By Adebayo Williams
Minister of Youth and Sport, Solomon Dalung, stirred controversy when he bluntly stated that the country was too poor to play in the FIFA World Cup in 2018. Dalung also attacked FIFA saying the body was corrupt and full of conspiracy. He said it was better if the country played in the Nations Cup, Olympics and Commonwealth Games.
“That competition stinks of corruption; that Nigeria is too poor to waste money on it and that Nigeria would never win the trophy”.
“The cup that we can win is the African Cup of Nations. There is nothing again that will take us to another man’s balcony in the name of the World Cup. We already have the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics. For these, we can attend such meets. But I am opposed to the World Cup. We don’t agree to it. Conspiracy in the World Cup is too much,”
Dalung also said FIFA President Gianni Infantino had been urged to consider appointing Africans in key positions. He stated that Infantino’s appointment of an African as Secretary-General was comparable to rubbing honey on the continent’s lips.
“There is the issue of bribery and favouritism. There is also the issue of corruption before you are even given the hosting rights. We are here suffering from hunger and we don’t have money for such things. That is why, even if we try many times, once it gets into the politics of the game, we can never win.
“That was why this year, we had to tackle him (FIFA President, Ginani Infantino) and we said, ‘you , Infantino, if you win this election, you have to give us a position. If not, we shall not agree.’ And you see , by the grace of God, he even picked an African as his Secretary-General. That means he has started taking honey and rubbing on our lips. That means that one day, we shall get to really lick the honey.”
Observers have said the comments, which he made on Voice of America’s Hausa service, could fetch the country sanctions from the world governing body. Dalung was fingered in the leadership tussle between Amaju Pinnick and Chris Giwa that rocked the Nigeria Football Federation. The minister was accused of pleading with Pinnick’s board to hand Giwa’s some appointments ignoring the fact that all NFF officials are elected.