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Counting the cost of Nigeria's football crisis

NFF president Amaju Pinnick is the FIFA-recognised leader of the Nigerian football organisation. Peter Kovalev\TASS via Getty Images

On Tuesday, FIFA showed that it had run out of patience with Nigeria due to the continued crisis in the country's domestic football, and sent a letter warning that if the issues were not resolved by August 20, Nigeria would face instant suspension.

The news prompted Nigeria's acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, to call a meeting with both NFF president Amaju Pinnick and Sports Miniser Solomon Dalung on Wednesday.

Osinbajo did not, however, meet with Christopher Giwa, who is leading the group claiming leadership of the NFF, and who took over the NFF offices last month.

FIFA's loss of patience and the Presidency's intervention could be the final pieces required to hurtle the process over the line of peace.

In the meantime however, Nigerian football has suffered a number of setbacks since the years-long simmering dispute between its leaders boiled over properly in July.

Suspended Leagues

The Nigeria Professional Football League went on recess ahead of the World Cup in June. The competition was due to resume after the tournament in July... Until trouble broke out.

Conflicting directives, shifting of personnel, and general uncertainty meant the league could not re-start. The League Management Company took a decision to suspend the league pending the resolution of the crisis.

As a consequence, the league has been in stasis. Teams train on a daily basis without knowing when they will play a competitive game. Instead, they have been forced to play friendless against each other to keep their players in shape.

Some of the league's best players have taken the opportunity to move to other countries during the transfer window. Last season's top scorer Anthony Okpotu and Akwa United's Gabriel Okechukwu are among high profile players who have left.

And it is not just the NPFL. The second and third tier leagues, as well as the women's league, are also in stasis awaiting an end to the saga.

Technical partners La Liga also suspended the NPFL Under 15 Promises tournament, from where a bunch of the current under 17 players were discovered last year.

Internationals in jeopardy

Nigeria failed to qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations. Key to that was a home loss to Congo Brazzaville in the opening game of the qualifiers.

That game fell at the height of the start of this leadership battle. With the NFF paralysed by the Giwa court order, preparations for that qualifier were haphazard at best.

The Super Eagles ended up losing that game 3-2 to Congo, their first home loss in 33 years.

Nearly four years after, the same script is set to play out. Nigeria are already down a home loss from the opening round of the qualifiers. With less than a month to go until the next round, the NFF secretariat has been paralysed by the crisis.

Another loss would heavily compromise the Super Eagles' chances of making it to Cameroon next year. And a FIFA ban, if it comes, would mean the country would be thrown out of the qualifiers altogether.

The under-17 and under-20 teams also risk being tossed out of their respective qualifiers, while the Super Falcons could end up unable to take part in the Women's Afcon in Ghana in November.

Commerce compromised

Over the last two years Amaju Pinnick's NFF has negotiated some stunning record sponsorship deals for Nigerian football.

Those deals played a large part in ensuring that Nigeria not only had their best preparation going into the World Cup, but also did not have any bonus rows before, during, or after the tournament.

Some of those sponsorships, as well as new ones, are now in danger. Premium partner Aiteo issued a press release threatening to withdraw from their combined N5 billion deal to sponsor both the national teams and the Nigeria Federation Cup if the crisis is not resolved.

Equipment partners Nike, whose two and half year deal expired at the end of the World Cup, were due to sign an improved long term deal within a couple of weeks of the end of the tournament, but that has not yet happened.

A major broadcast deal for the NPFL was also due to be formalised last month but had to be put on hold.