BY KUNLE SOLAJA
It is 60 years this Wednesday since Nigeria was admitted into the fold of the world’s football governing body, FIFA. It is a milestone that the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) is having along with Uganda and Saudi Arabia who were admitted provisionally on the same day as joint-87th members.
This anniversary is just one of the two that Nigeria football family will be having this year. Sports Village Square recalls that the second is the 70th anniversary of the composition of the Nigerian national football team, now called the Super Eagles.
The Super Eagles which began as the UK Tourists was first composed on June 26, 1949 when the names of 17 of the 18 pioneer national team members were first announced.
The 18th member, Okoronkwo Kanu (anglicised as Kanoo) was included on July 1, 1949. That was when the story of the Super Eagles began as the famed UK Tourists.
As for the NFF anniversary, the FIFA Executive Committee at its meeting on April 24, 1959, examined Nigeria’s application and admitted it along with Saudi Arabia and Uganda, as provisional member.
This was contained in the May 1, 1959 letter sent to the then NFA by FIFA assistant secretary. It stated that the Executive Committee’s decision would have to be ratified by the Congress in Rome the following year.
The annual subscription fee was Swiss Francs 260, which the NFA was to pay by return of post to FIFA’s account with Union Bank of Switzerland in Zurich.
The provisional admission enabled Nigeria to enter for the football event of the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. Nigeria, however did not progress beyond the opening round of the African qualifying series, placing last in a Group 2 triangular qualifying league involving Ghana and the United Arab Republic (a short-lived political union of Egypt and Syria).
Nigeria lost 6-2 in Lagos and 3-0 in Cairo to UAR and also 4-1 to Ghana in Accra after a 3-1 win in Lagos.
When the FIFA Congress met on August 22, 1960, with 69 national associations represented by 153 delegates, Nigeria’s definite affiliation to FIFA was confirmed.
Nigeria became the joint 87th full member of FIFA with seven others. According to the minutes of the meeting, the seven other associations that were admitted along with Nigeria are: Federation Royale Marocaine de Football, Federation Tunisienne de Football, The Football Association of Kenya, Sierra Leone Football Association, Uganda Football Association, Asociacion de Fenbol Aficionado de Puerto Rico and the Malta Football Association.
Nigeria’s full admission was conveyed through a letter dated September 6, 1960. However, no Nigerian delegate attended the Rome Congress.
A day earlier, according to the official history of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), Nigeria, along with Morocco, Ghana and Tunisia, was formally registered as a full affiliate of the confederation at the General Assembly held in Rome.
The affiliation by FIFA enabled Nigeria to enter for the football event of the 1960 Olympic Games. The circumstances of joining CAF were basically the same, except that official records are lacking.
A former CAF president, Ydnekatchew Tessema, who was a co-founder of the confederation in 1957, once lamented the absence of foundation documents as the first general secretary, Youssef Mohammed, did not pass any to his successor, Mostafa Kamel Mensour.
The latter, who was in office at the time Nigeria joined CAF, in turn, did not pass any document to the third General Secretary, Mourad Fahmy the grand father of Amr Fahmy who was recently disengaged as CAF General Secretary.
Furthermore, the secretariat of Sudan Football Association, which housed CAF at inception till 1963, was damaged by fire and some documents, possibly including Nigeria’s application, were destroyed.
The NFF which had variously held its meetings at 42, Broad Street; 4, Customs Street, Lagos; Onikan Stadium, National Stadium, Ogunlana Drive and since 1996 at Abuja has poor record-keeping facilities, a situation that possibly prompted former Secretary General, Sani Ahmed Toro, to recommend computerising the entire NFA records after he had a three-week attachment with The Football Association, England in 1991.