‘How the multinational FIFA World Cup will open up West Africa’
Speakers from the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) believe that a FIFA World Cup hosted by West Africa is an idea whose time has come.
The idea of a sub-regional World Cup was first floated in 2002 after the Japan/Korea World Cup, but although it sounded doable, people, who did not see the inherent benefits of it, rejected it.
Yesterday at the NIIA, speakers in one of the institute’s ‘The Conversation of Sport Diplomacy’ series agreed that hosting the world’s most popular sporting event would be of great benefit to the economic and structural development of the West African region.
Speaking about the project, former international soccer captain Olusegun Odegbami said West Africa would have been the first region to host a multinational World Cup if Nigerians knew about the inherent benefits when the idea was silenced in 2002.
According to Odegbami, “After After the 2002 World Cup, a Nigerian delegation traveled to Zurich to meet with then FIFA President Sepp Blatter about West Africa’s interest in hosting the competition.
“We explained to Blatter how a World Cup in West Africa would help us achieve unity and development in Africa.
We wanted to use the World Cup to free ourselves from five centuries of slavery.
“Blatter assured us that we would win the bid if our government made the proposal to FIFA.
However, when we returned from Zurich, our media rejected the idea and President Olusegun Obasanjo was forced to back down.
“Twenty years later, two of the largest economies in the world, the United States and Canada, join Mexico to host the event in 2026.
“We pioneered the idea of multiple nations hosting the World Cup 20 years ago .
The idea is that the black race should unite because if we fail to unite, we are doomed as a race.
Odegbami said the prelude to a West African World Cup is the celebration of the Festival of Arts and Culture of Africa (FESTAC) as a multinational festival that will bring diaspora Africans back to the mother continent.
“Part of the Festac that we envision is the opening of the slave routes and detention centers for our brothers in the Americas to come see firsthand the odysseys of their ancestors during the slave trade era.
“Regional Festac will also take people to different areas of the continent where they will learn first-hand about the cultures and customs of the peoples,” he said.
In his article titled “Securing a Borderless West Africa: One Visa, One Currency for All by 2034”, Dr. Ademola Adewusi, who represented Dr. Willie Eselebor, said that a West African World Cup would help the Economic Community of the West African States.
(ECOWAS) regional integration efforts, especially its commitment to create a free trade area.
He said West Africa has the resources to host the World Cup if governments accept the idea, adding that countries have enough time to decide how to do it.
“The reason governments don’t do things right away is because they take the time to look at the time correctly.
When we talk about roads, power, stadiums, hospitals and all the other things associated with hosting a competition of that magnitude.
“When you set a target and say ‘we’re organizing an event’, governments tend to work towards that time.
They will work because they do not want to be disgraced.
“You can see that Nigeria has lifted the U-17 and U-20 World Cup. I remember when Sepp Blatter came to Nigeria to check the state of our Under-17 World Cup facilities; he was concerned that the infrastructure was not ready.
But two months later, when he returned, he called the Nigerians magicians.
This was because the Nigerian government pooled the resources to make the accommodation possible.
“This is 2022 and we want to host the World Cup in 2034, we have 12 years to put all the facilities and everything we have to host the competitions.
Talking about the different cultures, languages and currencies of West African countries, Adewusi said that the power of sport is enormous.
“When it comes to sports, you see everyone cooperate.
You can see the effect of the ongoing World Cup on Nigerians.
When there are matches, the roads are usually free.
The World Cup is being held in far away Qatar, but it is having repercussions all over the world.
“Football unites people more than the things that divide them.
In West Africa, our cultures are unique, but we also share a lot of affinity because we are brothers and sisters.
You see, the jollof battle of Nigeria and Ghana has been a lovely topic in their soccer battles.
“FIFA experimented with it in Japan/Korea and the US, Mexico and Canada will host it in 2026 and we think the fact that we are going to share the load makes it more feasible.
All bids for the 2030 World Cup are regional.
“Nigeria doesn’t have to build 10 new stadiums now, we already have some.
Republic of Benin, Togo and Ghana will only have to develop two stadiums each.
“That will limit the amount of resources we need to put into the project.
And then we can establish a multinational force that allows us to do it successfully.