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Potential Fifa Ban, the beginning of a nightmare for Nigerian Football

16:23 EAT 15/08/2018
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The global football governing body has given an ultimatum which could have dire consequences for the country

COMMENT    By Kunle Fayiga     Follow on Twitter

The Nigeria Football Federation has been involved in a power tussle since September 30, 2014 when Amaju Pinnick was declared the winner of the NFF Presidential elections which took him to the top seat in the Glass House.

This is because Chris Giwa - the man who ran against Pinnick - did not accept the results and went on to challenge them in the local courts which ruled in his favour. But Fifa still sees Pinnick as the legitimate football chief.

Giwa recently took over the NFF Headquarters in Abuja while Pinnick was at the World Cup and this has invoked the wrath of Fifa, who have given the country until August 20 2018, to withdraw all court cases and reinstate Pinnick as the rightful NFF head. Failure to do this means that all football-related activities under the FIFA umbrella will sieze at all professional levels of football in Nigeria.

It's not the first time Pinnick and Giwa have gone back and forth on this issue in the four years since the election but now with Fifa bringing the warning it poses a grave danger to football in this country.

Fifa rules state that football-related matters cannot be tried in local courts but only through the global governing body of which, if concerned parties are not satisfied with the organisation’s judgement, take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport for the ultimate verdict. Interference from any government is forbidden and can result in a football ban. In essence, Fifa laws supersede that of the judiciary of respective member states.

The Super Eagles have an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier away to Seychelles to come on September 7 and a ban would hinder their qualification as the match would not be played and the result awarded to the opposition. This will be very damning at a time the national team under coach Gernot Rohr are trying to right the wrongs of a disappointing World Cup campaign.

A FIFA ban would put an end to the hopes of a number of new players worth trying out such as Samuel Kalu who recently moved to Bordeaux, while others who have become mainstays like Francis Uzoho and Brian Idowu, will be unable to show their worth.

The ban will also affect the preparation of all other national sides. The Golden Eaglets have a series of qualifiers in preparation for the 2019 Under-17 Afcon in Tanzania while the Super Falcons have their crown to defend at the 2018 African Women Cup of Nations in Ghana in November. However, the tournament’s status is in jeopardy as the host nation is also under the Fifa knife following the disbandment of the Ghana Football Association by the government over corruption allegations.

The Nigeria Professional Football League will also be affected as it was supposed to restart after the conclusion of the World Cup but the ongoing crisis has hindered its resumption. A ban will thus be disastrous on teams who have been looking forward to a return since the league paused on matchday 24. Teams have had to play friendly games to keep players fit and a prolonged halt could destabilize the entire professional football club system in Nigeria.

A halt would also put an end to Enyimba’s ongoing Caf Confederation Cup campaign as they attempt to get out of a tricky Group C and into the knockout phases of the competition.

The biggest impact a Fifa ban would have on Nigerian football would be if the cessation of football activities sees the NFF's various sponsors pulling out. Over the past year, the Glass House has been able to secure some very lucrative deals which have made funds available to various levels of Nigerian football. Seeing them take away their investment would be terrible as it would impact the entire financial infrastructure on which Nigerian football is built.

Until now, things have been generally going well for Nigerian football and the disruption caused by Amaju Pinnick and Chris Giwa has come at exactly the wrong time. If these two men and all concerned parties care about the game and the potential damage that could be caused by a ban, it would make a whole lot of sense for the differences to be settled before the August 20 deadline so normalcy can return to the most loved and supported sport in the country.