NIGERIAN football made the headlines worldwide for all the wrong reasons in the few weeks – a 146-goal score from two matches shattered all known records.
The four clubs involved, from obscurity, have grabbed global and an unfavourable FIFA interest in Nigerian football.
Two of the teams, Police Machine FC of Adamawa and Plateau United Feeders were contesting a decisive amateur division four league tie; the winner would have been promoted. They were tied on points going into the game, but United had a goal advantage. The story was that at half time Police were leading 1-0. A few phone calls began the race for goals.
Both teams knew their fate revolved on who scored more goals. The phone calls monitored efforts of each team until the games were stopped at Plateau United Feeders 70, Akurba FC of Nasarawa 0; Police Machine 67, Babayaro FC of Gombe 0.
Calls for the punishment of the teams involved and their officials were instant. The Nigeria Football Association, NFA, seems to have acted fast in banning the clubs, their officials, and the players for life. Really it is a 10-year ban, which making room for age and interests would effectively keep those involved in this bizarre affair away from football.
The ban should serve as a deterrent to others who are planning to fix matches. It should also be an eye opener to those managing the game about its wrong growth.
Would there have been suspicions of match-fixing if the goal margins were lean? How would NFA deter clubs from using technology to fix games in other matches that hold premium interests, especially promotions and possible cash rewards? Would the NFA be content with resolving this scandal or commence measures to deal with match fixing before it becomes endemic?
Fears abound that the NFA would be unable to implement the ban on the players and their officials. Does the ban “from sporting activities” extend to other sports? The silence on the match officials – referees and match commissioner is ominous.
They too should be punished. The sanction for the NFA co-ordinator of the Bauchi the centre should be transparently decided; referring him to the amateur league board is inadequate.
The responsibility for enforcing the punishments lies with the NFA. It has to secure the records of the offenders, including their biometrics (photographs are not enough) and store them in a secured facility. NFA cannot shift the responsibility to security agencies that have more spanning concerns than the fidelity of football results.
Bauchi should alert the NFA about match fixing and the urgent demands of fixing it, quickly and quietly to avoid extinction of our remaining football assets.