FIFA not yet ready to act on Nigeria interference

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JOHANNESBURG: FIFA is studying a report before possibly taking action against Nigeria for government interference after the team’s first-round exit at the World Cup.

Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan ordered the team on Wednesday to sit out international competition for two years as punishment for its poor showing.

FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot said Thursday that Nigeria’s government has told FIFA about the ban.

"We have been now officially informed of that and we are looking at this case," Maingot said at FIFA’s daily World Cup briefing.

FIFA rules demand that national federations manage their affairs independently or face suspension from world football. National and club teams then cannot play in international competitions, and football officials are barred from attending meetings.

"This is clearly outlined in the FIFA statutes," said Maingot, but adding that "we are not at the step of taking sanctions."

Earlier this week, FIFA president Sepp Blatter restated his disapproval of politicians meddling in football’s affairs when asked about a French government inquiry into the team’s shambolic display at the World Cup.

Blatter said football officials "can really rely on FIFA in case of political interference — even if it is at the presidential level."

A spokesman for Jonathan said Wednesday that the government will also investigate corruption allegations surrounding the football federation.

All funds directed toward the federation would be examined and "all those found wanting will be sanctioned," spokesman Ima Niboro said.

Nigeria is scheduled to receive prize money of $8 million (€6.5 million) from FIFA for participating in the World Cup.

Known as the Super Eagles, the team was eliminated with only one point after a 2-2 draw with South Korea in its last game. Nigeria lost to Argentina 1-0 in its Group B opener, and was beaten 2-1 by Greece in a game that turned on the first-half red card to its midfielder Sani Kaita.

Nigeria is next scheduled to play in early September, at home to Madagascar in a qualifier for the 2012 African Cup of Nations.

A standoff between the Nigeria government and FIFA would also threaten club side Heartland’s place in the African Champions League.

Heartland is one of eight teams to reach the group stage of the continental competition. It is scheduled to host Egypt’s Al-Ahly in two weeks’ time.

The dispute has arisen despite Nigeria being represented on FIFA’s ruling executive committee. Amos Adamu has had a seat on the powerful 24-man body since 2006.



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