FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee on Monday imposed sanctions on Nigeria for the misconduct of its fans during the world cup qualifying tie in Abuja on March 29.
Displeased football fans had vandalised facilities at the MKO Abiola National Stadium following the Super Eagles’ 1-1 draw with the Black Stars of Ghana.
The tie had ended Nigeria’s bid to qualify for the global football tournament scheduled to start in November 2022 in Qatar.
The world football ruling body in a statement on its official website detailed the reason for these sanctions as “order and security at matches (failure to implement existing safety rules and failure to ensure that law and order are maintained in the stadium, invasion of the field of play and throwing of objects”.
“In line with FIFA’s zero-tolerance stance against discrimination and violence in football, a number of member associations have been punished due to the abusive behaviour by their respective supporters,” the communique also read.
It also imposed a 150,000 Swiss Franc (N63,996,216.90) fine on Nigeria as a result of the unruly behaviour of its fans, and one match without spectators.
Last month, the Senate invited the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr Sunday Dare; NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, and other agencies involved in the maintenance of the MKO Abiola Stadium to determine the extent of the damage to facilities at the national arena.
The lawmakers had also instructed the Senate Committee on Sports and Youth Development to investigate the remote and immediate causes of Nigeria’s failure to qualify for the World Cup in spite of the huge fund by the government, individuals, and corporate bodies.
“This joint working group, to be led by FIFA, will analyse the applicable legal framework and the governance structure, mandate, and mission of normalisation committees, and make suggestions to the FIFA Council accordingly,” Mosengo-Omba was quoted as saying in the letter.
“We are confident that your nomination to this working group will positively contribute to the pertinent, and often essential, role played by Normalisation Committees in support of federations and towards the fulfillment of good governance practices.”
FIFA responded on Wednesday to speculation that it might change the format of games in the World Cup by insisting the basic length of matches in Qatar would remain 90 minutes.
“Following some reports and rumours spread today, FIFA would like to clarify that there will be no changes to the rules regarding the length of football matches for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 or any other competition,” said the governing body of world football in a terse statement.
Social media, and some more traditional news outlets such as Italian sports daily Corriere dello Sport, had reported that FIFA president Gianni Infantino was considering encouraging referees to play more stoppage time, effectively extending games to 100 minutes, to make up for the amount of time the ball is not in play.
FIFA on Friday faced calls to sanction Iran and even throw its team out of the 2022 World Cup finals over the Islamic republic’s renewed failure to allow women to attend an international football match.
Iranian news agencies this week confirmed that 2,000 women who had bought tickets for Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier against Lebanon in the northeastern city of Mashhad could not enter the stadium.
Activists based outside Iran accused the authorities of using pepper spray at close range to disperse women who then protested the ban outside the venue.
The United for Navid group of exiled Iranian athletes and activists, set up after the execution of wrestling champion Navid Afkari in September 2020, said Iran should be suspended from international football until it changes its stance.
“We formally request that FIFA immediately suspend Iran and prohibit its participation in the World Cup 2022 as long as the Football Federation of Iran continues to violate the Olympic Charter and FIFA regulations,” it said in a letter to FIFA’s deputy secretary general Mattias Grafstrom.
In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by AFP Friday, it said that Iran had pledged to FIFA that it would end its policy of “gender apartheid” by allowing women to attend matches.
“But not only has Iran broken that promise by continuing to bar women from entering a stadium but women are beaten, abused and threatened,” it added.
United for Navid said Iran “continues to ignore” FIFA’s requests to show “basic adherence” to human rights.
Human Rights Watch meanwhile urged FIFA to demand that Iran urgently overturn the “discriminatory” stadium ban on women and ensure accountability for abuses.
“Given the Iranian authorities’ longstanding violations, FIFA needs to follow its own global guidelines on nondiscrimination and should consider enforcing penalties for Iran’s noncompliance,” Tara Sepehri Far, HRW’s senior Iran researcher, said in a statement.
The New York-based NGO said that under FIFA’s statutes discrimination on the basis of gender is “strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion”.
“It is long overdue for FIFA to demonstrate that it is serious in enforcing transparent accountability measures,” said Sepehri Far.
There was considerable criticism from within Iran over the lockout, including from Iran’s team captain Alireza Jahanbakhsh, and Mashhad’s governor apologised.
President Ebrahim Raisi on Wednesday instructed the interior ministry to look into the incident.
In January, women were allowed to attend an international for the first time in almost three years, for a World Cup qualifier against Iraq that also saw the Team Melli win its place for the finals in Qatar, the draw for which was taking place on Friday.
