Nigeria heading for FIFA ban over interference

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Nigeria is not backing down after sacking its entire national football federation leadership, ignoring a FIFA directive and risking a ban from internationals for the reigning African champion.

A weekend meeting of football and government officials in the Nigerian capital Abuja endorsed the earlier sacking of Nigeria Football Federation President Aminu Maigari and his executive committee for not solving a player payment dispute during the World Cup. Officials said in a statement Sunday they were planning new elections.

The NFF is now being led by an official appointed by the sports minister.

World body FIFA, which doesn't allow governments to interfere in football affairs, said it would not recognize Saturday's meeting and has given Nigeria until Tuesday to reinstate Maigari or face sanctions. That would likely involve banning the country's national team and clubs from playing in continental or international tournaments.

That could leave players like Chelsea's John Obi Mikel and Liverpool's Victor Moses frozen out of next year's African Cup in Morocco, where Nigeria is due to defend its title.

Maigari was also arrested on his return from the World Cup in Brazil.

Delegates at the emergency meeting said they blamed him for embarrassing Nigeria at the tournament by not resolving the bonus dispute. Nigeria reached the second round for the first time since 1998 but had its campaign marred by the payment dispute, where players rebelled against the federation after not receiving their money for making the last 16 of the showcase.

A statement from the meeting said Maigari's NFF had failed to ''fully and firmly resolve issues of finance with the Super Eagles ahead of the championship.''

The officials also said they want an investigation into the finances of the NFF under Maigari.

The temporary NFF administration said Sunday that the meeting endorsing his firing was valid, opposing the stance of FIFA, which said the congress had no authority.

''Don't forget that in as much as we respect FIFA's law, we cannot jettison our own law here,'' said Obinna Ogba, a delegate at the congress.

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