FIFA, football, civil courts

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[FILE PHOTO] FIFA president Gianni Infantino gives thumbs up during a press conference at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 13, 2018, two days before the Russia 2018 World Cup final football match between France and Croatia. / AFP PHOTO / Jewel SAMAD

Am I the only one thinking this way? There is something not quite clear about the issue of whether some football matters can be taken to a civil court or not.

Nigeria has been threatened several times with a ban because certain stakeholders had taken internal matters within their federation to a civil court.

The usual ‘refrain’ by a school of thought has always been that football matters should never be taken to court or else a country’s FA will be banned or sanctioned.

Yet, here we are, a third division club in Belgium has taken FIFA to a Belgian civil court, over the rule imposed by FIFA of a ban on third party ownership of players.

Plus the decision of a Belgian Appeal Court challenging the blanket power of the Court of Sports Arbitration (CAS) (as result of the same matter) to have exclusive jurisdiction over all football matters. The appeal court says such exclusivity is illegitimate.

I am waiting anxiously for FIFA’s reaction.

Will FIFA ban the Belgium club, or the Belgian Football Federation that ‘allowed’ the matter to be taken to a civil court.

Or will FIFA abide by the judgment of the European civil court?

Bosman’s celebrated case several years ago comes to mind – a European court’s decision on international transfer of players in Europe became binding on FIFA and has impacted the issue of player transfers all over the world since then.

If FIFA does nothing, it will be a confirmation that the body is biased against Nigeria, and selective in its application of its own rule that says that NO football matters shall be taken to a civil court for settlement, and that the decision of CAS is final on all such matters.

George Weah’s Testimonial Match – Nigeria Must Do Same

Last weekend, the Super Eagles of Nigeria played an international friendly match against the Lone Stars of Liberia in Monrovia.

For the first time in several years, George Opong Weah, former captain of the Liberian national team, former African, European and World Player of the year, dusted his boots, wore the colours of his national team and returned to the football field.

The surprise is that he is now 54 years of age, has been retired for almost two decades and is now the President of his country, the Federal Republic of Liberia.

The game was a testimonial match arranged in honour of one of the greatest players to come out of Africa, and to officially mark his final exit from football.

Usually at the end of an illustrious career, players considered to have achieved legendary status, or have contributed immensely to their club or national team, are accorded this final ceremonial football match, with proceeds from it going either to the players directly, or to a charitable cause or causes of their choice.

This was George’s way of reminding his country men and women that he was not accorded one such ceremony when he left the game. He actually played in the match.

Incidentally, the match reminded me about something I had always wanted to do through the decades but never did.

I guess the time has come to put together a testimonial match for a whole generation of players of the decade between 1970 and 1980, a defining period not just in Nigeria’s sports but in the political history of the country as a whole.

In sports, this was the decade of proper development and achievement, a foundation-laying period for the possibilities of what Nigeria could accomplish and achieve through sports, particularly after the painful Civil War that ended in 1970.

The country established the National Sports Commission and the National Institute of Sports, organized the Second All Africa Games, led the African boycott of the Olympic Games in a politically-motivated protest, organised the first National Sports Festival using sports to unite the youths of the country after the Civil War and hosted its first African Cup of Nations.

In football, in particular, during the decade, Nigeria won the All Africa Games football gold in 1973, won continental African football Club championship two times consecutively in 1976 and 1977, went to two Olympics games in 1976 and 1980, and won the country’s first African football championship to cap 1980.

None of the great superstar players of that entire decade was ever honoured with a proper football testimonial match to celebrate and to mark their exit from the game.

So, I am thinking. These players laid the foundation upon which the country has become a global football phenomenon.

These players deserve some kind of ceremonial event to send them forth. Too late to do the individual testimonials, but nothing says we cannot be inventive and do a collective testimonial with those who are still privileged and lucky to be alive.

In two years’ time it will be 40 years since the end of that era.