A FIFA spokesperson told AFP on Wednesday that it had learned with “concern” of the reports of women being barred after “historic progress” exemplified by the January 2021 match.
“FIFA expects this to continue, as there can be no turning back.”
Pressure on Iran to act had increased since the death in 2019 of female fan Sahar Khodayari — known as the “blue girl” after the colours of her favourite Tehran team Esteghlal — who set herself on fire in fear of being jailed after trying to attend a match in disguise.
Navid Afkari, a 27-year-old wrestler who had won national competitions, was hanged in September 2020 in the southern city of Shiraz after being convicted of committing murder during protests that rocked the city two years before.
He had complained of being tortured into confessing, with methods that included beating and having alcohol squirted up his nose.
Davido is one of the artistes on the FIFA World Cup official soundtrack ‘Hayya Hayya (Better Together)’.
The charts topper took to social media handles on Friday to announce the collaboration.
He tweeted, “I’m honored to be featured on the Official @FIFAWorldCup 2022 Soundtrack ! See y’all later 2NITE ! This one is for Africa ! TULE!!! WE RISE !
“Who dey wamba … we still qualify las las. Pleased to have featured and worked on the official @fifaworldcup Qatar 2022 song with @redone @trinidad @aishaofcl ! Naija no make am but… NAIJA STILL MAKE AM!”
The soundtrack which is titled ‘Hayya Hayya’ also featured Trinidad’s Cardona and Qatar’s Aisha.
“By bringing together voices from the Americas, Africa and the Middle East, this song symbolises how music – and football – can unite the world,” said FIFA Chief Commercial Officer Kay Madati.
A fan, Daniel Regha, reviewed the feature saying “Davido u delivered in the “Hayya Hayya” FIFA World Cup 2022 soundtrack; The synergy between u & ur the other artistes was absolute perfection. Great instrumental, lyrics & video. Reminds one of K’Naan’s timeless ‘Wavin Flag’ song. Kudos to u guys. Indeed we are “Better Together”.”
Lingering divisions over FIFA’s decision to hold the World Cup in Qatar overshadowed the annual congress of football’s world governing body on Thursday, forcing its president Gianni Infantino to insist that the event had already brought change to the Arab state.
Just 235 days from the start of the first World Cup in the Middle East, a rare female voice in international football stood up at the congress to state that awarding the event to Qatar 12 years ago had been “unacceptable” because of its human rights record.
Lise Klaveness, head of the Norwegian football association, said FIFA had to act as a “role model” over human rights and other moral issues such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Debate over Qatar diverted attention from Infantino’s announcement that he would be standing for a new term in 2023 and that FIFA would make a record seven billion dollars in revenue for its 2019-2022 accounting cycle.
Much of that comes from television and marketing revenues linked to the Qatar World Cup but FIFA and the hosts have repeatedly been forced onto the defensive over the event.
Klaveness highlighted human rights in the host country.
“The migrant workers injured or the families of those who died in the build-up to the World Cup must be cared for,” she said in a speech at the end of the carefully choreographed congress when individual federations were allowed to speak out.
– Workers and minority rights –
A handful of workers have died building new World Cup stadiums in the country but international agencies have sought improvements to Qatar’s general labour record.
“There is no room for employers who do not ensure the freedom and safety of World Cup workers,” she added.
All World Cup hosts had to guarantee the rights of gay and transgender people. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar.
Klaveness also accused FIFA leaders of making a “hesitant” response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Russian team has been excluded from the World Cup but the country remains in FIFA. The head of the Ukraine football association sent a video message to the congress. Dressed in a yellow and blue bullet proof vest he vowed his country would “beat the aggressor”.
Klaveness’s comments on Qatar echoed statements made by several European nations and teams ahead of the tournament that runs from November 21 to December 18.
Straight away, Qatar’s organising committee chief Hassan al-Thawadi took to the stage to say he was disappointed that Klaveness had made no attempt to speak with Qatari authorities before speaking out.
He said the first World Cup in the Middle East, would leave “truly transformational social, human, economic and environmental legacies.”
Qatar feels that much of the criticism it has faced has been unfair. It has ended a labour system in which employers could stop migrant workers leaving the country or changing jobs. It has also imposed a minimum wage.
Infantino said Qatar was “no paradise” but that it has made important progress since being awarded the tournament in 2010.
– Infantino to stand for re-election –
He said Qatar has made progress in a few years “that in other countries has taken decades”.
“The only way to provoke positive change is through dialogue and engagement,” he said adding that Qatar would put on “the best World Cup ever”.
