Nigeria coach Salisu Yusuf's punishment a mere slap on the wrist
Banned Super Eagles assistant coach Salisu Yusuf was always going to face punishment after being caught on camera accepting a bribe, but the severity of it, or lack thereof, has drawn ire in Nigeria.
The video of him accepting what appeared to be inducement from undercover reporters, posing as football agents, was revealed in July, and on Tuesday he was handed a ban of one year and a fine of $5000 after being found guilty by the NFF.
The light sanction has left Nigeria fans furious, given the severity of the offense. He was not only caught, but admitted it and was found guilty after investigation. At the very least, a five to 10-year ban should have been the punishment, to send a message to others who would even think of doing the same.
The NFF's Ethics Committee found that the action "was not an error of judgment on the part of Coach Salisu Yusuf but a conscious and deliberate decision to have accepted the cash gift of $1,000 from the decoy player agent/undercover reporter."
In other words, Yusuf consciously and deliberately accepted a bribe in the course of carrying out his duties. That is as damning a verdict as it is possible to give. However, in handing down its judgement, the committee offered mitigating circumstances.
The first was that the players in question, who the 'agents' were attempting to get Yusuf to pick, would have been in the squad anyway. The second was that Yusuf did not follow up on the 15 percent commission on further transfers offered, and the third was that he was considered a first offender.
All of these could have been valid reasons... if Nigerian football was not already shouldering the huge burden of a bad rap.
Referees are regularly accused of collecting bribes to favour teams, coaches have been accused for years of seeking and accepting inducements to sign and even play players, and even the NFF has taken its own share of beatings on corruption allegations.
While none of these allegations have ever been supported by any proof, the stench has continually followed Nigerian football around like a rotten skunk.
Catching one perpetrator red-handed offered the NFF an opportunity to make a statement. A statement that would have shown the country, the continent, and the world that the federation has a zero tolerance policy to corruption in any way, shape, or form.
Instead, the NFF opened the door to further questions about their verdict. For starters, there was no mention of whether or not Yusuf's contract with the NFF had been terminated. Or whether he would still receive wages from the NFF, or whether he would return to his post after serving out his ban.
It is the continuation of a pattern of behaviour in the federation to sweep serious incidents under the carpet. Only recently, Nigeria barely escaped missing out on a World Cup ticket when the ineligible Shehu Abdullahi was fielded in a World Cup qualifier.
That snafu led to the loss of a valuable point earned in Algeria, not to mention snapping Nigeria's record unbeaten record in World Cup qualifying. Nobody has been officially sanctioned for that bungle.
Going back a few years, about $236 000 mysteriously disappeared from the NFF's safe. To this day, the culprit has neither been found nor punished. No heads have rolled for even leaving such a huge amount of cash in the office.
As far back as 2005, Nigeria failed to qualify for the World Cup in large part because officials had no idea that head-to-head rather than goal difference was the tie-break criterion. Even on matchday, hopeful officials egged the Super Eagles to score a boatload of goals against Algeria in desperate hopes that the rule books would mysteriously change to goals difference. The Eagles won 5-1, but of course those goals were inconsequential. Nobody was sanctioned.
With such a long list of gaffes and criminality going unpunished, it is arguable that were Salisu's issue not such a widely-publicised one -- and on a global scale -- he too could have gotten away with it.
In the event, this slap on the wrist is getting away with it. And the loser is Nigerian football.