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July 2, 2010

FIFA looking into Nigeria ban

Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG -- FIFA will suspend Nigeria from world soccer unless the country's government overturns its ban on the national team by Monday.

FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot said FIFA will contact the government by letter on Friday to tell Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan he has until Monday evening to back down on his threat to pull the Nigerian soccer federation out of international competition for two years.

"Failure to do so will result in the suspension of the NFF," Maingot said.

FIFA rules protect soccer from government intervention, with power to suspend members who do not manage their affairs independently.

National and club teams also cannot play in international competitions and soccer officials are barred from attending meetings.

Jonathan said Wednesday that he was banning the team and dissolving the NFF management board after the country's first-round exit from the World Cup.

He also ordered a probe into alleged financial corruption at the federation.

Maingot said FIFA will not recognize an interim management team sent in by the government to run the federation.

Nigeria's representative on the 24-member FIFA executive committee, Amos Adamu, also will be in his home country on Monday for last-minute mediation.

Nigeria was knocked out of the World Cup in South Africa last week after losing two of its first-round matches and scraping a 2-2 draw with South Korea.

The Super Eagles, one of a record six African teams at the tournament, finished last in Group B, while Argentina and South Korea advanced.

Maingot insisted that the Nigeria dispute should not distract from what could be a historic day for African soccer. Ghana plays Uruguay in the quarterfinals Friday, attempting to become the first African team to reach the final four at a World Cup.

Nigerian sports minister Ibrahim Bio could not be reached for comment Friday, though local newspapers quoted him as saying Nigeria would move forward with Jonathan's ban regardless of FIFA's actions.

"My friend, you cannot have cancer and continue to live with it because you don't want to spill the blood," Bio said Thursday. "We are ready to spill blood to remove the cancer."

Jonathan became president in May after the death of elected leader Umaru Yar'Adua, and has been gathering public support after promising to change a government widely considered as one of the world's most corrupt.

By ordering a probe into the soccer federation, Jonathan has picked a highly visible target.

"Football gets Nigerians drunk and helps them forget their sorrows, forget that the roads are bad and there is no electricity," columnist Victor Ehikhamenor wrote in Friday's edition of the Lagos-based NEXT newspaper. "They are living substandard, below-the-breadline lives while our thieving leaders build castles in space."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press