Nigeria is on course to capture a fourth World Cup Under-17 soccer title.
The West Africans shut out Sweden 3-0 in the semi-finals to advance to Friday’s final against reigning champions Mexico which beat Argentina by a similar margin in their semi-final encounter. The Nigerians defeated Mexico 6-1 in their group stage match.
The African side has scored 23 goals in their seven matches in the United Arab Emirates while conceding just five, three of which came against Sweden in an earlier contest.
Nigeria won the inaugural tournament in 1985 and again in 1993 and 2007.
And, the South African Soccer Association (SAFA) has imposed life bans on 15 players for trying to take the national association to court in violation of International Soccer Federation (FIFA) rules.
SAFA’s decision relates to grievances from officials from the central Free State province over the election of Danny Jordaan as SAFA president in September. The governing body says the officials should have resolved their grievances over voting procedures through SAFA and its ‘mechanisms and structures’.
Describing the officials as ‘malcontents’, SAFA announced that they were expelled from all soccer activities. SAFA said the expelled officials were from three local associations, while members from a fourth were cleared of wrongdoing after ‘distracting themselves’ from any court actions relating to the governing body.
Jordaan, the 2010 World Cup’s head organizer, was elected to lead SAFA last September.
Ghana’s sports minister, meanwhile, has requested an urgent meeting with FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke over security plans for the World Cup play-off against Egypt in Cairo.
Elvis Afriyie Ankrah said his sports ministry and the Ghana Soccer Association still had “genuine security concerns” over the November 19 contest.
FIFA ruled the game could go ahead in the troubled capital, despite Ghana twice asking for a different venue.
Up to 30,000 fans could attend the game, the first international in Cairo in two years and the first home game involving Egypt where such a large amount of supporters have been allowed in to a stadium since a riot at a club match in Port Said in 2012 led to the deaths of more than 70 people.
Ghana’s sports ministry said it had accepted FIFA’s decision – although it wasn’t completely happy with it – but asked for more details on the security guarantees given to FIFA by Egyptian authorities that led soccer’s world governing body to allow the game to go ahead.
Ankrah also wanted to know who would be responsible for any problems.
“Even though Ghana is ready and willing to play Egypt anywhere, the Ministry of Youth and Sports would like to know from FIFA who would be held liable, accountable and responsible in the unfortunate event of any Ghanaian being harmed before, during or after the match,” Ankrah wrote in a letter to FIFA.
He said Ghana “wants guarantees on actions that have been put in place by FIFA to contain the emotions of the Egyptian soccer fans in the aftermath of any result”.
Ankrah raised concerns that the match could be used by opponents of Egypt’s military leadership to express their dissatisfaction, putting Ghanaian players, officials and supporters in danger.
Away from the ongoing deadly political unrest in Cairo, which could escalate with the current trial of former president Mohammed Morsi, Ghana leads the play-off 6-1 from the first leg and is likely to qualify for the World Cup, possibly adding more fuel to an already volatile situation.
“Prevention is better than regret and the concerns being expressed by Ghana are not farfetched at all,” the sports minister wrote in his letter to Valcke.
The ministry said the letter had also been sent to the Confederation of African Soccer, the United Nations Security Council, the African Union and the Egyptian Soccer Association.
FIFA ruled last week that the game could go ahead after being satisfied with guarantees provided by Egyptian authorities, who will host the game at the military-owned 30 June Stadium, formerly the Air Defense Stadium.
Meanwhile, Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure is the sole player on the 23-man shortlist for the International Soccer Federation (FIFA) men’s world Soccer Player of the Year Award.
The winner will be announced on January 13 in Zurich.