ABUJA - Nigerian President Goodluck
Jonathan has suspended the national football team from
international competition for two years following their poor
performance in the World Cup, his office said on Wednesday.
"Mr President has directed that Nigeria will withdraw from
all international football competition for the next two years to
enable Nigeria to reorganise its football," Ima Niboro,
Jonathan's senior communications adviser, told reporters.
"This directive became necessary following Nigeria's poor
performance in the ongoing FIFA World Cup," he said.
Nigeria were knocked out in the first round.
After meeting the country's World Cup organising committee,
Jonathan also said the accounts of the committee should be
"If any financial misappropriation is discovered, all
officials responsible will be held accountable," Niboro said.
Jonathan's decision came a day after the executive committee
of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) met to review the
team's first round exit, in which they picked up a single point
and finished bottom of their group also containing South Korea,
Greece and Argentina.
Niboro said the sports minister would be writing to FIFA
shortly to inform them of the decision. He said the minister for
the federal capital territory, Abuja, had been instructed to
build a "Football House" where the team could be based.
"The problem of Nigerian football is structural. We need to
reorganise the structures and there is need to withdraw from all
international football competition so that we can put our house
in order," Niboro said.
A statement said the federation apologised to the "federal
government and all football-loving Nigerians for the early
ouster of the Super Eagles from the World Cup" and added Nigeria
would seek to play more friendly matches to get more experience.
"It's the right decision ... President Jonathan has made a
bold step to clean up the rot. We need to move the country in
football," John Fashanu, a former England footballer partly of
Nigerian descent, told local sports radio.
"We cannot be held to ransom by anybody."
Some Super Eagles fans were shocked by the decision.
"Sounds to me like the president is trying to score cheap
political points ... the next major international competition is
two years away anyway," said one irate fan in Lagos, asking not
to be named.
The NFF said it wanted Swedish coach Lars Lagerback,
appointed on the eve of the finals, to stay and put together a
wide-ranging programme to harness young talent.
The statement also said the federation disagreed with those
claiming Nigerian football was in a dwindling state.
"No previous board has qualified Nigeria for all major
tournaments internationally," the statement said.
The government instruction to withdraw could prompt
sanctions from FIFA, who have taken a strong stand against
political interference in the sport.
A FIFA spokesman said: "We have had no official information
from the Nigerian FA about this case specifically but in general
FIFA's policy towards political interference is well known. Our
statutes do not allow for any political interference."
Nigerian sporting administrators have often been accused of
corruption and incompetence and the federation was roundly
criticised after sacking coach Shaibu Amodu in February, just
four months before the World Cup finals.
Amodu was dismissed because Nigeria only managed to finish
third at the Nations Cup finals in Angola in January.
Nigeria were banned by the Confederation of African Football
(CAF) in 1996 when then President Sani Abacha withdrew the team
from the African Nations Cup finals in South Africa because he
had been criticised by Nelson Mandela over the judicial
execution of political opponents.
They could not compete in African competition for two years
but were able to qualify for the 1998 World Cup in France.
The CAF refused to comment on the Nigerian president's
decision when contacted by Reuters on Wednesday.
Nigeria were set to begin their bid to qualify for the 2012
African Nations Cup finals in September against Madagascar.
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