He wore a sad look that day, at the Trade Hotel, Sao Paolo. Rauf Ladipo, the President General of the Nigeria Football Supporters Club, is well known for his passion and analysis of soccer. But that Wednesday, June 18, Ladipo was in no mood to indulge in one or share banters.
He was instead about to engage the press on the challenges faced by members of the Nigeria Football Supporters Club in their bid to render support to the Super Eagles in the ongoing World Cup. On June 16, while the supporters club members were marching to gain entry to the Arena da Baixada, venue of the Super Eagles first match against Iran in Curitiba, Ladipo and his team were halted by FIFA security officials who went on to seize the instruments they had brought with them to cheer the Super Eagles. It was a rude shock to him and his colleagues who had travelled 7 hours from Sao Paolo to cheer the Super Eagles. All entreaties to the security men fell on deaf ears as they refused to return the items, claiming them to be security risk.
Faced with such situation , the supporters club members went into the stadium to do what they could. But, in the absence of their traditional musical instruments, and in a stadium filled with over 40,000 spectators, the club members could not do much to enliven the spirit of their compatriots. The match ended 0-0 but Ladipo was unhappy with the treatment meted out to Nigeria supporters by the security men, especially when, according to him, the Brazilian fans were allowed to go into the stadium with their samba, orchestra and fluid to cheer their team in their own match.
“Why was the Brazilian national team allowed to go into the stadium with their samba, orchestra and fluid on the day their team played. Are we talking of two different rules for the game, one for Brazil and the other for another country?” he asked. The President General further said that the decision to bar the Nigerian supporters club was a shock to the members especially as FIFA was aware of its long established role and style of cheering the Nigerian national teams. He said that the Nigerian supporters club abhors violence and its known to treat other countries supporters with respect even in the face of provocation and that this reputation is known to FIFA.
“Why would FIFA that knows that Nigeria football supporters club as an integral part of the growth and development of football around the world, having adjudged us to be the best behaved around the world and the most entertaining group that provides and motivates the players and energizes the crowd that comes into the stadium be stopped from going to the stadium with their drumming implements?” he asked.
Wondering about the essence of a supporters club without the ability to sing and cheer its team, Ladipo said, “I wonder what we have come to do, If we have travelled several kilometers away from Nigeria down to Brazil having paid so much money, bought all our tickets from FIFA, paid for it and we were disallowed to do what we came for. Why are we here? We are here to support the Nigerian national team, the Super Eagles to victory. We are here to boost their morale, we are here to motivate them to win their matches,” he said, adding that the inability of the supporters club to use their drums and trumpets to produce soul inspiring music affected the performance of the Super Eagles.
To address the matter, Ladipo said that the supporters club would write a letter of protest to FIFA on the issue.
While saying he didn’t think there was any foul play behind the incident, Ladipo however says he expects clarification from FIFA on the matter. He further thanked Nigerians for their support particularly President Goodluck Jonathan who he said donated N50 million to the club and Globacom who he revealed gave the group N40 million to prosecute its World Cup agenda and had been its major sponsor in the last eleven years.