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Page last updated at 16:16 GMT, Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Fifa loses faith in Nigeria

By Oluwashina Okeleji
BBC Sport, Lagos

Logo for the 2009 Under-17 World Cup
The Under-17 World Cup is due to take place in Nigeria in October
Fifa vice-president Jack Warner has raised fresh concerns over Nigeria's preparations for their hosting of October's Under-17 World Cup.

Speaking at an event in Abuja to launch the official emblem, Warner said: "I have always had faith in Nigeria but at the moment that faith is not there."

Warner is chairman of the organising committee for the tournament, and was not impressed after touring the facilities.

"I cannot go back to Fifa and say yes, Nigeria is ready, because plenty still has to be done before we get to that stage.

"Apart from Abuja, only the stadium in Ijebu Ode is ready and encouraging of the nine stadiums presented.

"I feel pain, but even though I do not want to take away the joy of [the launch] tonight, I still have to be honest and face the truth.

"And the truth is that you still have a long way to go, but I have always believed in Nigeria and I know you can do it."

Warner did not say that the tournament will be taken away from Nigeria, but he made it clear that time is running out.

"Hopefully when we return in March, things would have taken a better shape," he said.

Fifa vice president Jack Warner
Warner is losing patience with Nigeria
"But please, get started with the work at these stadiums and let us fulfil the promise of Africa hosting all three World Cups in 2009 and 2010."

Last year Fifa expressed concerns over the progress of preparations, and in October, Nigeria's President Umaru Yar'Adua decided that the country should pull out of hosting the event, until the budget was revised.

At Monday's event, the country's Vice-President, Goodluck Jonathan, assured Fifa that there will be an improvement.

"We know what is expected and we promise those things will be in place by the time you return, it is a promise," he said.

"The importance of football to the Nigerian people cannot be undermined and that is the more reason we will ensure massive improvement."

Nigeria lost the right to host the 1995 Under-20 World Cup, due to lack of facilities and medical concerns.

But the country successfully hosted the tournament four years later, with Spain winning the trophy.

With South Africa hosting the 2010 World Cup, the continent will also this year stage the Under-20 World Cup in Egypt, and the Under-17 World Cup in Nigeria.

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see also
Nigeria in U-17 World Cup U-turn
29 Oct 08 |  African
Fifa happy with Nigeria progress
13 Jun 08 |  African

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