FIFA's Warner Gives Nigeria Green Light

Date Published: 
Jamaica Gleaner

LAGOS, CANA-Reuters -

A FIFA inspection team, headed by Trinidad and Tobago's Jack Warner, said yesterday that despite some "little problems", it was satisfied Nigerian soccer facilities were adequate to host the World Youth Cup in April.

"Questions about poor security, health, and accommodation in Nigeria are imaginary...Nigeria will host the tournament," Warner, head of the FIFA delegation, told a news conference in Lagos at the end of a five-day inspection visit.

"There are little problems in some of the stadiums...talking about pitches and floodlights. But we are sure all these will be taken care of before March," said Warner, who is president of the Caribbean Football Union and CONCACAF, the governing body for North, Central America and the Caribbean.

Foreign teams expecting to take part have expressed concern about the health, safety and happiness of their players during the tournament in the country of at least 105 million with a reputation for crime, disease and instability.

FIFA stopped Nigeria hosting the tournament in 1995, citing health and security reasons at a time when the then military regime of Africa's most populous nation was accused of widespread human rights abuses.

Political worries eased after military ruler General Abdulsalami Abubakar last year freed scores of prisoners detained by his late predecessor and promised to step down in May for an elected president.

"The message I give to the world is those safety concerns of 1995 aren't here," said Warner. "We'll return by the end of February, before the draw on March 5, to ensure instructions given to Nigerian '99 organisers were followed."

FIFA's findings will also be a boost for Nigeria's hopes of hosting the 2O06 World Cup.