Nigeria's FIFA WCQ sanction: The buck stops where? - FCNaija

World Cup 2018 By: Ambrose Udeme | 13/12/2017

It's no longer news that the institution entrusted with the responsibility of keeping a watchful eye on the footballing affairs of our Nation very nearly lost us our world cup ticket, no thanks to their characteristic ineptitude.

FIFA, on Tuesday, rejected Nigeria’s defence for fielding an ineligible player during the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Algeria in Constantine on Friday, November 10, 2017, thus awarding the match to home team.

Defender Abdullahi Shehu had conceded a yellow card in the previous match against Zambia in Uyo on October 7, 2017. It was his second booking of the tournament, the first coming against Swaziland in the preliminary round. The FIFA Disciplinary Committee decided that “The Nigerian Football Federation is liable for having breached art.55 par.1 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code and art. 8 of the 2018 Regulations of the FIFA World Cup, Russia.

“The match played within the frame of the preliminary competition of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia between Algeria and Nigeria on 10 November 2017 is declared to be a loss by forfeiture to Algeria, on a 3-0 scoreline.”

The NFF in a reaction through its president Pinnick came up with a flimsy excuse of thinking that yellow cards issued in previous rounds of the qualifiers are cancelled and that they were unaware of the principle not applying for the just concluded qualifying series.

“We accept the decision of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee to fine the NFF and award the match to Algeria.

“However, this is a grave error and somebody must be punished. We apologize to Nigerians for this and assure that this will not in any way derail or even distract us in our well –laid plan to ensure that the Super Eagles have a great outing in Russia.

“At the same time, I want to assure that persons responsible for this slip would not be given just a slap on the wrist. We are actually looking at a re-organization of the Technical Department. The Technical Committee will henceforth play serious superintending role on all details, no matter how minute, in technical matters.

“It is important that all committees and departments at the NFF should move at the same pace as the Executive Committee,” stated Pinnick.

Before this gaffe, the NFF, led by Amaju Pinnick, had been doing relatively well, enabling what can be described as one of the smoothest World Cup qualifying campaigns in recent years. Unlike in previous years, players did not clash with officials over money especially when on the road, as allowances and reimbursements were paid timely. The smooth passage to Russia, orchestrated by the NFF, received a deserved ovation from millions of Nigerians.

Nigeria finished top of Group B (14 points) in the African qualifying series, six points clear of second-placed Zambia (8), meaning the points deducted in no way affect our place in next summer's showpiece.

The story wouldn't have been much different had Nigeria capitulated to Algeria and Zambia prevailed against Cameroun in the final qualifier matches. If this scenario had played out, the Super Eagles still would have won the group with three points ahead of their closest rivals - Zambia.

While many would turn a blind eye to this egregious blunder, it is important to note that the NFF is essentially funded by taxpayers with one goal - to get Nigeria into the most revered sporting event in the world. And if good behavior is laudable, bad behaviour equally ought to be punishable. The technical department of the NFF would be blamed for this blunder but the head of the organisation cannot be absolved of any wrongdoing as it is his place to crosscheck details with departmental heads before any game.

So we got lucky this time around. The next oversight may have more a more disastrous outcome. Someone should take responsibility for this mess. Someone should bear the brunt of this inexcusable error.

In 2010, France, who were finalists at the previous world cup in 2006, failed to advance from the group stage. The then-president of the French Football Federation, Jean-Pierre Escalettes, took responsibility and tendered his resignation.

If we are to eliminate potentially-costly inefficiencies and incompetencies in the future, those charged with public service must be held accountable for their errors. It is thus not out-of-place to suggest that the NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, be urged to tender his resignation.