DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 22: Dickson Etuhu, Rabiu Afolabi, Yakubu Ayegbeni and Danny Shittu of Nigeria are dejected after a draw and elimination in the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group B match between Nigeria and South Korea at Durban Stadium on June 22, 2010 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

FIFA Suspends Nigeria For Government Interference

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FIFA's Nigeria Suspension: Super Falcons' World Cup In Danger, Set To Be First Casualty

Because of the prominence of the men's game, most thought of the Super Eagles when FIFA announced that Nigeria had been suspended indefinitely from international soccer, a punishment handed down due to government interference in football federation business. The suspension, however, effects all participation by Nigerian teams in FIFA-sanctioned events. That means the men's national team, youth tournaments, club competitions and, most urgently, women's soccer.

Qualifying for the the next women's World Cup - Germany 2011 - will be concluding throughout the rest of this calendar year, with Africa set to start qualifying at the end of this month: the African Women's World Championships, starting October 31.The top two finishers in that tournament advance to Germany, but because of the suspension, the Nigerian Super Falcons will not be able to participate in the tournament.

Nigeria has qualified for every women's World Cup, but FIFA's suspension means the team will not be given the opportunity to qualify for next year's. Though the suspension could be lifted at any time (should Nigeria come in compliance with FIFA regulations), players like Tainjin Teda's Stella Mbachu and Linkopings' Maureen Mmadu - 32 and 35 years old, having a combined 123 caps, and nearing the end of what might their final World Cup cycle - may lose the chance to compete in what should have been their final World Cup.

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FIFA Suspends Nigeria For Government Interference

FIFA has suspended the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), it was announced today. The action was undertaken by the sport's governing body "on account of government interference."

FIFA regulations carry strict guidelines against undue government interference in the administration of a country's football association. Recently, El Salvador and Belize have faced similar suspensions, and after four months of various Nigerian government involvement in the NFF, FIFA has resorted to their prescribed punishment.

The decision means the NFF can not enter any teams in FIFA sanctioned competitions, including the 2012 African Cup of Nations, qualifying for which was to continue this week. Nigeria was scheduled to play at Guinea on Friday, a match which is likely to be awarded to Guinea.

Nigeria's suspension takes place with immediate and indefinite effect resulting from four pieces of government interference, per FIFA's announcement:

This decision follows the latest events linked to the NFF, such as the court actions against elected members of the NFF Executive Committee preventing them from exercising their functions and duties, the stepping down of the acting NFF General Secretary on the instructions of the National Sports Commission, the decision of the Minister of Sports to have the Nigerian League start without relegation from the previous season, and the fact that the NFF Executive Committee cannot work properly due to this interference.

Nigeria's national and club teams will not be allowed to participate in any international competitions, including friendlies. Per FIFA's announcement, the suspension will be lifted at which time the NFF can operate without government interference.

When asked about FIFA's decision, an NFF official expressed regret but no surprise:

The NFF's acting general secretary told The Associated Press that FIFA's move "should not come as a surprise."

"At least we are now conversant with the expectation of FIFA," Emmanuel Ikpeme said. "The only thing that bothers me, like any other Nigerian, is that the action they have taken will affect football in this country."

Nigeria's problems with FIFA started this summer when, in the wake of their national team's perceived disappointing results at the World Cup, country president Goodluck Jonathan threatened to suspend the national team, a threat that was never acted upon after FIFA made it clear that suspension would follow.

Last month, four members of the NFF were fired and brought-up on embezzlement charges after being accused of misappropriating money intended for World Cup expenses.

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