High noon in Nam, FIFA showdown

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Windhoek – Namibia’s Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service has told world football governing body FIFA to respect the sovereignty of the Southern African country.

This comes after FIFA said it would consider expelling Namibia should government “interfere” in football affairs.

This was in reference to Sport Minister Agnes Tjongarero’s decision to appoint a committee to resolve an impasse between the Namibia Football Association (NFA) and the Namibia Premier League (NPL).

The impasse has resulted in the country having no formal football activities for almost two years, and with the NFA saying it has expelled the NPL as an affiliate with a view to creating a new soccer league. In turn, the NPL indicated it would form a breakaway premier league.

The expulsion was the culmination of a boardroom soap opera stretching to 2018/2019 when the NPL ignored an NFA directive to retain the status of Civics and Orlando Pirates for the following season.

This week, Minister Tjongarero said a committee had been as appointed to “find long-lasting solutions”, including possible endorsement of the NPL breakaway league. However, FIFA only recognises one premier league per FA. Further, it has regularly sanctioned FA’s following direct government interventions in football administration.

Chief member association officer for FIFA Veron Mosengo-Omba wrote to the NFA saying, “While encouraging the collaboration of its member associations with their local state authorities in the collective interest of football, FIFA must also recall that all member associations must be able to organise and carry out their football-related activities in accordance with the requirements of their statutory/regulatory framework and in full autonomy, failing which they would lose all or part of their rights as members of FIFA.”

In response, the Sport Ministry said it was disappointed that FIFA had not responded to its own communication to the football governing body.

“On 28 August 2020, I authored a letter to your office on the impasse engulfing Namibia football. To date, we have not received a reply or acknowledgment from your office. Regrettably, we have observed that FIFA has chosen to respond interventions the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service has undertaken, through third parties,” said Minister Tjongarero in a letter addressed to FIFA secretary-general Fatma Samoura. 

She reminded FIFA that Namibia was a sovereign nation with its own laws as passed by the National Assembly as the country’s supreme legislative authority.

“All our national federations, including NFA, are also subject to respective national legislation,” she said. 

The NFA, in line with Article 26 of the Namibia Sport Act 12 of 2003, is a registered national sport body under the auspices of Namibia Sport Commission.

The Ministry of Sport also advised FIFA to appreciate the difference between government interference and government interventions undertaken in the national interest.

“Madam Samoura, it is very important to remind FIFA that following the much-publicised fallout between the previous Executive Committee of NFA, the Namibian government through the Minister responsible for Sport, sought FIFA intervention to restore order. This then culminated in a FIFA-appointed committed tasked with administering the NFA. Thus, our writing to you is nothing out of the ordinary.

"The situation of football in Namibia is not a zero-sum game. As such, our request for formal and constructive engagements on this issue still stands.” 

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