FIFA announced on Wednesday that 800,000 of the three million tickets had already been sold. An even bigger surge for the second round of sales is expected after the draw is held in Doha on Friday and fans know who their countries will play against.
The success of the Qatar tournament could play a decisive role in Infantino’s bid for a third term as FIFA president.
“I want to tell you that I will be standing for re-election next year,” Infantino said at the end of the congress.
The 52-year-old Swiss-Italian lawyer was secretary general of European body UEFA before taking over FIFA in 2016 after the corruption scandal that brought down predecessor Sepp Blatter.
FIFA has since tightened its governance and increased the amount of its huge resources given back to national federations.
But the Qatar World Cup and proposals for a World Cup every two years have tested his leadership.
Infantino appeared to backtrack on the biennial tournament which is strongly opposed by Europe and South America, insisting he had only acted on congress instructions to study the feasibility of the idea.
The Super Eagles of Nigeria will battle Ghana for a place at the 2022 World Cup, renewing a long history of rivalry dating back several decades.
The rivalry between the West Africans stretches beyond sports. Both nations pride themselves as the best maker of jollof rice, the red and spicy cuisine. While the banters and debates over jollof rice would not be ending soon, at least one of the countries will be absent at the global showpiece later in the year.
Nigeria travel to Ghana for the first leg of the double-header as the Super Eagles seek to banish the disappointments of a shocking exit from the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in February.
The 1994 continental champions were eliminated by Tunisia in the Round of 16 despite an impressive start to the tournament. They had won all three group games – the only team to do so – but in an anti-climax, slumped to the Carthage Eagles who struggled to finish as one of the third-best placed countries.
Although Nigeria went to the AFCON missing top players like Napoli’s Victor Osimhen and the experienced Odion Ighalo, barring the absence of influential midfielder, Wilfred Ndidi, the coaching crew has a full complement of players to pick from.
Ademola Lookman’s invitation is also expected to boost the attacking options for the three-time AFCON winners. The Leicester City winger only recently switched nationality to Nigeria after playing for England at age-grade levels.
Rangers Leon Balogun and Dennis Emmanuel of Watford are also back on the team after they missed the AFCON. Former Arsenal star Alex Iwobi is suspended. Goalkeeper Maduka Okoye has been ruled out due to illness and was replaced by John Noble.
The continental powerhouse made it to the playoffs after topping a group that included Cape Verde, needing just a draw in their last game to book a date with Ghana. And following the AFCON ouster, Nigeria rejigged their backroom staff, adding ex-winger Emmanuel Amunike to the roster.
Ahead of the game, Nigeria’s coach Austine Eguaveon said his boys are ready to face Ghana, insisting that they will give their best.
“All we have as our goal now is to put in all efforts and cross the line, qualify for the World Cup in Qatar,” he told the CAF website.
“It’s a special game indeed, it’s the final game of the qualifiers, the first and the second leg determines our place in the World Cup in Qatar, but I guarantee we are well prepared, every member of the team is working round the clock as Ghana is not a pushover. They are a very strong team and our matches with them have been explosive, this time, we are bringing the game on again.”
Having struggled in recent games, culminating in a horrifying AFCON outing where they crashed out in the group stage with just one point, Nigeria’s opponent will head into the tie expecting a reversal of fortunes.
The Black Stars qualified for the playoffs following a controversial victory over South Africa in the last game of the previous qualification round.
But a woeful outing in Cameroon ended in a humiliating loss to lowly-placed Comoros. In the wake of the crash, Ghana sacked their Serbian coach Milovan Rajevac and appointed former player Otto Addo. Otto, who is one of the second team coaches at Borussia Dortmund, is assisted by a former Newcastle manager Chris Hughton for the two games.
Several players who featured at the AFCON were not invited for the tie. Instead, six players including AS Roma youngster Felix Afena-Gyan were handed their debut call-ups. Fulham defender Denis Odoi and Hearts of Oak star Dennis Korsah also got their maiden call-ups.
Ghanaian skipper Andre Ayew is absent due to a suspension. In his stead, Arsenal midfielder Thomas Partey is expected to inspire the Black Stars to victory over their perennial rivals.
Despite the team’s poor run of form, Addo says Ghana can book a ticket to the competition. Games between Nigeria and Ghana are “difficult” but with support and “strategies”, the Black Stars will land in Qatar, the coach maintained.
“We all expect Ghana to qualify for the FIFA World Cup (Qatar 2022) but that won’t be easy as we need to do our best to make it to this tournament,” Addo said in an interview with the CAF website.
“Matches between Ghana and Nigeria are always difficult but we believe in our players, we believe in our strategies, and we believe in the unflinching support of all Ghanaians as we go into these two matches.”
