Nigeria never ceases to rattle and to amaze me. With all its chaos and crisis, there is no place quite like the country in the world. It is difficult to understand what drives this most populous of Black nations on earth. The Late Madiba, Nelson Mandela, said about Nigeria: ‘The world will never respect Africa until Nigeria earns that respect. The Black people of the world are looking up to Nigeria to be a source of pride and confidence. Every Nigerian citizen should be made to understand this truth’. That is the burden every Nigerian carries on an already heavily-laden shoulder as the Black person desperately seeks a place of dignity, respect, equity and justice in a world polarized by humans and designed so that he never attains the loftiest heights of equality, forever. The Black person knows fully well that these things would never be gifted him, and that he would have to work and earn them the hardest possible way. That state of global affairs is not about to be changed with the ‘gift’ of the opportunity for Nigeria to host the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup. Rather, it may be a clever ruse to silence Nigeria forever, following whispers around the football planet that Nigeria may be considering seeking and bidding soon to host the 2030 FIFA World Cup, an ambition that must be halted by all means for any of the superpowers to have access, for, interestingly, by 2030 it will Africa’s turn again to host the world. So, even I was taken by surprise early this week when Nigerians woke up to the news that a FIFA delegation was in the country to inspect facilities that the country would need to host the 10th edition of the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup. It was a bolt of lightning out of the blues. Before now, it was customary that a country that wins the bid to host the major FIFA Women’s World Cup is also given the opportunity to first host the Under-20 version two years before the main event, to serve as a test-run. That makes absolute sense except that this is not the case in this instance. The two countries earlier reported to be bidding to host the championship, India and South Korea, withdrew their bids last month. Then, this development shrouded in secrecy. This past week, there have been all manner of spins and twists to the story of the championship to be hosted by Nigeria: the project had been on the table of discussion since 2018; the project has a national coordinator as well as a consultant; the federal government was aware of it since 2018 and had given its blessings; Lagos State was originally pencilled down to host the entire event, but a few more States have now been added (more may still be added for political balance); token ‘fees’ have already been paid to consultants for preparing a bid document that is not required in this case; Nigeria has conditions to fulfil in order to host.
What balderdash! The deal is done, sealed and delivered. Nigeria’s name has already appeared on several important forums as host of the Under-20 Women’s World Cup. So, who is fooling who, in this effort to pull wool over people’s eyes and kick-start another corruption rigmarole? By this weekend the four already selected venues (all in the South of Nigeria) would have been visited, assurances secured from the State governments of their preparedness to host a befitting event, courtesy visits completed, and gifts distributed to the delegation to demonstrate Nigerians’ hospitality. The facts are as follows:
- Nigeria will surely host the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup next year.
- Pinnick Amaju’s close relationship with FIFA leadership made all of this possible.
- Nigeria’s name is already listed as a host of the championship.
- The FIFA delegates’ visitation is a mere ceremony, to affirm a disguised ‘plot’ to make Nigeria the preferred African host for the championship, in acknowledgement of the country’s outstanding achievements in Africa.
- Finally, there is no other competitor, so there are no bid or bid documents for any scrutiny.
I am in full support of Nigeria hosting the event but for reasons beyond being a catalyst for the development of Women’s football in the country after the championship. I believe absolutely in the power of sports to impact a country and make it a better place, but only with the right vision and mandate as well as people with integrity and credibility to run and protect the championship. Even this almost inconsequential age-group Women’s World Cup that nobody wants to host can become a useful tool to kick-start the Black man’s revolution led by Nigeria. That is the source of my particular interest in this. This event will not bankrupt our country. The federal government should have little or no financial input in funding the event beyond fixing some broken-down facilities and infrastructure in a few places. Nigeria would not need to sweat and break bank vaults to host it. Already, State governors have confirmed their readiness to partner with the NFF to deliver a simple, uncomplicated football event without all the frills and glamour of the World Cup. Surely as part of the immediate benefits, there will be fresh awareness about women’s football in the country and that would arouse participation by more girls in football after the championship. Several facilities around the organization of the matches will also be improved – media coverage, turf, telecommunications, security, medicals, and some hotels for the actual participants and officials.
On the limited downside, beyond the above, however, the renovated stadia will be full of empty seats during most matches. There will surely not be a tourism boost, as foreign visitors will not flood Nigeria. So, there shall not be any big boost to the Nigerian economy from the event that will ‘come and go’ like all others before it, leaving only some memorable moments during some matches as its legacies. With the current state of insecurity in the country (killings, kidnappings, political upheavals, ethnic tensions and so on) participants are likely to ‘suffer’ a repeat of the 2009 World Championships when a tight security cordon restricted movements by the participants and officials to between their hotel rooms and the venues of the matches only. A health warning also ensured that most teams were in a ‘medical prison’ throughout. That must not be the case this time around. The objective has to change and be expanded. Nigeria must turn this seemingly inconsequential event into one that will titillate FIFA. The country must make FIFA see beyond their wildest dreams about what this championship could achieve hosted by the greatest Black country on earth. Nigerians must reach for the skies and put up a true festival of women’s football far beyond the football field. The State governments, where the matches will take place, must become very creative. They must set up a separate unit in government to create massive social engagement platforms with the people, empower them in the process with opportunities to drive local commercial activities and boost the night and day economy around the championship venues and towns. Even neighbouring States will not be left out in what could become a socio, economic, cultural and entertainment extravaganza. Should we fail to make a massive impression with this simple event, we might as well kiss any chance of hosting a bigger event in the near future, goodbye. However, should we succeed in making something out of this ‘nothing’, then we would stand on the periphery of greatness, having laid the basis to become the country that Nelson Mandela said Nigeria has to be for the Black person on earth to earn respect and confidence. After this, Nigeria should be given the right to host the 2013 Women’s World Cup (the WC has become a massive event after France 2019), and subsequently, the FIFA World Cup in 2030 when it will be Africa’s turn again to host, and with a little bit of luck, to win for the first time in history.