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Tjongarero Dares To Challenge FIFA

Namibia's minister of sport, youth and national service, Agnes Tjongarero. Photo: NAMPA
Namibia's minister of sport, youth and national service, Agnes Tjongarero, has told Fifa that the government will push ahead with its 'intervention' in the country's debilitating football power struggle.

 In a letter to Fifa secretary general Fatma Samoura on Thursday, Tjongarero said "Namibia is a sovereign nation with its own laws" and will deal with the matter in a manner it deems fit. Namibia without coercion agreed to abide by Fifa's code of conduct for association football upon being admitted as a member in 1990. Falling foul of Fifa's statutes through interference by national governments has incurred bans elsewhere.

"Fifa's purported affront to interference in football matters is well publicised, and as a government, we recognise the respect we must have for Fifa statutes. However, in this instance Fifa will be well advised to draw the line between interference and interventions to safeguard our national sovereignty," Tjongarero wrote. "All our national federations, including the Namibia Football Association, are also subject to respective national legislation." 

Earlier last week, Fifa, uncomfortable with the government-initiated committee of eminent persons (CEP), threatened to axe Namibia if the government persists to interfere in the dispute. But Tjongarero is adamant that given that the government funds the Namibian Football Association, they can get involved in the situation which requires that the NFA goes back on its decision to expel the Namibia Premier League. " . . . the government through the ministry of sport is the biggest benefactor of the Namibia Football Association with regard to activities of its various national teams," she said.

The NPL, which has a pending appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport against the suspension that led to the expulsion, wishes to be accommodated as a second national football federation with no ties to the NFA. Fifa has already objected to this move, while Tjongarero gagged the Namibia Sports Commission last month from pronouncing itself on the NPL's application to be recognised as a free-standing football body. Instead, the minister instructed the commission to establish the CEP to "mitigate the situation" and provide her recommendations on the next step by Friday. 

The NPL's expulsion can only be overridden by the NFA congress, which overwhelmingly voted to suspend the rebellious ex-member in July. Tjongarero deems the expulsion unfair even though the sport commission said there was nothing untoward at the NFA extra-ordinary congress where the decision was effected. Twice, the NPL took the NFA to a civil court, which is against Fifa regulations. The NPL has also refused to heed Fifa-endorsed directives from the NFA, resulting in suspension at February's NFA congress and subsequent expulsion at an extraordinary congress.

"The status quo is not in line with the spirit of the [Namibia Sport] Act that provides for equal opportunity for all Namibians to participate in football, which is classified as a national sport code," she stressed. "As such, our request for formal and constructive engagements on this issue still stands." Fifa has a long history of suspending affiliates for ignoring its instructions. 

Kuwait was suspended in 2015 because Fifa said that government legislation meant the country's football association and the clubs could not carry out their activities independently. Closer to home, the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) was suspended in 2014 after a court ordered the minister of sport to appoint a civil servant to run the federation. The NFF was later reinstated after the court order was revoked.

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