LAGOS, July 1- There was a mixed reaction on Thursday to the government decision to suspend the Nigerian national football team from international matches following its disappointing first round exit at the World Cup.
President Goodluck Jonathan slapped a two-year ban on the team from competing internationally after Nigeria finished bottom of their group in South Africa with just one point from three matches.
The idea is to overhaul the system to avoid a repeat of the "rather embarrassing" display in South Africa, according to presidential spokesman Ima Niboro.
"The ban is a good development if we can have sincere people to restructure our football," Sani Toro, a former secretary-general of the football federation said on the phone from northern Bauchi state.
"Ghana did it. They were silent for two years during which they put their house in order and now to the admiration of the whole world," added Toro, though, unlike in the Nigerian case Ghana continued to play internationally qualifying for both the World Cup finals – where they play a quarter-final agaisnt Uruguay on Friday – and the Africa Cup of Nations where they reached the final.
Sports writer Osunde Onwude summed up the dismissal of the team on private television station Channels: "It is good riddance to bad rubbish".
A member of Nigeria’s football supporters club, Kayode Ajibogun said the suspension will help bring sanity to football administration.
"Bad administration has been the bane of sports development in this country. In Nigeria we only study geology a day after the earthquake," he said.
But sports editor Seyi Fasugba disagrees with the severity of the government action.
"The decision was too hasty and harsh. It will not help the development of football in the country," he said, suggesting authorities may have to brace themselves for a confrontation with world football governing body FIFA who abhor any political interference in football matters and can suspend countries from football if there is perceived to be undue influence as in this case.
"We should not expect FIFA to treat Nigeria with kid gloves because of this ill-advised decision," he said.
"What government has done amounts to an over-kill which will not help our sports," added Fasugba.
Former Super Eagles goalkeeper Dosu Joseph backs his views saying the two-year ban would traumatise the soccer crazy country of 150 million people.
"Everybody – players, coaches … will suffer. Whatever is the motive for this decision, the bottomline is that its disadvantages far outweigh the advantages," he said.
Super Eagles player and Fulham midfielder, Dickson Etuhu told a sports daily, Sports Complete that he was "shocked" by the government’s "extreme" action. "Obviously there’s a lot of things that aren’t right in Nigerian football …I don’t think banning us is going to help," Etuhu was quoted as saying.
Oil-rich Nigeria, which draws the bulk of its national players from European-based stars, was making its fourth appearance at the World Cup.
The ban will mean Africa’s most populous nation will miss qualifiers for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations and those for the London Olympics in the same year.
Nigeria missed the 1996 Commonwealth Games after the country was expelled from the body of mainly former British colonies over the 1995 execution of leading environmental activist and writer Ken Saro-Wiwa along with eight other activists in the oil polluted Niger Delta by the then military regime of Sani Abacha.
The nation’s football federation is yet to respond to the suspension which is trailed by an audit into the millions of dollars budgeted for the World Cup.