded competitions.
- June 1992 – FIFA put provisional suspension on Nigeria for government interference in the composition of NFA (now NFF)
- October 2010 – FIFA suspended the NFF on account of government interference.
- July 2014 – FIFA suspended the NFF on account of government interference.
On Monday by 12 noon, a definitive decision must be taken as the battle for the soul of Nigeria football administration hits crescendo. To be, or not to be? Sports Village Square chronicles Nigeria’s unending cycle of crisis with FIFA, the supranational football governing body.
By Monday 20 August 2018, Nigeria will again at the brink of possible blacklist by the global football governing body. Online publication, www.sportsvillagesquare.com has discovered that the current situation is not the first and has almost become a recurrence.
Nigeria’s first problem with FIFA was in 1953, long before the country became a FIFA member.
At a time, FIFA did not approve the annual football contests between Nigeria and the then Gold Coast (now Ghana) on an assumption that Nigeria had not secured membership of FIFA.
On August 31, 1953, the Gold Coast FA wrote FIFA to inform it of an impending JALCO Cup contest on October 11, 1953, in Accra and wanted the international body to record it in its calendar of international matches. FIFA replied on September 16, 1953 and expressed regrets that the match could not hold as Nigeria was not yet a FIFA member.
FIFA’s file copy of a September 16, 1953 letter to United Gold Coast Amateur Football Association (now Ghana FA) advising against football contacts with Nigeria.
FIFA drew Gold Coast’s attention to Art. 15 of its statutes which stated: “Associations in membership with the federation, as well as their clubs shall not be allowed to have sporting relations with unaffiliated Associations or clubs without the consent of the federation”.
The letter concluded: “As long as the Nigerian FA is not affiliated with the FIFA, no member of this federation will be allowed to play against Nigerian teams”.
The match took place and apparently, FIFA did not like it and wrote to the Gold Coast FA on February 24, 1954.
Gold Coast responded by explaining thus: “We knew the Nigeria Football Association were members of FIFA. In their communication with us sometime ago, their letter-headed form showed they were affiliated to FIFA, and so we thought we were all members of the same sporting brotherhood.
“Before the match was played, we made a formal application for permission from the FIFA, and we received no reply. We took it for granted that all was well. In view of par. 3 of your letter, it is clear that Nigeria is not a member of FIFA, and we are therefore wrong in assuming that they are. We deeply regret our error”.
FIFA later discovered its own error of judgement and this was conveyed in a December 16, 1954 letter to the Gold Coast FA. Titled “International matches”, it reads: “Referring to our correspondence exchange in February/March 1954 in the above subject matter, we would like to correct the statement made in our letter of 24th February as follows:
“When we wrote you that the Nigerian Football Association were not affiliated to this Federation, it escaped ours (sic) notice that they were affiliated to the Football Association, London. Owing to this fact, they are not directly but indirectly affiliated to FIFA and consequently are allowed to play international and other matches against teams of any association in membership with the FIFA.
“The same applies to the Sierra Leone Football Association. You are therefore allowed to play against teams of the Football Associations of Nigeria and Sierra Leone. We would apologise for the error committed and are”.
FIFA’s file copy of a December 16, 1954 letter to Gold Coast FA (now Ghana FA) correcting earlier memo on the status of Nigeria FA.
After the 1953 episode, the next altercation that Nigerian football administration had with FIFA was the aftermath of an ill-tempered match between Nigeria and Ghana on October 29 1960.
It ended 1-1 and was refereed by Kenneth Aston, the man who later invented the red and yellow cards used by referees.
The visiting Ghanaian side as well as the referee, Aston were attacked by irate crowd.
The Ghanaians and the referee petitioned FIFA which led to inquiry. The Nigeria FA got a reprimand.
Also in 1965 following Nigeria’s withdrawal from the qualifying series of the 1966 World Cup, like the other African countries, the NFA was queried and fined.
FIFA’s file copy of the letter written to Nigeria after the withdrawal from the 1966 World Cup qualifying.
Nigeria’s First FIFA Suspension
In 1971, Nigeria was suspended by FIFA for failure to pay annual subscription fee of 300 Swiss Francs.
The letter suspending the NFA was dated May 12, 1971. Signed by the then Secretary General of FIFA, Dr. Helmut Kaiser, it reads:
“We refer to the relevant Articles of FIFA Statutes, to the reminders sent and to the notices published in several issues of FIFA News. We are deeply concerned that, despite all these measures taken to remind you, FIFA has not yet received your payment for your annual subscription fee of 300 Swiss francs. We are sorry to be compelled to inform you that your association is suspended from FIFA until the annual subscription fee has been paid.
“In accordance with Art. 33 para. 5 and 36 para. 2 of the FIFA Statutes, you are not permitted to vote at Congress or have football relationship with National Associations in membership with FIFA or their clubs. As soon as the 300 Swiss francs have been paid, your Association will regain all its rights. Should the amount have already been paid, would you inform FIFA by cable of the date and the name of the bank through which the sum of money was sent. We look forward to receiving a communication from you soon.”
Two Year Ban
In December 1989, FIFA Executive Committee (now FIFA Council) rose from its meeting and slammed a two-year ban on Nigeria from age-graded competitions for negligence in the ages declared for Samson Siasia, Dahiru Sadi and Andrew Uwe.
FIFA Suspends Nigeria again!
As the NSC announced the dissolution of the Effiom Okon-led board, FIFA reacted promptly via a fax on June 21, 1992 and addressed to Dr. Amos Adamu.
“RE: THE PROVISIONAL
SUSPENSION OF THE NIGERIAN FOOTBALL ASSOC.
“We refer to our telex of 10th June 1992 and reconfirm hereby that the Nigerian Football Association has been provisionally suspended on the grounds that FIFA cannot accept political intervention within sporting bodies affiliated to it. CAF has been asked to conduct an enquiry and to inform FIFA of its outcome as soon as possible.
“Please pay careful attention to the fact that the suspension can only be lifted when the Nigerian association holds a general assembly, thereby electing a new board, in accordance with its statutes. FIFA hereby gives special permission, in view of the circumstances, to participate in the sub-regional interclub competition return match on 26 June 1992. However, your international friendly match in Abidjan may not be played because of the aforementioned suspension…”
Chief Akinyele responded on June 24, 1992, in a letter to Mr. Michel Zen-Ruffinen, an assistant to FIFA General Secretary. The Nigerian head of sports commission noted that the FIFA telex came 24 hours too late as Dr. Adamu and the rest of the Nigerian delegation was already in Zurich headquarters of FIFA. “I tried frantically to contact you while I was in Manila, but unfortunately, neither you nor the Secretary General nor the President was around”.
He went on to query the rationale behind FIFA action. “I have gone through the constitution of FIFA vis-avis the decree under which the NFA was constituted. Looking critically into your own constitution of affiliation, the National Sports Commission has not offended against any of the sections of the constitution nor has the NSC offended any section of the Decree that gave birth to the NFA.
“It is on record that when the NFA Decree was promulgated in 1990, a copy of it was made available to you and you did acknowledge receipt. It is on record too that you did not raise objection to any section of the Decree. Coming now to judge the NSC without giving us the option of a trial, to me, is extremely embarrassing…”
On October 4, 2010 the FIFA Emergency Committee suspended Nigeria. It was lifted on October 8 which enabled Nigeria to fulfil the away fixture with Guinea in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers but eventually, Nigeria did not qualify.