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Nigerian president suspends national soccer team

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Nigerian football team suspended
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nigeria's president Goodluck Jonathan has suspended the national soccer team
  • Decision taken in response to Nigeria's poor performance at the World Cup
  • Government says it wants to rebuild the national football federation
  • A spokesman for the sports minister says decision has approval of all Nigerians

(CNN) -- Nigeria's president Goodluck Jonathan has suspended the national soccer team from international competition for two years after their dismal performance at the World Cup.

Nigeria came bottom of Group B at the tournament in South Africa, losing to Argentina and Greece before drawing with South Korea.

Now president Jonathan has dissolved the Nigerian Football Federation and removed the "Super Eagles" from the international circuit, meaning sanctions could follow from soccer's governing body FIFA.

Nigeria's Sports Minister Ibrahim Isa Bio confirmed the decision in an interview with CNN.

"The government has taken a decision we believe is in the interests of Nigeria that we should for now, withdraw from international competition because our football since 1996 seems not to be growing," he said.

"The government spends a lot of money to encourage football in Nigeria and we need to go back to the drawing board the way Ghana did two years ago.

"The president Goodluck Jonathan has endorsed this decision and the Nigerian people are excited about it.

"They are not happy with the performance [in the World Cup] and the Nigerian people believe the right thing to do is start all over again. We have informed FIFA of our intentions."

We can't stand back and watch our football decline because of FIFA rules
--Olukayode Thomas, spokesman for Nigeria's sports minister
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Earlier, Mr Isa Bio's spokesman, Olukayode Thomas, told CNN: "Nigeria is a sovereign state and has the right to take a decision aimed at improving the nation. It's a decision that was taken by all Nigerians. We can't stand back and watch our football decline because of FIFA rules."

Thomas said an interim body has been established in the wake of the football federation's demise, and that new elections would be held shortly to appoint new officials.

CNN anchor Pedro Pinto said the decision was also based on Nigeria's performance at the African Cup of Nations, as well as their organization of the under-17 World Cup.

FIFA rules prevent governments from interfering in the running of national football federations, and on Wednesday president Sepp Blatter warned France on a similar issue.

FIFA told CNN they had no official information on the matter, but that their "position regarding political interference in football is well known."

Fulham midfielder Dickson Etuhu, who played every game in Nigeria's World Cup campaign, told CNN he was stunned by the decision.

"I'm so shocked at the moment I don't know what to say or how to react," he said. "Obviously there's a lot of things that aren't right in Nigerian football, it should be doing a lot better than it is. I don't think banning us is going to help.

"With us coming out of the World Cup the way we did obviously there will be meetings about that because no-one will be happy.

"For me and the other players, no international football for two years is not something we'll be happy with because we all love playing for our country. I don't know how that's going to go down.

"You could say it's a bit extreme banning us for two years, but every country has a different way of handling their affairs and we have to respect the decision the president has made."

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