ABUJA (AFP) – Nigeria's government on Monday lifted a two-year ban it imposed on its national football team after a dismal World Cup showing, avoiding a collision with world governing body FIFA in the process.
The government issued a statement saying the country's football federation apologised to the president and informed him that the national team would be disbanded with the aim of building a new one.
|Nigeria's defender Rabiu Afolabi (R) and teammates look dejecting after being knocked out of the World Cup by South Korea. AFP|
"Based on these assurances, and the appeals of well-meaning Nigerians, including former leaders, President (Goodluck) Jonathan has decided to review the earlier two-year ban on the country from all international football competitions," it said.
Nigeria last Wednesday slapped a two-year ban from international competition on the squad after the traditional African powerhouse finished bottom of their group in South Africa with just one point from three matches.
Jonathan also ordered an audit into how the funds allocated for the team at the World Cup were used.
But the move led to an angry reaction from FIFA, which takes a dim view of political interference in the sport.
FIFA gave Nigeria until 1600 GMT on Monday to reverse the decision or face "the suspension of the Nigerian (football) federation."
FIFA confirmed that it had been informed of Nigeria's change of heart.
"The Nigerian Government has today confirmed in a letter to FIFA that it revokes its decision to withdraw Nigeria's participation in all FIFA and CAF (Confederation of African Football) organised competitions of the next two years," said a statement.
"In addition, the Nigerian Government also recognises the currently elected executive of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF). Therefore, the NFF remains vested with all its statutory rights."
Over the weekend, the Nigerian federation sacked three of its top executives and appealed to Jonathan to reverse the ban.
The remaining nine federation executive members pledged to "address the maladministration" of Nigerian football.
But while the ban by the Nigerian government drew criticism from some in the oil-rich country who considered it too harsh, others said drastic moves were needed to move the programme forward.