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Nigeria's president suspends soccer team

Photo by Donnie Ikpa

Photo by Donnie Ikpa

ABUJA, Nigeria -- The president of Nigeria has suspended the national soccer team from international competition for two years after a poor showing at the World Cup.

Ima Niboro, a spokesman for President Goodluck Jonathan, made the announcement Wednesday, saying the ban would enable the country to reorganize its football administration.

Niboro said that all funding for the World Cup squad, including the hiring of Swedish coach Lars Lagerback, would be investigated.

Nigeria was eliminated from the World Cup with just one point, which came in a 2-2 draw with South Korea in its final game. Nigeria lost to Argentina 1-0 in its Group B opener and fell to Greece 2-1 in a game turned by the first-half expulsion of midfielder Sani Kaita.

The Super Eagles haven't won a World Cup match since 1998, going out with two losses and a draw in 2002 and failing to qualify for Germany 2006.

The Nigerian Football Federation's executive committee had earlier tendered an apology to the government and "all football loving Nigerians" for the early exit.

Nigeria risks being banned by FIFA, soccer's governing body, from all international soccer because of the political interference.

"At the time of writing, we have no official information on this matter," FIFA said in a statement. "However, in general, FIFA's position regarding political interference in football is well known."

Nigeria's next scheduled international match is a qualifier for the 2012 African Cup of Nations, at home against Madagascar in early September.

FIFA rules demand that national federations manage their affairs independently, or face suspension from world soccer. National and club teams, plus referees, would be barred from participating in international matches and soccer officials are prevented from attending meetings.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter had already expressed concern over the French government's investigation into France's surprising first-round exit from the World Cup.

"Definitely I can tell you that political interference will be dealt with by FIFA notwithstanding what kind of interference and what is the size of the country," Blatter said Tuesday in remarks about France.