FIFA to monitor Nigeria over interference

JOHANNESBURG - FIFA will watch for any further signs of political interference in Nigerian football after a dispute with the government almost led to the suspension of the local football federation, it said on Tuesday.

Football's ruling body on Monday lifted a threat to suspend Nigeria from all FIFA-related activities, including an annual grant of $250,000, after President Goodluck Jonathan reversed a ban on the national team participating in international competitions as punishment for its poor World Cup performance.

The president's decision, which narrowly beat a FIFA deadline, came after the federation pledged to disband the side and rebuild it following the Super Eagles' failure to win a game during their first round elimination from the World Cup.

FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot told a news briefing on Tuesday that Nigeria had done what was required to have the suspension threat lifted.

"But, of course, as usual in such cases, we are monitoring the situation and we will continue to monitor the situation," he said.

"You always have to avoid political interference... it is not that we are simply sending a letter. The work goes further than that," he added.

Jonathan's action responded to widespread discontent in Nigeria with the team's dismal performance, but FIFA is vehemently opposed to any political interference and has suspended federations in the past over the same issue.

The Nigerian presidency said on Monday that Jonathan reversed his decision after the federation agreed to disband the team and after appeals from Nigerians including former leaders.

The federation had previously fired its top two officials in an effort to get Jonathan to change his mind.

The federation "assured the President of their commitment to evolving an enduring football development programme, and grow a new senior national team that will bring glory, rather than consistent embarrassment to Nigeria on the world stage," the presidency statement said.

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