The chances of having Kaduna as a possible host city for the 10th FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup next year is under threat as the football governing body, FIFA, has expressed reservation at that choice.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation is keen to have a northern state, preferably Kaduna, as one of the host cities for the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup, expected to be hosted by Nigeria, but FIFA has rejected such suggestion at the moment for security reasons.
Officials involved in the negotiations told this newspaper that the NFF president, Amaju Pinnick, has been trying to convince FIFA to have Kaduna as one of the host cities to represent the north’s interest, should Nigeria get the nod to host the 2020 FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup.
Northern states like Kaduna, Kano, and Bauchi at different times in 1999 and 2009 successfully hosted FIFA age grade championships.
But the football governing body has this time highlighted a major security concern about the region and has for now knocked off Kaduna from the list of possible host cities for the 2020 tournament.
Parts of northern Nigeria are currently beset by Boko Haram insurgency, armed banditry, and kidnapping. But a source said as it concerns Kaduna, FIFA was particularly worried about the protests by Shiites demanding the release of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
Mr El-Zakzaky has been in detention since 2015 when the Nigerian Army raided the headqurters of his now-proscribed Islamic Movement in Nigeria and killed at least 347 of his followers.
A court in Kaduna on Monday granted Mr El-Zakzaky and wife bail on health grounds. It is yet unclear whether the couple will be released. Similar rulings in the past were ignored by the federal government.
“It might be difficult to have a northern state as one of the host cities,” the source told PREMIUM TIMES. “FIFA has said it is concerned about this El-Zakzaky issue with the FG so they have not approved Kaduna as suggested by the NFF.”
A five-member inspection team from FIFA will arrive in Lagos on Monday for a four-day inspection of facilities and equipment that Nigeria has put forward to host the 10th FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup championship next year.
For now, Nigeria has put forward Lagos, Benin, Asaba and Uyo for the hosting of the 16–nation finals.
“FIFA has explicitly told Nigeria if they insist on having Kaduna as a host city then, they may take the tournament elsewhere; but the NFF president is still trying his best so he can get a waiver for the north,” the official said.
Usually, the hosting right for the tournament is given to the country that will host the senior Women’s World Cup a year later. But the 2020 edition is different as no World Cup is coming a year after.
Countries often bid for the bigger world cup and get the U20 as an additional benefit to test their facilities.
There is no official information from FIFA on the bidding process. But since the body is providing huge finance for the tournament, it may be using its prerogative to choose a host.
Mr. Pinnick told PREMIUM TIMES on Monday he could not comment on the matter as he was preoccupied with the visit of the FIFA team. He however said he was hopeful a favourable solution would be reached.
The NFF spokesperson, Ademola Olajire, told PREMIUM TIMES there was no need to make a case on the fact that no northern state is considered as one of the host cities.
He said if France recently hosted a befitting Women’s World Cup just in one section of the country, energy should be directed at Nigeria hosting the world and nothing “divisive”.
“Kaduna was included but FIFA knocked it out last week, why is it only negatives that interest you people,” Mr Olajire said in a text message to this newspaper.
“That Nigeria is being strongly considered to host a World Cup, even if only one region is not a good enough story?
“France hosted it last year and in only one region,” he added.