Monday, April 28, 2014

The Debate on Invited Players' List…….

The ongoing debate on the release of a list of invited players for the World Cup preparation plan has consumed the Nigerian football scene for the past month. Presumably, the NFF Technical Committee issued a query to Coach Stephen Keshi when the latter failed to come before the board to present and discuss a list of player invitees to the World Cup camp. Additionally, several media unable to contain themselves, have named several players claiming they are on the list of invitees in spite of the coach’s strident denials to such list has been provided.

The debate features several critical issues that may be listed as follows: whether or not the NFF Technical Committee has the authority to decide who invitees should be? Whether a list of invitees should be submitted at this time? Whether the national team coach can be trusted with inviting a strong squad of players? Whether more than 30 players need to be on the list? While there are perhaps additional issues pertaining to the list of invitees for the World Cup, it is important to address the few major ones identified above.

FIFA Regulation on Player List
To interrogate these points of debate we have to rely on a critical document – the FIFA Regulations for the 2014 World Cup. It is this document that is the official document that guides the World Cup list of invited players.

All that you want to know about the list can be found in Article 29 of that document.  Article 29.1 specifies that a list of no more than 30 players must be provided to FIFA no later than May 13, 2014. This list is called the “Release list.” Article 29.3 adds that the final list of 23 can only come from the Release list and must be provided to FIFA no later than June 2. Replacements on this list must be based on a serious injury verified by FIFA’s Medical Committee up until the team’s first World Cup match (Article 29.4 and 29.6) and the replacement player does not have to be part of the initial Release List.

Based on the regulations above, it is easy to understand why everyone wants the strongest list of players possible to be on the “Release list.” There is no question that the NFF Technical Committee has oversight in ensuring that the list of invitees pass that test of being among Nigeria’s strongest. However, that is where the authority of the NFF ends. The NFF cannot themselves replace players on that list. Naming players on the list, replacing them, or any modification must come from the national team coach.

Committee Oversight and Coach’s Responsibility
Based on the above, it is also clear that the list must get to FIFA on or before May 13. However, for the Technical Committee to effectively act on its oversight duties, it also means that such a list must be presented to the committee before the deadline and in good enough time for the coach to make any changes that may become necessary. However, one also understands that the list should not be presented too early to the committee in order to reduce the likelihood of having to inviting players that may become injured prior to May 13.

What is difficult to understand is the need to have more than 30 names on the list. FIFA does not require more than 30 names but would accept a list with less names. Thus, the focus on a list with over 30 invitees raises the question about selfish interests that may be driving the demand for more than 30 invitees. Your guess is as good as mine on what these interests may be. Just before the 2010 World Cup, Coach Lagerback was made to name 40 players that would ostensibly converge for training in England before the list would be pruned to 30 required by FIFA. Guess what? The camp did not materialize as soon as the list was announced and the Coach, with his tail between his legs, had to name 30 players without the benefit of training camp. Is that the procedure that the NFF want Keshi to go through? This is important as FIFA has mandated that training for the World Cup cannot start before May 26 (after submitting a 30-man list to FIFA!) following a regulated rest period from May 19 to 25! This explains why Keshi announced that training for the Scotland game will only be for one day! (see FIFA Regulations, Article 29.10 i-iii).

The above are just my thoughts on this issue.