Ghana Vs Nigeria: Head To Head, Team Form
🇬🇭 Ghana 🆚 Nigeria 🇳🇬 🏟 Baba Yara Stadium 🏆 The first leg of the #WCQ final round 📅 March 25 🕓 19:30 GMT
In their last five matches, the Super Eagles have drawn one, lost another but were victorious on three occasions. For Ghana, however, their last five games have resulted in three defeats, one draw, and a victory.
The four-time African champions have met Nigeria 56 times with the former triumphing in 25 games while their opponents have only won 12. There are 19 draws between the sides.
Nigeria have qualified six times for the World Cup, just one shy of Cameroon, the only African team that have participated the most in the competition. Ghana have played thrice at the World Cup but missed out on the 2018 edition in Russia.
Time For Nigeria, Ghana Match
The first leg of the fixture between Ghana and Nigeria will take place by 8:30 pm (WAT) at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi on Friday. Four days later, Tuesday, the second leg will hold at the MKO Abiola Stadium in Abuja, Nigeria. This will kick off by 06:00 pm (WAT/Nigerian time).
Nigeria’s U-20 women’s team, the Falconets are confident about picking a ticket to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Costa Rica when they host Senegal in Benin City.
This year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup will take place in Costa Rica in August.
Forward Flourish Sebastine scored a hat-trick in the first leg before the home team earned and put away a penalty in the final seconds, for a 3-1 victory for Nigeria. The Falconets have finished as runners-up at two editions of the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup, in 2010 and 2014, and reached the semi-finals in 2012.
The Senegalese delegation arrived in Nigeria on Thursday morning, and would be flown to Benin City on Friday. The match will kick-off by 4pm at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium on Saturday.
To reach this final stage, the Falconets humiliated their counterparts from Central African Republic 11-0 on aggregate, before beating Republic of Congo 4-0 in Brazzaville in a third round, first leg match. The result discouraged the Congolese from flying to Nigeria for the second leg.
In the fourth round, the Falconets outclassed Cameroon’s Young Lionesses 3-0 on aggregate.
Meanwhile, the Confederation of African Football has appointed officials from Eswatini to take charge of Saturday’s encounter. Letticia Antonella Viana will be referee, with compatriots Cosma Nxumalo (assistant referee 1), Patricia Mkhaliph (assistant referee 2) and Rebeccah Tencwala Soko (fourth official) also involved. The match commissioner is Aisha Nalule from Uganda.
Ten players including Ahmed Musa have arrived at the Super Eagles camp in Abuja as of 6:00 pm ahead of the team’s 2022 World Cup playoffs with Ghana.
The team confirmed their arrival in a tweet on Monday evening, hours after most of them finished their club engagements.
“Update! Stand up and greet Senior Man Kelz…Kelechi Iheanacho has hit camp….10 players in camp now…William Troost-Ekong, Leon Balogun, Semi Ajayi, Ola Aina, Frank Onyeka, Odion Ighalo, Daniel Akpeyi, Ahmed Musa, Oghenekaro Etebo, Kelechi Iheanacho,” the tweet read.
The team is still expecting new boy, Ademola Lookman, and others with reports suggesting that the Leicester City star is sick and hopes of featuring in the double-header still hanging.
Already, the three-time African champions are without Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi who picked up an injury in his side’s Europa Conference League tie with Rennes last week.
But in-form strikers, Victor Osimhen and Odion Ighalo are back in the squad. The players missed the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) earlier in the year due to injury and club commitments. Watford’s Dennis Emmanuel is also expected to hit the camp following his absence from the biennial continental competition held in neigbouring Cameroon.
Nigeria will travel to Ghana for the first leg of the encounter billed for Friday 25th March while the return fixture takes place in Abuja the following Tuesday.
Qualification for the Super Eagles will be a huge compensation to the teeming Nigerians fans who were disappointed after the team’s ouster from the AFCON despite an impressive start to the competition.
Coach Austine Eguaveon is also expecting to join the list of gaffers that have gotten a World Cup ticket for Nigeria.
The 2022 World Cup will take place in Qatar from November. Four other countries will join the winner of the Nigeria/Ghana clash as Africa’s representatives in the Asian country.
His replacement made his debut for the Nigerian side in September. That was in a World Cup qualifier against Cape Verde which Nigeria won. Since joining Lorient in the January transfer from Swedish side, Malmo, Bonke has played in seven league games.
The first leg of the encounter will take place in Ghana on March 25 while the return fixture hold four days later in Abuja. The winner of the play-off will join four other teams to fly Africa’s flag at the 2022 World billed for Qatar later in November.