Playhouse 90

I'm sure Bill will tear into this, or something like it, but if you've ever wondered why FIFA has so much power, the suspension of the Nigerian federation is a terrific object lesson.  You see, FIFA has a rule preventing government interference in the national soccer federations, because they don't want the game to become politicized.  I could live to be a trillion and never write a funnier sentence. 

Seriously, this press release should be taught in schools. 

The FIFA Emergency Committee has decided today, 9 July 2014, to suspend the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) with immediate effect, on account of government interference. Article 13, par. 1 and article 17, par. 1 of the FIFA Statutes oblige member associations to manage their affairs independently and with no influence from third parties.

The decision follows a letter sent by FIFA to the NFF on 4 July 2014, in which it expressed its great concern after the NFF was served with court proceedings and consequently an order preventing the president of the NFF, the NFF Executive Committee members and the NFF Congress from running the affairs of Nigerian football was granted by a High Court of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The said court order compelled the Nigerian Minister of Sports to appoint a senior member of the civil service to manage the NFF until the matter was heard in court, without giving any date for such a hearing. The authorities then appointed a person who decided to convene an extraordinary general assembly on 5 July 2014. This extraordinary general assembly was convened in violation of the NFF statutes.

Originally, an elective congress had been planned by the NFF to take place on 26 August 2014.

The suspension will be lifted once the court actions have been withdrawn and the properly elected NFF Executive Committee, the NFF general assembly and the NFF administration are able to work without any interference in their affairs.

As a result of this decision, no team from Nigeria of any sort (including clubs) can have any international sporting contact (art. 14 par. 3 of the FIFA Statutes). During the period of suspension, the NFF may not be represented in any regional, continental or international competitions, including at club level, or in friendly matches. The most immediate effect is that Nigeria will not be entitled to participate in the upcoming FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup (5-24 August 2014) should the suspension not be lifted by 15 July 2014.

In addition, neither the NFF nor any of its members or officials may benefit from any FIFA or CAF development programmes, courses or training during the suspension period.

Did you know there was such a thing as the FIFA Emergency Committee?  Are you now wondering where they've been when regarding things like, to pick a couple of examples entirely at random, racism, bribery, and inadequate infrastructure of World Cup host nations?  It is enlightening to see how fast FIFA can move when their power is challenged. 

This is an organization that is not intercoursing around.  They have assigned General Ulysses Grant and Alaric the Goth to the negotiating team. 

Oh, did FIFA not explain WHY they were dropping Mjolnir on Nigeria? You will undoubtedly be astonished to learn that it was corruption:

The dissolved Aminu Maigairi-led Nigeria Football Federation board’s lack of transparency in dealing with players of the Super Eagles led to frequent collision course and national embarrassment as witnessed during  the ongoing World Cup in Brazil.

Speaking against the backdrop of the crisis rocking the nation’s football house, Sports Minister, Dr Tamuno Danagogo gave the hint, just as he underlined government’s position after Wednesday’s executive council meeting. 

“What government is doing is demanding a level of accountability from those running football business in the polity especially, if you consider how much that has been pumped into football in this country.

“You don’t expect government to commit millions of naira into football and in the end keep quiet because, of the much-trumpeted non-interference of government clause,” Danagogo said.

Dr. Tanagogo had previously said that FIFA would not sanction Nigeria over this issue, so, um, whoops.

I understand the motivations behind FIFA wanting to be independent of every tin-pot dictator and grafting bureaucrat on the planet...except FIFA treats with such dictators and bureaucrats literally every day.  The genius behind these rules is that FIFA has simply declared themselves above law - any law.  All without any armies, mints, industrial production, resources, or anything legal or tangible to back it up.  Emperor Norton would be proud.

Anyway, World Cup Final.  It's a rematch of the 1990 Final, which was, by common consent, the worst athletic endeavor anyone ever had the misfortune to watch.  Chris Taylor in Mashable dug up the corpse of that game to throw rocks at it, and if anything he was too gentle:

Picture the worst soccer match you've ever seen. Make it more boring than Wednesday's Argentina-Netherlands semi-final clash, more one-sided than Tuesday's Brazil-Germany matchup — just without the goals.

Fill it with more cynical fouls than the 2010 World Cup final when the Netherlands tried to kick Spain to shreds, and more outrageous play-acting than this video full of dives, then throw in the most dismal refereeing performance in history.

You're getting close to visualizing how much of a crime against humanity the last World Cup final between Germany and Argentina was.

The context of that game is frighteningly familiar.  There were great feelings about that tournament before the final game.  Costa Rica had its best run ever to that point.  Cameroon was a revelation.  So were the Republic of Ireland, who sent planeloads of delightful and delighted fans, and whose team received a welcome that literally upstaged Nelson Mandela. 

It wasn't all a direct parallel - England were terrific and fun to watch, for pretty much the last time ever.  And the United States was a forgotten afterthought.  Even the hooliganism wasn't as big an issue as feared, although Pete Davies' book "All Played Out" "credits" some heavy-handed police work (itself a harbinger). 

Argentina started off the 1990 tournament by losing to Cameroon - inspiring the Sun's legendary "Loony Roons Bargy Argies" headline - but then refused to die.  For those of you celebrating the United States and its refusal to give up, no matter what the circumstances - Argentina '90 was that ethos taken to its absurd extreme.  Even in 1990, Maradona's sad end was entirely predictable, already a shell of his former self leading a team of cynical desperadoes.  Then-West Germany were itself a team nearly devoid of charm, save for a diving prima donna named Klinsmann something-or-other.  Argentina, reduced to nine men through German treachery and their own thuggery, plotted and plodded towards the seemingly-inevitable penalty shootout, then an unprecedented and unthinkable way to decide a champion.  Then, with mere minutes left, referee and hero of football Edgardo Codesal chose to see a foul on Rudi Voeller in the penalty area, allowing Andreas Brehme to convert the least-deserved, most-welcome penalty kick in World Cup history.  West Germany won FIFA's inaugural Thanks For Not Being Argentina trophy, and penalty kicks would not decide a world champion until four years later.  Oops.  For those of our younger readers wondering why those of our older writers wrinkle their collective nose when Argentina is mentioned, 1990 is Exhibit A.

That said, I have extremely high hopes for Argentina this time around.  This version of Argentina is much less problematic than the 1978 champions, much much much better to watch than the 1990 finalists, and, well, I'd like to see Argentina become more than simply Maradona.  Even if Messi himself is, well, problematic at times

But I also think that Germany and Argentina are equally matched, so we won't see one team or the other try to run out the clock for penalties.  Both teams owe us for 1990, and I am confident of full payment. 

Most of the locals who couldn't unload their tickets are stuck in the Alien v. Predator tagline, but you can't please everyone.