Nigerian league football usually doesn’t get a lot of press across the globe unless something bizarre happens. So when two play-off games, played on the same day resulted in score lines more in line with a rugby match or cricket score, the world’s media glaze was firmly placed on the African nation. In a strange turn of events, the Nigeria Football Federation (NNF) was forced to act when two lower league teams who were both chasing promotion and desperately needed to bolster the goal difference tally won their respective matches 79-0 and 67-0. The match between Plateau United Feeders and Akurba FC and the match between Police Machine and Babayaro FC fell under the spotlight of the NNF based on their high scoring results, with all four teams suspended pending a further investigation. This week, the NNF decided to act further by handing out life time bans to all players involved in the two matches in what has now become a very embarrassing story for Nigerian football.
The scandalous score lines are yet another black mark on Nigerian football which has gone through its fair share of bad press in the last twenty years. In 2010 Nigeria was banned by FIFA from competing in any tournaments after political interference in the running of the national team and its governing body. FIFA acted swiftly after it discovered that several members of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) were hauled before the law courts to answer questions around election fraud, sparked by the refusal of the NFF to carry out the orders of the country’s Ministry of Sport, who wanted to restart the league without relegations from the previous season. FIFA were less than impressed and banned the African nation but eventually lifted it again when the court case was dropped. Previously In 1989, Nigeria’s youth national teams were banned by FIFA for fielding over-age players in FIFA-organised youth tournaments. In a growing problem in Africa, where birth certificates and registrations are few and far between, the true age of many players in the region is generally unknown. Just recently Partizan Belgrade questioned the true age of former defender and Nigerian legend Taribo West in court after deciding to sue the player for falsifying information about his real birthdate on his contract (covered in an earlier BOTN post). At the time of signing West, he told Partizans that he was 28 but after looking at the bone structure of his knees, the club concluded he was closer to 40. Looking back at the career of Taribo West (and indeed at several Nigerian players like Obafemi Martins, Jay Jay Okacha and Nwankwo Kanu) it’s not hard to see why the Serbian club were inquisitive about West’s extremely long career. The true age of West is unknown but many have speculated that he was at least 6 years older than he suggested at any given time.
Regardless of West’s real age, he had a fantastic career which is more than can be said for the players of the two fateful games mentioned earlier. They now face life bans which will more than certainly end their careers, with FIFA likely to extend those bans globally. The NFF concluded that the investigation had proved that all players and officials were involved in the match rigging. They also identified that the captain of Akurba FC, Arijide Said Timothy was the ring leader who organised the match fixing of both matches, and established that he had betting connections that were looking to profit from the two bizarre results. The two games were ridiculous in their execution and deemed shameful by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) vice-president Mike Umeh:
“It was embarrassing that in one of the games, a player scored 11 times while in the other, four goals were scored within a minute and a player scored three own-goals in a match.”
The chairman of the House Committee for Sport, Godfret Gaiya has gone public with his support of the NFF decision to ban all concerns citing that Nigerian football did not need this type of negative development in a time when the country was beginning to see a resurgence in football pride following the recent national team’s success at the African Cup of Nations in January this year. In an interview with Vanguard Sports, one of the largest media sites in Nigeria, he expressed his dismay in the selfish actions of a few that had put his entire country’s football pedigree and reputation back by twenty years. Nigerian football has indeed been on the rise over the last six months since their somewhat surprise victory in South Africa but this latest incident will give fresh though to the notion that Nigeria still has a long way to come before football in their country can be deemed a successful again.
For our story on the age defying players, click here: http://backofthenetblog.wordpress.com/2013/06/07/best-not-to-ask-about-his-age/