Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan recently stirred up the sporting news world when he declared that his country’s national team, the Super Eagles, would suffer a two year ban from competition due to their poor results in the World Cup. The proclamation was not only a bold one, but an illegal one as well.
FIFA has a rule written in its bylaws that prohibits any national team from being controlled, suspended, or sentenced by a political figure. So about a week back the Nigerian government agreed to back off on their original punishment due to the fact that FIFA claimed they would suspend the nation for even longer if they went through with the plan.
And for some reason politics and football continue to mingle together even though it is quite obvious to sports fans that one of the two subjects has no place in the World Cup. Countless times a government has branded it’s team a disappointment or suggested that they do things differently. In North Korea there was a rumor spreading claiming that their national team would be forced to work in coal mines due to their poor showing.
Where do you draw the line here and how do you keep politicians away from the games that we love? We certainly don’t allow linebackers to blitz into the House of Congress, so why let some batty president decide the fate of 100’s of athletes and a national team?
The trend in sports and politics is an ugly one because it appears that after many centuries, political figures will always remain a part of sports. And in a few cases (like major league baseball) it is good for politicians to get involved and regulate what’s going on from a legal perspective, but in the World Cup several of the world’s leaders take each match way too personally and act much like a proud parent would when rooting for their nation.
They need to remember (just like those parents out there) it’s just a game.