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FIFA World Cup and the Politics of Soccer
By: Ehimwenma E. Aimiuwu



I must commend FIFA for its bold and courageous step in taking a stand against racism in a sport known as the greatest religion of the modern world – football/soccer.  Soccer is a game that transcends all forms of religion, gender, race, and regions of the globe and we can not allow the foundation of the worst sins of mankind called racism have a place in it.  What they have done in the European Leagues is a little commendable, especially in the Spanish Professions league (La Liga), but higher fines, loss of points for two victories, or a reduction of two home games would have been more commendable to show the seriousness of FIFA against this crime.


I have always loved FIFA in their efforts to globalize the game and to give more chances to less privileged countries to participate in the World Cup.  My concern with this benevolent act has always being that is FIFA doing it just to make itself look good or it is really serious about diversifying the participants with fairness in all areas of the game?  Is FIFA just interested in different colors of the flags at the events or it truly wants the best soccer and World Cup tournament humanity has to provide?  I will let you make up your mind while I reason aloud.


I am an American who was raised in Nigeria for sixteen years and I still can not get over the fact that Togo and Angola represented Africa in the World Cup, especially at a time when FIFA is dreaming of giving Africa a sixth spot.  It is true that they did their best, but where was Nigeria, Cameroon, and Senegal; the power houses of the continent.  How come they did well in the African Cup of Nation, but did not enter the World Cup and when they do enter the World Cup they never reach the semi-finals?  Are their players not one of the best in the European Leagues?  Or do they only remember to play well when they are surrounded by Brazilians and Europeans in the same team?  You can argue than Cameroon got knocked out by Ivory Coast who made it to the finals of African Nations Cup, but failed to qualify for the second round of the World Cup. You can also say that Ghana did terribly in the Nation Cup but got to the second round of the World Cup, but there is a difference between consistence and coincidence.  So why are the power houses of African soccer absent from the World Cup?  I will tell you as you read along. 


Africa’s problem has never been human resources, intelligence, technical know-how, or hard work; our problem since the colonial era has always being leadership and management.  I apologize for bringing up the same old colonial excuse that people hate to talk about, but it is a shameful fact.  Many African countries got their independence about forty years ago but still maintain the culture of mediocrity and lack of reason their colonial master imbedded in them.  It is true that other peoples where also colonized, but please do not compare theirs to the African holocaust.  We have had the same group of block-headed individual ruling a country like Nigeria since independence with the same old colonial mentality of exploitation.  It is an effective system where the masters take all the resources at the expense of the subjects.


In Football (soccer), many African countries like Nigeria have sport ministers and football association chairpersons, who have never earned a sport management degree nor have the experience of managing a successful sport team or franchise, not to talk about participating in any professional sport in the past.  How do you really expect these officials to genuinely promote the sport to a higher level, when they neither know what the sport needs or what areas to improve upon?  With so much resource in Nigeria, which happens to be the sixth largest oil producing country, there is not only oil scarcity but their sports men and women almost never get their training allowances or their competition participation bonuses before, during, and after any competition.  Usually, the President of these African countries, their appointed sport ministers, and their national accountants can never account for the misdirected funds.  In fact, it was reported that while the Nigerian soccer team was participating in the 1998 World Cup, they were still fighting to receive their pay for the 1996 Olympic soccer participation.  The truth of the matter is that while Angola made sure that they beat Nigeria at home to have a head-to-head advantage, Nigeria’s Football Chairman by the name of Galadima, was still insisting to the nation that Nigeria would qualify by goal differential after Nigerian drew the second leg with Angola and had the same points.  What a shame! 

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If FIFA is truly interested in developing soccer around the globe and in Africa in particular, and they really expect Africa to win the world cup in the next twelve years, they will need to do some, if not all of the following:


i)                   All Football chairpersons of all nations must be FIFA approved and certified.  These MUST be individuals who have played the game in the past at international and world class levels, or have credible years of successful experience managing team franchises.

ii)                 All national coaches of all nations MUST also be FIFA approved and certified.  They are expected to be renowned coaches in their various leagues and have being successful through time.  This would have prevented Nigeria from bringing Onigbede (former Asst. coach of Trinidad and Tobago in 2002) and Christian Chukwu (former coach of Kenya in 2005) to lead Nigeria to the World Cup.  Do you know Nigeria wanted to get Bryan Robson, whose team has been relegated to Division two in the English League to take Nigeria to this World Cup?  Please Pray for Nigeria.

iii)               All monies and payments meant for football players before, during, and after each competition should be paid directly to the players from FIFA.   Just like FIFA has agreed to do for Togo in this World Cup. 




This is the only true way FIFA can show the world that they are genuine and prepared not only to eliminated corruption from hindering their good efforts to promote soccer, but also to allow the best football administrators and players to perform at their maximum capacity.  This is when the true world football nations will arise to take the world by storm.  Their players will not have to choose between playing for their country during World Cup qualification and playing for their clubs.  Do you know that many players do not get paid by their clubs when they miss club games for their countries that week? In the same week, many African countries do not only forget to compensate their players for their services, the players are also ignored when they get injured.  This has ended the careers of many African players and this is why many African powers are absent from the World Cup.  Even when they get to the World Cup, they are not as determined for their countries.  They only go to improve their ratings for a European contract.  Nigeria and Cameroon are perfect examples of football mismanagement in Africa.  Togo just happens to be the latest story. 


The world will never know if Ghana can truly beat Brazil, or If Nigeria will win the World Cup in 2010 and 2014 until FIFA goes out of its way to make sure they have total control of football administration and compensation of players.  With the power of football as a religion in many poorer countries, FIFA might help educated the world’s children on the importance and benefit of what good leadership and management can accomplish, despite the presence of colonial mentality.  These children might just see in their life time that the right people in the right places can actually make a cat wear the golden crown in the presence of the Lions.  I rest my pen.