As has been widely reported in the last few days, the Sudanese national team is facing a ban on their participation in FIFA competitions for the foreseeable future as a result of government intervention in the running of the country’s Football Association.
FIFA, which has a reputation for coming down hard on governments that attempt to flex their muscles in the sporting arena, is reported to be outraged at the Sudanese administration’s attempts to bar a handful of candidates from running for the position of president of the Sudan FA. It is also thought that the government is forcing candidates for the job to pay a sizeable fee in order for their name to be added to the shortlist.
Should the Sudanese administration refuse to back down and their country be banned from international competition it would be a great shame for what is one of African football’s most historically important nations. Sudan, alongside Egypt and Ethiopia, was one of the three participants in the inaugural Africa Cup of Nations in 1957 and won the competition in 1970 as well as finishing runner-up twice, in both 1959 and 1963.
The country is also due to host the next African Championship of Nations (a tournament open only to domestically-based players) in 2011, something that will have to be re-arranged should the Falcons of Jediane be hit with their potential ban.
The proposed ban may seem overly harsh, but FIFA are rightly keen to eliminate governmental interference from the game, protecting it from being used for political ends and maintaining its autonomy. There may be an argument that FIFA’s stringent regulations infringe on the traditional domain of government, but for now the rules regarding political intervention are clear and, if administrations persist in attempting to influence footballing affairs, then punishments of this gravity are what they can expect.