From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

By Rodney Edmond Michael
Jul 6, 2010, 17:00

Since the woeful and embarrassing performance of some teams in the World Cup, notably France and Nigeria, their Government have been quick to order an investigation into the causes and in the case of Nigeria, the team has been suspended for two years from International Competition which implies out of the 2012 and 2013 African Nations Cup.

As a Football Administrator since 1986 in Sierra Leone, and a contender for the next FA Presidency in 2012, I must categorically state that I am opposed to Governmentís interference in most cases but unlike FIFA, I do not believe Zero Tolerance is practicable, and support Governmentís involvement, not necessarily interference in certain scenarios.

I have followed the France inquest and from Patrice Evraís interview to BBC it is evident that there was a problem that led to him being left out of the final match against the host, Henry treated like a fool when he was asked to warm up for 30 minutes and not used even when France was losing to Mexico, and worst of all Anelka losing his cool and showering the coach with insults which led to his suspension and being sent home. President Sarkozy ordered that no bonus is paid to the team and demanded that all associated with the team explain their poor performance. What is wrong with a President seeking the best for his people who elected him to protect the pride and integrity of their Nation? In some countries like France, Football is a National issue and when their representatives bring shame to their Nation it should be the responsibility of their Government to investigate the root causes and those responsible can and should be encouraged to resign and give chance to others to rectify their flaws.

The French Government and its people have spent millions of Euros to attend the World Cup and make FIFA and South Africa richer. They have put their money where their mouth is and the least those of us in Football Administration can do is to appreciate their contribution and allow them to sort out their internal complications. They have not demanded the FA to resign but suggested that they do. It is their right to express their views and Mr Blatter must be cautious in executing a ban for Government interference. It is a National team and not just an Associationís team. It is France being represented and not The French Football Association. Go on Sarkozy, serve your people and solve the causes of such an embarrassing performance of your National Team that brought shame and pain on your people and your country. It is your duty and FIFA must not interfere.

In like manner, Johnathan Goodluck of Nigeria has also thought it appropriate to act albeit threats from FIFA for a ban. Letís examine the scenario leading to Nigeriaís woeful performance.

The Nigerian Football Federation dismissed the coach that qualified the team for both the Nations Cup and World Cup for poor performance in the Nations Cup. A foreign Coach Laggerback was appointed with a considerably larger salary amounting to $ 1,500,000 (one million five hundred thousand US Dollars) for the World Cup period, which led to Glen Hoddle declaring that he was rejected by The Nigerian FA because he refused to declare $ 1,500,000 (one million five hundred thousand US Dollars) when the contract was $ 1 million. He suggested the FA wanted to misappropriate the $ 500,000 (five hundred thousand US Dollars).

I am not saying I believe Mr Hoddle but let us put ourselves in President Goodluckís position; your National team produces one of the worst African performances in recent years, the Football Association is accused of corruption, your people throw away their tickets after 2 matches in disgust and having spent huge amounts of money, you have declared zero tolerance to corruption as a President and assured your people of utmost accountability, your Nation considers Football to be more important than everything (probably including religion), and you want to be elected President when Elections come up.

What will you do? I am in sympathy with Mr Goodluck and though I hope he reverses his decision and Nigeria is re-instated, I do not believe Mr Blatter should have publicly suggested a ban. FIFA is now rightly being accused of condoning corruption in Africa and beyond. Mr Goodluck did not dissolve The FA but suspended participation for two years to get them in order and prepare well so upon their return they can restore their pride to the satisfaction of Nigerians. This has been a consistent view in many African Nations suffering from poor performances and my Country is no different. Many believe that African Countries need to prepare well before they burden their Governmentís with huge financial bills and get knocked out very early in qualifiers without a victory and struggling to get a draw.

Mr Blatter is like a God to all of us in Africa and we respect his love for Africa and his passion for the game. If he is going to be re-elected, Africa will probably be his strongest constituency but his hasty proclamations have been a problem. I would recommend that FIFA cools down on the French and Nigerian Governmentís involvement (not interference) to ensure better performances in the future. It will be good for the game if every Nation demands better performances and the positive from such move is that it is now obvious Football is no longer just a game, it is far more serious, it is a battle albeit a friendly battle, and it is of National importance with pride at stake. It is victory for FIFA and the Global Football Family. It means Football is now as important as any other Global topic and Mr Blatter and Co should just relax and enjoy the importance given by Governments to Football, The World Cup and all other Football Tournaments.

I must commend Mr Blatter for reconsidering technology. I have been saying it for the last 10 years that it must be used. Itís a question of time but the game is getting faster for the officials and FIFA has no option but to commence its operation with trials. Only then can we decide how applicable it is, and if so when and how a team can request the use of technology.

We have all heard the saying that "only God and fools donít change", we are neither and so we should acknowledge and encourage the possibility. Itís time for technology if we want to reduce drastically and maybe totally "cheating" or blunders. I predict it will be in place by 2014 because Blatter is now tolerant to it and there will be a lot of support for it. It works for tennis, cricket, rugby, American Football, horse racing and athletics for photo finish and occasionally golf (to determine if a ball was touched twice).

In truth we are only being hypocritical because itís also used by football to punish players for incidents not seen by the refs. If we do not accept the human factor for such cases why accept it for more serious incidents like Englandís goal against Germany, Argentinaís goal against Mexico, Cahillís red card against Germany and USAís disallowed goal against Slovenia.

Time to make the call Mr Blatter now or your successor will make it eventually!

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.