Nigeria’s World Cup 2018 Qualification under Renewed Threat

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Duro Ikhazuagbe
The respite enjoyed by Nigerian football following the cessation of hostilities by parties involved in the leadership tussle over the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) appears over as the country’s highest court, the Supreme Court, is set to give the final judgment on the matter before it.

This development has now put Super Eagles’ qualification for the FIFA World Cup to be hosted by Russia next year under threat as the world football governing body, FIFA, is likely going to come down hard on Nigeria with a ban.
Eagles are scheduled to play a double header World Cup 2018 qualifier with Cameroon later this month and first week of September. Anything contrary to FIFA’s position could be disastrous for Nigeria.

Last Monday, the Supreme Court asked both the NFF board led by Amaju Melvin Pinnick and claimant to the same post, Chris Giwa, to await further directives on when judgment would be delivered on the leadership tussle suit instituted by the Jos-based club owner. Monday’s decision of the Supreme Court was earlier listed for December 2017. How the matter was brought earlier baffled chiefs of the Glass House in Abuja who were not even aware that the case was coming up that day.

Still an attorney stood in for Pinnick. “It is strange that the NFF, an interested party, only got to hear of the court session on Friday from a third party. People should think of the country’s interest in all these,” a NFF source told THISDAY at the weekend.

Before the case got to the Supreme Court, Giwa had lost at various levels from High Court to the Appeal Court. Similarly, both FIFA and the Court for Arbitration in Sport (CAS) based in Switzerland had dismissed his petitions. He was subsequently banned by FIFA from all football-related matters for a couple of years for taking football matters to civil courts.

If Nigeria gets banned, Cameroon or Algeria is likely to profit from it. Eagles are currently topping the Russia 2018 group on maximum six points from two matches won against Zambia and Algeria. A win against Cameroon in Uyo and a possible draw in Yaounde will guarantee Nigeria’s qualification for the Mundial in Russia with two games to spare.

In closely related scenario, Sudan’s three clubs have been thrown out of CAF competitions due to the FIFA ban slammed on the country following government intervention.
Khartoum’s two most popular clubs, Al Hilal and Al Merreikh, have been thrown out of the CAF Champions League while Al Hilal Obayed, the surprise package of the CAF Confederation Cup 2017 and already in the last eight stage has also been sacked from the competition.

The indefinite ban on the Sudan FA comes over alleged government interference in its affairs and after the forcible eviction of the FIFA-recognised leadership from the association’s headquarters in Khartoum. FIFA wants the SFA leadership of Mutasim Gaafar restored to office.
Last month, Sudan’s Ministry of Justice had him removed, with police violently evicting members of his executive, and replaced by Abdel Rahman Elkatim.

“The suspension would be lifted once the decree of the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Justice of 2 June is declared null or void and the Board of Directors of the SFA with its President, Dr Mutasim Gaafar, is reinstated,” said a FIFA statement after the ban last week.