Super Eagles’ mentor Stephen Keshi was quoted widely in the media as describing his Flames counterpart Tom Saintfiet as a “white dude”.
“If he wants to talk to FIFA, he should go back to Belgium. He is not an African person, he is a white dude, he should go back to Belgium,” Keshi was quoted as saying by the BBC when the Belgian expressed fears over security in Calabar where the two teams are scheduled to slug it out on September 7 in a Group F World Cup qualifier.
He added, according to the BBC: “All other countries play in Calabar. Calabar is one of the safest places in Nigeria…He is mad. I wish I could say it to his face.”
Saintfiet took exception to these remarks, calling them ‘racist’. He told maravipost.com Tuesday when asked what he wants FIFA to do: “I have no expectation from FIFA but the world football governing body has rules on racism. My FA has lodged the complaint, it’s up to FIFA to decide. We are waiting for FIFA’s response.”
FAM General Secretary Suzgo Nyirenda also confirmed lodging the complaint with FIFA Tuesday.
“We are awaiting FIFA’s response on the issue,” he told maravipost.com.
Nyirenda, too, could not say what the Malawi FA’s expectations are from Zurich.
The spat between Keshi and Saintfiet erupted when the latter expressed security fears over Calabar following the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s advisory that the city is a “no-travel zone” following Boko Haram insurrections.
But Nyirenda said after its request to FIFA asked Nigeria to assure the world soccer governing body of security measures.
“We got assurances from FIFA that Nigeria has assured them of adequate security. There will be no delays at the airport and the hotels are fully secured,” he said.
But Saintfiet said if Nigeria is going to deploy anti-bomb squads that means his fears were justified in the first place.
“If they have to provide anti-bomb squads that means there is a problem,” he said.
But Nyirenda said the Malawi delegation – which will include Sports Minister Enoch Chihana – feels safe with the security arrangements.
“We are happy with the arrangement,” he said.
Saintfiet said by raising the security concerns he was not insulting anyone to justify Keshi’s personal attack on his person.
“If FIFA takes racism seriously, then you have to take it seriously in both directions. If a European said something of this nature about an African, you would have a huge problem. I am against racism in all directions,” he was quoted by the BBC’s African Football website.
This is a crucial game for both teams who are separated by only two points with the West Africans in the lead.
Saintfiet, who is married to a Zimbabwean, is in Malawi on volunteer basis. His main role is to take the Flames to its maiden appearance at the global soccer fest scheduled for Brazil next year.