-Incompetence dents Nigeria’s Unbeaten March to 2018 World Cup –
Administrative incompetence, a recurring bane of football development in Nigeria, has dented the country’s unbeaten march to next year’s World Cup competition in Russia.
This follows a decision by World Football governing body, FIFA, to award 3 points to Algeria, for the 2018 World Cup qualifier played in Constantine, Algeria on Friday, November 10, 2017. That match ended 1-1. However, FIFA has withdrawn Nigeria’s only point in that Group B match and awarded the entire points to Algeria, as penalty for Nigeria’s fielding of an ineligible player.
According to FIFA, Nigeria contravened the rules governing World Cup qualifying matches by fielding Shehu Abdullahi who had earned two yellow cards in previous qualifying rounds of the competition. Shehu received a yellow card in a preliminary round match against Swaziland before receiving another yellow card in Group B’s qualifying match against Zambia.
A statement by FIFA’s disciplinary committee which sat on the matter reads:
“The Nigeria 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 lost by forfeit by Nigeria (3-0).”
The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) was also fined six thousand Swiss Francs.
FIFA’s tradition of cancelling yellow cards issued in previous rounds of qualifying matches did not apply in this series.
As a result of that decision, Nigeria’s total points tally has reduced by one, leaving the country with 13 points, while Algeria has earned two extra points, moving from a total of two to four points.
Thankfully, FIFA’s decision has not tampered with the Super Eagles of Nigeria’s qualification for the World Cup, as the team secured her ticket on 7th October 2017 in Uyo, after securing a 1-0 win over Zambia. Despite FIFA’s decision, Nigeria is still 5 points ahead of Zambia who ended the qualifiers with 8 points.
Following FIFA’s decision, NFF President Amaju Pinnick, has reacted thus: “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….”
Despite this penalty from FIFA, the fact remains that Nigeria didn’t lose on the field of play to Algeria. The Super Eagles only lost three vital points to administrative incompetence. It would have been worse for this richly endowed team, if qualification for Russia 2018 depended on the outcome of the match in Constantine, Algeria.
- Cornelius Ellah
Facebook: Cornelius Ellah