FIFA has warned Nigeria that it could lose the hosting rights to this year’s U-17 world championship unless it improves its preparations for the event. (Getty Images)

 Nigeria has been warned by FIFA that it will be stripped of the hosting rights for this year’s world under-17 championship unless there’s a marked improvement in preparations.

FIFA Vice President Jack Warner this week conducted an inspection visit to the West African nation, reporting that just two of nine venues were close to readiness for the tournament, scheduled for October 24 – November 15.

Warner delivered a damning assessment of Nigeria’s ability to host the event, but says he’ll recommend a one-month grace period for work on venues to show signs of significant improvement.

“When the grace period expires, FIFA will return to visit the venues and if each and every one of them does not reach the 100 percent readiness level that we expect, then FIFA will withdraw the tournament hosting rights from Nigeria and go to another country,” Warner told journalists in Lagos.

“Frankly, from an objective point of view, Nigeria is not ready to host the tournament.”

Only stadiums in Abuja and Lagos are considered by FIFA to be nearly ready for the tournament. Two other proposed venues have been struck off the list while the FIFA delegation did not visit the stadium in Warri because of security concerns.

The situation is disappointing for FIFA President Sepp Blatter, a key proponent of the plan to allow the African continent to host both world junior championships in 2009, to reinforce the legacy of South Africa’s 2010 World Cup .

But Blatter’s proposals were met with little enthusiasm by African countries, with FIFA receiving few formal bids for the under-20 and under-17 events.

Eventually, Egypt and Nigeria, who have both previously staged such events, were persuaded to host again because of an absence of suitable candidates.

FIFA Turns 105

Celebrating its 105th year as football’s global governing body, FIFA has reflected on its rich organizational history and some of the outstanding sporting personalities that have lifted football to become the world’s dominant sport.

Recent research was cited by FIFA to demonstrate the importance of the game to the average person.

“A study conducted in England last month found that almost 60 percent of men think about football for over one hour each day. This addiction is not exclusive to those born in the birthplace or football, or indeed to men,” FIFA says.

And of course, when paying tribute to the enormity of the sport, there must also be a mention of its most famous disciples and greatest sportsmen, Brazil’s Pele.

“Football is the greatest sport in the world,” Pele explains. “It’s a global obsession embraced by men, women and children. It’s the beautiful game.”

Pele is but one of the countless sources of infectious magic that have transformed football into the fixation it has become today, FIFA says, noting there were many other

Brazillian football legend Pele is among the figures who have contributed to the development of FIFA, which celebrates its 105th year as the sport’s global governing body. (Getty Images)

players, including Ferenc Puskas, Johann Cruyff and Zinedine Zidane.

FIFA’s stroll down memory lane goes on to highlight matches including Portugal-Korea DPR and Germany-Italy at the respective FIFA World Cups of 1966 and 2006 and the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2007 final between AC Milan and Boca Juniors.

When it comes to memorable goals, the one scored by Argentina’s Diego Maradona following an exceptional dribble against England at 1986 World Cup finals in Mexico and Rabah Madjer’s goal for Porto against Bayern Munich in the European Cup final one year later.

While these inspirational character and moment are often taken for granted, FIFA says that had it not been for the foundation of a governing body, millions upon millions of enthusiasts the world over may not have had the chance to “revel in football’s incomparable splendour.”

“Football brings people and groups together,” FIFA President Sepp Blatter says. “It can break barriers and give people hope. It is a wonderful source of entertainment and emotion that represents over one billion people.”

FIFA President “Saddened” by Hooliganism

FIFA President Sepp Blatter says he’s “saddened” and “disappointed” at recent football violence in Switzerland.

He was referring to two incidents in less than a week which fans engaged in pitched battles with law enforcement officers.

Ten people were injured and 64 arrested mid-week when fighting broke out before and after the Swiss Cup Final in Bern.
Last Sunday twelve people were arrested after a riot following a match between FC Zurich and Basel.

Brazillian football star Matuzalem and Real Zaragosa were ordered to play Shakhtar Donetsk almost $16.5 million for breach of contract. (Getty Images)

Blatter says urgent measures must be enacted to prevent such crowd disturbances and suggested eliminating standing-only places in stadiums with seated areas as a means of maintaining a calm atmosphere among fans.

Brazilian Player Sued for Contract Breach

Brazilian Matuzalem and Real Zaragoza have been ordered this week by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to pay Shakhtar Donetsk almost $16.5 million for breach of contract.

The midfielder kicked off a five-year stint with the Ukrainian club in 2004 but in mid-2007 told Shakhtar he was unilaterally terminating the contract. He later joined Spain’s Zaragoza before moving to Italy’s Lazio on loan this season.

Shakhtar took the matter to FIFA, demanding payment of $35 million, the figure the contract stated would need to be paid should the contract be terminated early.

The case ended up at CAS with the player and Zaragoza arguing Shakhtar should only receive $3.22 million and the Swiss-based court decided on an in-between figure, deducting the salary amounts Shakhtar have not had to pay, among other factors.

“Real Zaragoza is jointly and severally liable for the payment of the aforementioned amount,” the CAS statement said.

Written by Anthony Stavrinos
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