BY KUNLE SOLAJA
Sports Village Square can confirm that at a time, FIFA did not approve of the annual football contests between Nigeria and the then Gold Coast (now Ghana).
It was based on an assumption that international football contact with Nigeria was illegal.
On August 31, 1953, the Gold Coast FA (Ghana) wrote FIFA to inform it of the impending JALCO Cup contest of 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 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”.