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Nigerian theatre of the absurd

It just cannot be true. There is a story making the rounds about two football matches that took place in Nigeria and ended up with basketball scores. It must not be true. Which sane society would allow such a disgraceful act to be perpetrated?

Yet, it is all over the national, international and social media that two football matches actually took place and ended up with score-lines that make the word ‘ridiculous’ look like an understatement.

It is reported that four football clubs in the Nationwide League in Nigeria, playing to secure promotion or to avoid relegation, were made to play their last matches simultaneously to avoid the possibility of collusion between the clubs. What actually happened during the match was nothing short of the worst kind of scandal conceivable. The two matches ended with 79-0 and 67-0 score-lines.

How could such scores ever have come up in a regular football match? Unfortunately, it is only in Nigeria that such could take place.

This is a country blessed with abundant natural physical and human resources that are wasting away like beautiful flowers in the desert through self-inflicted practices that result, often, in squandered opportunities.

Elections are never transparent, free and fair; match officials are often compromised through bribery; several games are fixed; players are ‘slaves’ (either underpaid or not paid at all); league fixtures are unstable and the season drags on endlessly; club and players’ documents are hardly ever authentic; age-falsification by players is an acceptable practice; the list of absurdities is long and ugly.

Everyone knows that Nigeria’s full potential in football can never be achieved if things remain the same. We thought things were improving slowly and then this.

The tragedy of all this is that no one is ever held culpable for this state of affairs. Life just goes on regardless of the extent of damage done to the game.

How bad can a football team be for it to concede 79 goals in one match? In Nigeria there were not one but two such teams, so ‘bad’ that they conceded over 140 goals between them in only two matches played simultaneously. These are the total number of goals some clubs score in a whole season.

It is simply ridiculous.

The reports from the match revealed that the four teams were monitoring results of each other via telephone and were acting out a script to out-score each other in the race between them for promotion. What happened as a result is better imagined.

The spectators, match officials, security agencies, and everyone at both venues watched as every rule and ethic in football was denigrated, desecrated and thrown to the dogs with reckless impunity and abandon.

It is a complete sham and a farce. It is the ultimate disgrace for Nigerian football that any such matches could have taken place with the active connivance of all those involved and the world has not collapsed around the perpetrators. I hear that only suspensions have been meted to the clubs and the match officials. That is a slap on the wrist as far as I am concerned.

These are the facts: the matches took place between four clubs that must have registered owners; the matches must have been organised and supervised by a State FA; the matches must have had a match commissioner and referees appointed by the organisers.

How could all these people have allowed whatever happened to happen if they were not complicit in the whole arrangement?

To me this ‘small’ act in one little corner of Nigeria was just a microcosm of the state of Nigerian football. It was the worst advertisement for Nigerian football administration.

The owners of the clubs, the venue where the match was played, all the match officials involved from the State FA to the match commissioner and match referees should have been history by now – banished forever from any place or activity that ‘smells’ football in Nigeria and put behind bars for life.

That way they can start to appreciate the incalculable damage their stupid act has done to a country that is struggling to panelbeat its poor image around the world. What a shame!

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