It needs little reiteration – here and elsewhere – that Nigeria as an independent country has never had much going for her on the executive body of the Confederation of African Football (CAF). As the years have turned, all the country has had to labor with within the organization has been an endless list of failed attempts and uncountable discriminatory outcomes on her head. Perhaps, at no other time than now is it most appropriate that effort be made to see an end to this most unfair of affairs.
This is most pertinent now because barely a week from now Mr Issa Hayaotu of Cameroun will once more stand to be elected to the presidency of the body for another four-year term. The move, if successful, will see him lead it into a third decade following his first assumption of the office in 1988. No doubt, this has much to bear on our continued relevance in the body that governs Association Football in the continent. Founded some 60 years ago by four countries – Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia and South Africa – it now boasts of a total of 54 and 2 member and associate countries respectively.
Without mincing words, running the organization has appeared an exclusive monopoly of its Arab and Francophone member nations. Fostered through the auspices of Egypt – where the headquarters was shifted to after the founding in Khartoum, Sudan – and Cameroun – following Hayatou’s protuberance – the Anglophone and Lusophone countries have often only had a look in. A situation not helped by Nigeria’s often ostrich-style engagement in affairs African. Often we are caught hankering after positions in world bodies while those at the continental level are left for minnow countries to our peril.
The importance of the need for a turnaround from this mentality is not far to fetch. After all, charity that does not begin at home oftentimes aggregates to nothing in the long run. And where else can be home but Africa. Yes, because though this about face has been most prolific in hardcore political and economic matters afore now, it is time enough it is also enacted in no place else than sport – an area most congenital to our national existence. None no more so than the round leather game of football that, more than most, has proved an elixir of extreme proportions to our nation psyche.
In the event, taking CAF for what it is worth sure throws up more than a mindful.
Nominally, it is the biggest of the other five continental confederations that make up FIFA – namely the European UEFA, North American CONCACAF, South American CONMEBOL, Asian AFC and Oceanian OFC. Then, not only does it run continental, national and club competitions in the continent, it also controls the prize monies, regulations and media as well as legal rights to these competitions. Any wonder that most of the time the names of our officials are often absent from these lists whenever they are released.
All the time these conspicuous absences are often explained away by nebulous allegations leveled at these officials – administrators as well as referees, for instance. But the truth told, most of these come down to high-level sports politics. Need we say that most times those that bear the brunt end up those with little or no representation at the executive body. The development has also been seen to affect even our own exponents of the game both on and off the field of play. When they are not denied fitting awards in their heydays, they are injudiciously denied appointments into continental management and board positions on retirement.
All these come to a head when it is recalled that here at home we have seldom had the NFF – our football house – in order. It is on record that our local football federation has had to cope with the toga of one-week-one-trouble for years on end. When it is not mired in the mud of controversy, it will be only recovering from one, to the effect that it won’t have time to muster the much needed strength to engage in the continental war to better effect. As a result, more often than not, we have ended up playing CAF politics with our worst eleven as it were.
The AUTHORITY believes the time is apt for government to be more proactive with our football house. As a country we can ill afford to be just token members of an organization that we have proved the backbone of over the years. Only then can we rather than support a candidate from another country at CAF elections, like presently, have one of our own running to win. That way, rather than just followers, we would transform to leaders of African football in the boardroom like we have proven on the field of play.