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FIFA not yet ready to act on Nigeria interference

sports Updated: Jul 01, 2010 20:46 IST

FIFA is studying a report from Nigeria before possibly taking action against the country for government interference following the team's first-round exit at the World Cup. Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan ordered the team on Wednesday to sit out international competition for two years as punishment for its poor showing.

FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot said Thursday that Nigeria's government has told FIFA about the ban.

"We have been now officially informed of that and we are looking at this case," Maingot said at a daily World Cup briefing. "We need a little bit of time."

FIFA rules demand that national federations manage their affairs independently or face suspension from world football. National and club teams then cannot play in international competitions, and football officials are barred from attending meetings. "This is clearly outlined in the FIFA statutes," said Maingot, but adding that "we are not at the step of taking sanctions." Earlier this week, FIFA president Sepp Blatter restated his disapproval of politicians meddling in football's affairs when asked about a French government inquiry into the team's shambolic display at the World Cup.

Blatter said football officials "can really rely on FIFA in case of political interference - even if it is at the presidential level."

Nigerian lawmakers intervened Thursday to try to stave off possible exile from world football.

The House of Representatives passed a resolution calling on the president to rescind the ban, while also asking a legislative committee to follow the French example and open an investigation into the World Cup performance.

On Wednesday, a presidential spokesman said the government will also investigate corruption allegations surrounding the football federation.

All funds directed toward the federation would be examined and "all those found wanting will be sanctioned," spokesman Ima Niboro said.

Nigeria is scheduled to receive prize money of $8 million (euro6.5 million) from FIFA for participating in the World Cup. Nigerian Football Federation spokesman Ademola Olajire said on Thursday that policemen came into their offices in Abuja after Jonathan announced his decision to pull the team from international matches.

However, Olajire said the officers came after they received information about an anti-government protest planned at the office. Olajire said the federation remained open for business and that officials had yet to receive any communication from the government. Other leaders at the federation declined to speak with an AP reporter.

Spokesmen for Nigeria's federal police force and its chief anti-corruption agency denied Thursday that their organizations raided the football federation. They also said they had no knowledge of any ongoing investigation.

Known as the Super Eagles, Nigeria was eliminated from the World Cup with only one point after a 2-2 draw with South Korea in its last game.

Nigeria lost to Argentina 1-0 in its Group B opener, and was beaten 2-1 by Greece in a game that turned on the first-half red card to its midfielder Sani Kaita.

Nigeria is next scheduled to play in early September, at home to Madagascar in a qualifier for the 2012 African Cup of Nations. A standoff between the government and football's governing body could threaten Nigeria's place in the FIFA-run Under-20 Women's World Cup, which kicks off July 13 in Germany.

Nigerian club side Heartland also could lose its spot in the African Champions League. Heartland is one of eight teams to reach the group stage of the continental competition, and is scheduled to host Egypt's Al-Ahly in two weeks' time.

The dispute has arisen despite Nigeria being represented on FIFA's ruling executive committee. Amos Adamu has had a seat on the powerful 24-man body since 2006.