I do not favour politicians getting involved in sports, either in their clear political roles or as benefactors who happen to be politicians. The wielding of power is corrupting. However, I have seen in several recent instances that governments and politicians have decided that some sporting activity at the national level has become so bad--read 'embarrassing'--that they have felt compelled to intervene. The latest such keeling back in horror comes during the current FIFA World Cup 2010, being held in South Africa. Nigeria did not play well and the team did not pass the group stage and have headed home. No starry welcome, I'm afraid, after the team lost to Argentina and Greece, but salvaged a point against South Korea. The economist side of me laughed heartily when I saw this group, which could have been labelled the 'group of economic crises past and present'. But newly appointed Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, has seen nothing funny and (see Guardian report) and banned the national team from international events for two years 'to enable Nigeria to reorganise its football'. Not for them the rumoured working in coal mines that await the North Korean team.
FIFA, not the most enlightened of organizations, has a thing about political interference--it does not abide it--and will be reviewing this matter carefully. FIFA's president, Sepp Blatter, is already putting his beady eyes on the French government's investigation into France's first-round exit from the World Cup. But Nigeria risks being banned by FIFA from all international football because of the government action. I know, that sounds like what the president has done. But, when FIFA does it, it means it really is not politically motivated but for the integrity of football. Like when it suspends referees who seemed to have been slacking on the job. Do not ask if FIFA's decision, when taken, will be reviewed in camera. We know it wont be reviewed on camera, and no replays will be available on screen.
We poor suffering souls in the Caribbean, may want to take a leaf from our cousins in west Africa, and get our governments to slap a ban from international competition on the West Indies team after their string of woeful performances. Limbo like me, is the team motto: how low can you go? Some would suggest that they be sent to North Korean and do a bit of soul searching while hunting for lumps of coal.
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