It was not just condemnations after all very many good things came out of the just concluded FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009 that was hosted in eight Nigerian cities from October 17 to November 15.
Twenty-three teams representing 23 countries from different parts of the globe, Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania and America were in Nigeria for the football fiesta adjudged by the owners of the game, FIFA, as one of the best organised in the history of the 24-year old tournament.
As a result of the success, FIFA have decided to give positions of responsibility to some of the members of the LOC, with the Vice-chairman of the body, Mainasara Illo in the leading light of those so recognised. Sepp Blatter, the president of the world ruling body of the game, has confirmed Illo as a permanent member of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Organising Committee headed by Jack Warner. Blatter added that some other members of the LOC have similarly been given higher responsibilities by FIFA.
Other Nigerians are: Stanley Nkwazema, first FIFA trained Teams and Referees' Liaison Officer, John Atale PM protocol, Dr. Nnenna Ogbulafor, PM doping now member FIFA female doping committee, Abubakar Bello, first Infotainment manager and Saulawa Aliyu Ibrahim, retired FIFA graded referee now picked as FIFA instructor. All these people received commendations by FIFA.
A precursor of this recognition must have been the visit to The Presidency by Blatter at the end of the tournament; where he had been asked by President Yar'Adua if all the expectations of FIFA were met by the Local Organising Commitee (LOC), and Blatter had answered in the affirmative
He had told the president that the LOC not only met the expectation but also had actually surpassed it and that the world football ruling body was very pleased with the country. The statement, at the time, had caused the Sports Minister and Chairman of the National Sports Commission, Sani Ndanusa, to say his tournament-hosting day was made.
Reflecting, he said: "Where would I have hidden my face and disappointment if Blatter's comments had been otherwise? I was highly elated and much fulfilled by Blatter's comments. All the FIFA chiefs commended our efforts and added that Nigeria went the extra mile to deliver a successful tournament.
Speaking later at an LOC parley in Abuja where the Vice-chairman and Chief Executive Officer of LOC, Mainasara Illo had listed gains of the tournament and how the project managers of the LOC, and general staff, had toiled day and night to deliver a first class tournament, the minister said his happiness was complete today in the sense that the competition ended without any negative event to besmear the international image of the country.
"There was no single ugly incident recorded throughout the period of the 23 teams' stay in the country. Nobody was kidnapped and there was neither a robbery nor a rape case reported either against the visitors, or in any area connected with the tournament in any of the eight sub-seats.
Through the FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009, we have been able to prove to the entire world that Nigeria is very, very safe - safe for tourists and investments. For me, that was a huge statement in our re-branding attempt of the country's image.
"If you go to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja today you will see a section dedicated to the FIFA U-17 World Cup. We are going to hand over that section to the management of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) as another legacy of the tournament.