There is something not quite clear about the issue of whether some football matters can be taken to a civil court or not.
Nigeria has been threatened several times with a ban because certain stakeholders had taken internal matters within their federation to a civil court. The usual ‘refrain’ by a school of thought has always been that football matters should never be taken to court or else a country’s FA will be banned or sanctioned. Yet, here we are, a third division club in Belgium has taken FIFA to a Belgian civil court, over the rule imposed by FIFA of a ban on third-party ownership of players. Plus the decision of a Belgian Appeal court challenging the blanket power of the Court of Sports Arbitration (CAS) (as result of the same matter) to have exclusive jurisdiction over all football matters. The appeal court says such exclusivity is illegitimate.
I am waiting anxiously for FIFA’s reaction.
Will FIFA ban the Belgium club, or the Belgian Football Federation that ‘allowed’ the matter to be taken to a civil court. Or will FIFA abide by the judgement of the European civil court? Bosman’s celebrated case several years ago comes to mind – a European court’s decision on international transfer of players in Europe became binding on FIFA and has impacted the issue of player transfers all over the world since then. If FIFA does nothing, it will be a confirmation that the body is biased against Nigeria, and selective in the application of its own rule that says that NO football matters shall be taken to a civil court for settlement and that the decision of CAS is final on all such matters.
George Weah’s testimonial match – Nigeria must do same!
Last weekend the Super Eagles of Nigeria played an international friendly match against the Lone Stars of Liberia in Monrovia. For the first time in several years George Opong Weah, former captain of the Liberian national team, former African, European and World Player of the year, dusted his boots, wore the colours of his national team and returned to the football field. The surprise is that he is now 54 years of age, has been retired for almost two decades and is now the President of his country, the Federal Republic of Liberia. The game was a testimonial match arranged in honour of one of the greatest players to come out of Africa, and to officially mark his final exit from football. Usually, at the end of an illustrious career, players considered to have achieved legendary status, or have contributed immensely to their club or national team, are accorded this final ceremonial football match, with proceeds from it going either to the players directly, or to a charitable cause or causes of their choice. This was George’s way of reminding his countrymen and women that he was not accorded one such ceremony when he left the game. He actually played in the match. Incidentally, the match reminded me about something I had always wanted to do through the decades but never did. I guess the time has come to put together a testimonial match for a whole generation of players of the decade between 1970 and 1980, a defining period not just in Nigeria’s sports but in the political history of the country as a whole.
In sports, this was the decade of proper development and achievement, a foundation-laying period for the possibilities of what Nigeria could accomplish and achieve through sports particularly after the painful Civil War that ended in 1970. The country established the National Sports Commission and the National Institute of Sports, organized the Second all Africa Games, led the African boycott of the Olympic games in a politically-motivated protest, organised the first National Sports Festival using sports to unite the youths of the country after the Civil War and hosted its first African Cup of Nations. In football, in particular, during the decade, Nigeria won the All African games football Gold in 1973, won continental African football Club championship two times consecutively in 1976 and 1977, went to two Olympics games in 1976 and 1980, and won the country’s first African football championship to cap 1980. None of the great superstar players of that entire decade was ever honoured with a proper football testimonial match to celebrate and to mark their exit from the game.
So, I am thinking.
These players laid the foundation upon which the country has become a global football phenomenon. These players deserve some kind of ceremonial event to send them forth. Too late to do the individual testimonials, but nothing says we cannot be inventive and do a collective testimonial with those who are still privileged and lucky to be alive. In two years’ time, it will be 40 years since the end of that era. Such an event can do much in terms of putting in place a structure, policy, or something that will sustain the memory of several of the superstar players of my generation permanently in the minds of Nigerians, and give them a deserved send-forth. So, I am thinking of an organised testimonial match on the 40thanniversary of the country’s first African Cup of Nations victory, in 2020. God willing, I shall be in a position to make it happen well at the time. If George Weah could do it in Liberia for himself, why can’t we do it also for us? What a pleasure it would be to dust my boots, adorn the Green and White of my national colours again, share the same turf with some of my colleagues like Christian Chukwu, Felix Owolabi and others, in a testimonial match against an international team including George Weah, Roger Milla, Abedi Pele and so on!
Wow, I cannot wait for such an event and kick-start such a possibility – soon!
Youth Games – stiffer punishment for cheats.
Over 500 children were disqualified from participating in the recent Youth Games in Ilorin! Why? The organisers did a forensic audit on the actual ages of the athletes and found 500 of them inauthentic. Once again, it speaks to the depth of degradation of our moral values in the country as a whole. Nigerian sports cannot be immune from the national virus of corruption, one that has bred a win-at-all-costs syndrome that has bedevilled the whole of sports development. The Youth Games were created to protect genuine young athletes, provide an authentic grassroots production room, remove the matter of age-falsification, and promote early discovery of an exceptional talent and permanent data collection opportunity. With this development in Ilorin, it is apparent that the battle still has a long way to go. Officials are still conniving with the athletes, their parents and schools to cheat and win. It will take more than these disqualifications through tests that are not in themselves foolproof to get rid of this retrogressive scourge. Stiffer punishments and a national re-orientation programme on ethical conduct and behaviour may be needed in sports.
Just my simple thoughts.