Weekly Trust

Football and Politics (II)

The elections into the CAF Executive Committee (2013-2015) have come and gone, and as I said earlier in the week, I have absolutely no hard feelings about all that happened in Marrakech, Morocco.

However, it is sad that while some persons try to lift the name of Nigeria in the international arena, others prefer to try and force it down for one reason or the other.
I am very proud of the campaign we conducted at the CAF General Assembly, and of course, it was a huge effort to have been able to garner 19 votes in the face of the unspeakable sabotage that we faced.
Over the decades, there have always been tonne after tonne of write-ups on how it is sad that Nigerians are not in positions of authority in global sports bodies, despite the investment that our countries puts into sports at international level. Yet, when the opportunity comes, we stand up against one another.
There is no gainsaying that of all the countries in Africa, CAF (and even FIFA) would look towards Nigeria first, for participation in any kind of competition they are thinking about. Our country takes part in the Africa Cup of Nations, African Nations Championship, All-Africa Games Men’s Football Tournament, All-Africa Games Women’s Football Tournament, Africa U-20 Championship, Africa U-17 Championship, African Women Championship, African Beach Soccer Championship as well as the CAF Champions League and the CAF Confederation Cup. Last year, we returned to the African Futsal Championship.
At the sub-regional level, our clubs take part in the WAFU (now West B) Club Cup and the WAFU Cup for National Teams.
At FIFA level, Nigeria would always be involved in the FIFA World Cup (from the qualifying series), Olympic Men’s Football Tournament (from the qualifying series), Olympic Women’s Football Tournament (from the qualifying series), FIFA U-20 World Cup (from the qualifying series), FIFA U-17 World Cup (from the qualifying series), FIFA Women’s World Cup (from the qualifying series), FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup (from the qualifying series) and FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup (from the qualifying series).
By virtue of winning the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa last month, we are now eligible to represent Africa at the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup tournament taking place in Brazil in June.
While people continue to insist that football (or sport) and politics should not mix, it is hard to see how both can be separated in real terms. Those who play the football have to be administered. And administration is largely by politics because politics is involved in elections and day-to-day running of the game.
The Government of Nigeria put so much money into running the National Teams, which help to boost and bolster the various competitions launched by the Confederation of African Football and Federation Internationale de Football Association.
When competitions are being launched, the most important aspect to the international bodies, I dare say, is participation. As recently as three decades ago, Nigeria used to have only two National Teams: Green Eagles and Flying Eagles.  Today, we have a total of 11 National Teams, most of them always involved in qualifying matches, friendlies and championships.
All these gulp money. And as I write, the biggest source of funding to the Nigeria Football Federation remains the Federal Government.
If these tournaments are launched and there are no nations to participate in, from the start, qualifying series, then they would die natural deaths. In view of the foregoing, those nations that take part in all championships deserve absolute regard and respect from the international bodies. Nigeria is about number one in Africa in this category and we are even always prepared to take on more.
As I said earlier in the week, it is time that the Confederation of African Football puts in place well-defined structure that will enable the very best, and deserving, personalities to emerge to rule CAF. CAF belongs to all of us and we should have a say in its affairs.
It beats one hollow how a Nigerian would not, at all times, be a Member of a 14-man Committee that runs the game on the African continent. Of the 14 persons, two of them are co-opted (one each from Tunisia and South Africa), but there is no Nigerian deemed worthy of being co-opted!
Given the services that Nigerians have rendered to CAF at all levels and strata, and what our country has achieved on and off the field since joining CAF in 1959, this is an abberation.
I cannot understand, for instance, why Dr. Danny Jordaan, the man who traveled the world at least two times to ensure that he brought the FIFA World Cup finals to Africa for the first time (and which eventually happened 70 years after the competition was launched), and who was seen and praised to have done a wonderful job of organizing the biggest and best FIFA World Cup finals of all time, would not be on the CAF Executive Committee, even if by nomination!
Instead, he was defeated by Ahmad, the President of Madagascar Football Federation, a country that, with all due respect, has no ambition of qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations finals.
Madagascar does not even take part in at least half of CAF’s competitions!

NEXT WEEK: The CAF African U-20 Championship

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