Nigeria abandons hosting of 2009 FIFA Under-17 tournament

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Nigeria Thursday finally confirmed it will not host the FIFA Under-17 tournament in 2009, ending days of speculation over the issue.

Sports Minister Abdulrahman Gimba told journalists in the capital city of Abuja that the decision followed the failure of efforts by the local organising committee to obtain funds from the private sector to organise the two-yearly event.

”Unfortunately, the private sector hadn’t made themselves available. We have tried to reach them. We haven’t quite succeeded because the responses have not been quite great,” the Minister said.

He described the decision as ‘unfortunate’, saying it could affect the country’s integrity.

President Umaru Yar’Adua refused to provide the 37 billion naira (US$314 million) which the local organising committee said it would cost to host the football tournament, saying it was not the priority of his administration.

He advised the organisers to reach out to the private sector to help stage the competition.

In 1999, Nigeria successfully hosted the more prestigious FIFA World Youth Championship.

World soccer’s governing body FIFA is expected to pick an alternative host, but analysts said there would be no penalty for ditching the tournament, beyond the credibility problem Nigeria will suffer as a result of its decision.

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