Nigeria and the quest for FIFA leadership -By Eze Peter Ogbonna

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Since the discovery of Africa, football has been one of the few areas in which Africans have a level playing ground and relatively symmetric experi­ences with Europeans and all other continents of the world. An African could score a goal just like a European and could equally dribble him as he wishes.

Also, in the election of its leadership, under the FIFA electoral process, each nation’s confedera­tion gets one vote, meaning the smallest nation has the same power as power blocks such as Eng­land, Spain, Switzerland, Brazil e.t.c.. And, out of the 209 member federations, Africa has 54. Not­withstanding this, Africa’s greatest risk has been in not taking risks.

Apart from Isaa Hayatou, who lost to Blatter in the 2002 FIFA presidential contest, I am not aware of any other African who has put himself up for the contest. But, should we continue in that light? Africa is one of the most diverse continents in the world, and like many parts of the world, her first formal introduction to football was through European colonisation.

During European imperialism in Africa, Afri­can nationalists while struggling for independence used football as an agent for the articulation and dissemination of anti-colonial campaigns. Hence, football has also contributed to strengthening the self-confidence of the African. In the 1930s, sev­eral African nationalists used football to stand in for Africa and foster unity among the citizens.

It is noteworthy to recall that the foremost Nigerian nationalist, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, used football to mobilize Nigerian support for British participation in the Second World War, against German discriminative and racial policies in Eu­rope. He travelled the length and breadth of Nigeria with his football team, played with several teams, and made donations to the British colonial admin­istration, as a demonstration of his support and that of Nigeria for the British war against Nazi Germany. In almost all African countries, football has been a symbol of international sovereignty, development and unity for her citizens.

The February 26, 2016 FIFA election presents Africa another opportunity to vie for its leadership Life consists of a number of opportunities and great opportunities do not come knocking at people’s doors. Africa has failed in other areas in the past. Our leaders are yet to meet up with expectations, but we can’t continue to wait and live with it. To ensure and cement the zeal for development, we have to be stronger in the FIFA race and win. This opportunity should be more embracing because it may take a much longer time to excel in other areas such as eco­nomic and political matters. Africa should capital­ize on this opportunity presented to her in a rapidly globalizing world in which we are not proud of our current position.

Thanks to providence that the norms and consid­erations in FIFA leadership are not the same with those that prevail in other areas. Luckily for Africa, Blatter has received a huge block support from Af­rica and Asia. Liberia has indicated interest in this the contest. Therefore, Nigerians must continue to encourage her possible contender to formally indi­cate interest and grab this opportunity for Nigeria and Africa.

Many people are already convinced about the pos­sibility and validity of this dream and have shown their immeasurable support . On the contrary, others with mixed feelings have continued to ask whether Nigeria is convinced to compete with countries like South Korea, Jordan, Trinidad and Tobago, Europe and other possible contenders. As for me, the ideal time for Nigeria to launch this African vision and prove that she is still the giant of Africa is now.

Nigeria is equally recognized as the heartbeat of African football. This is true; we have contributed much to the development of world football.

It is, therefore, good and encouraging that Africa started well in this race despite the daunting chal­lenges ahead. It is also refreshing and good that the conceived idea and dream has been receiving re­sounding support from different stakeholders and parts of the world. But, it is very important to note that speed is also necessary. But, however it goes, we should not forget in a haste that Africa’s competitors are trying just as hard as us to take the lead. It will therefore, be great seeing everybody cooperate, out of the conviction that the outcome of the contest is in the interest of all Africans especially the patriotic football-loving fans.

Nigeria has enjoyed international exposure. The popularity and acceptance she is recently enjoying internationally has also positioned her to be good and acceptable for the job. And luckily for us, we have Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, who has been national­ly accepted, as the best and eminently qualified to see to the fruition of this dream.

One could then imagine the outstanding result when a Nigerian, an African, leads the world football governing body (FIFA). Should Nigerians at all lev­els and positions see reason to take this as a personal project, Zurich will be happy welcoming a Nigerian, an African, for the world football governing-body leadership. This, surely, will be a feat that will help the growth of African football.

Ogbonna, a serving corps member, writes from Abuja via [email protected]

 

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