FIFA World Youth Championship Nigeria 1999

FIFA World Youth Championship Nigeria 1999

3 April - 24 April

FIFA World Youth Championship 1999

Third time lucky

Nigeria 1999 had been ten years in the making. FIFA's first inspection team had visited the West African country in 1989, with a view to organising the World Youth Championship there in 1991 - a project thwarted by Nigeria's exclusion from world football for playing over-age players in the 1989 finals. The next attempt came in 1995, when the plans were brought down essentially by health problems in the country.

Many of the difficulties of the previous campaigns had been overcome by the time FIFA gave its final seal of approval earlier this year, and indeed Nigeria 99 in many ways measured up to what had been expected of it. The prophets of doom saw their fears largely refuted, with no major incidents in the sectors of health or security.

The FIFA youth championships were created not only to give the young players of the world the chance to measure their strength against each other and thus to gain experience as players, but also to give countries the opportunity to pick up experience as organisers. It cannot be denied that Nigeria's infrastructure creaked at times under the burden of the demand posed especially in the sectors of telecommunications and transportation, two fundamental elements of modern tournament organisation, but the eight stadiums provided playing surfaces which enabled 52 matches to be played in excellent conditions and certainly contributed to the quality of the football served up. Some teams laboured under the high temperatures and humidity, a known problem in tropical climates and one which will merit closer examination by FIFA's medical experts, and the relatively modest attendance at several matches - no doubt influenced by the home team's failure to come up to domestic expectations - left something to be desired.

On the other hand, the enthusiasm of the Nigerian people, organisers and fans alike, went a long way to making up for any shortcomings in the non-football infrastructure. And anyone who experienced the sincerity of the welcome that they were afforded in Nigeria, so characteristic of the continent of Africa as a whole, will be richer by a memory not so quickly effaced.

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