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Football Reform – Why FIFA Should Support Nigeria
World football history can never be complete without Nigeria, because of her great feats in the world of football. The African giant has achieved what so many countries (developed and underdeveloped) have failed to achieve. FIFA should therefore support it in the steps it has taken to reform the game of football and make its national teams a force to be reckoned with once again.
The recent performances of Nigerian teams in continental and world football have been appalling, given the nation’s rating and previous achievements in men’s and women’s football. For example, Nigeria’s Golden Eagles were the first team in the world to win the Under-16 World Cup (China ’85); so far they have won a total of three editions, and they have also played in three other finals.
The U-20 national team also played in the finals in 2 editions (Saudi ’89 and Holland 2005), and achieved the biggest comeback in U-20 history, where they came back from a 4-0 deficit to beat the USSR on penalties. The U-23 team became the first African team to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games (Atlanta ’96), after defeating Brazil and Argentina in the semifinals and finals, respectively.
The Super Eagles took part in the FIFA World Cup in USA ’94 for the first time, and were voted the most entertaining team, after treating the world to great soccer skills. They were even rated as the 5th best team in the world (FIFA ranking list). The Super Eagles have so far won 2 African Cup of Nations titles (1980 and 1994), 4 silver medals (1984, 1988, 1990 and 2000) and 7 bronze medals.
The women’s national team (Falcons) won 5 consecutive African Women’s Championship titles (1998, 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006); participated in all women’s world cups so far, and also in all women’s Olympic football competitions. They made it all the way to the quarterfinals of the USA ’99 Women’s World Cup, where they were eventually eliminated by the Samba Girls of Brazil. The U-20 Women have also been to every U-20 Women’s World Cup.
The country has also hosted 2 Nations Cup tournaments (1980 and 2000); hosted the U-20 World Cup (1999), and the U-17 World Cup (2009), and did well as a host.
However, the fortunes of Nigeria’s national teams have recently declined; In 2008, the Super Eagles suffered their worst Cup of Nations in Ghana, failing to win silverware for the first time since 1984. The U-20 team failed to get past the second round in Egypt (2009); while the U-17 failed to qualify for the African Championship, as they were eliminated in the qualifiers by the little-known Republic of Benin (they participated in the World Cup only as hosts in 2009).
Our women’s team (The Falcons) lost the last edition of the African Women’s Championship to Equatorial Guinea; and they didn’t even make it to the finals.
In South Africa 2010, the Super Eagles failed to progress beyond the group stage, losing to Greece and Argentina, giving Greece their first ever World Cup win. The team’s performance was less than impressive and actually drew condemnation from soccer fans around the world.
Football’s world governing body should therefore support the efforts the Nigerian government is making to reform its football, instead of declaring war on the nation. We understand that the tournaments would not be as exciting without the best African team; at the same time we should remember that it would be ridiculous to participate and lose scandalously. So it makes sense for the country to return to the draw for a while to try and find a way to improve the fortunes of its teams.
When completely reorganized, they would turn out to be more fun, more results-oriented, and better focused. They would add color to tournaments organized by FIFA and help attract more fans, leading to better earnings for FIFA. Africa would be happy to see Nigeria bounce back and win more trophies for them.
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