By Duncan Mackay
British Sports Internet Writer of the Year

July 2 - Olympic silver medallists and former champions Nigeria could miss the football tournament at the London 2012 Games after they were first banned from playing by the country's President and then world governing body FIFA threatened to suspend them.

The extraordinary turn of events have followed Nigeria's poor performance at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa where they finished bottom of their group with only one point from three matches.

President Goodluck Jonathan announced that the country will not take any part in international football - which would mean they will miss the Olympics, as well as the 2012 African Cup of Nations - following the disappointment.

He claimed that it was so Nigerian football had been be reorganised.

"This directive became necessary following Nigeria's poor performance in the ongoing FIFA World Cup," said Ima Niboro, Jonathan's senior communications adviser.

The Government will also carry out a full audit of accounts of the country's World Cup organising committee to see if money has been stolen, Niboro promised.

"If any financial misappropriation is discovered, all officials responsible will be held accountable," he said.

"We need to reorganise the structures and there is need to withdraw from all international football competition so that we can put our house in order."

Niboro said that the game in Nigeria would be comprehensively restructured following the performance.

"The problem of Nigerian football is structural," he said.

"We need to reorganise the structures and there is need to withdraw from all international football competition so that we can put our house in order."

The Nigerian Football  Federation (NFF) also issued an apology to "all football-loving Nigerians" for the team's performances at the World Cup, and said there would be more friendly matches in future to better prepare the team for high-calibre opposition.

But FIFA takes a strong stance against political interference in the sport and today imposed a deadline of next Monday (July 5) for the Nigerian Government to lift their ban or they would intervene.

Amos Adamu, a Nigerian member of FIFA’s executive committee, will try a final mediation on Monday, FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke said today.

"After Monday 6pm, if nothing has changed, FIFA will suspend them," Valcke said.

According to FIFA's statutes, member associations are obliged "to manage their affairs independently and ensure that their own affairs are not influenced by any third parties."

Nigeria finished runners-up in the last Olympic tournament in Beijing, when its side containing top players like Victor Anichebe and Emmanuel Ekpo, were narrowly beaten 1-0 in the final by an Argentina team that was captained by Liverpool's Javier Mascherano and inspired by Barcelona's Lionel Messi.

It was Nigeria's second medal in Olympic football having won the gold at Atlanta in 1996, beating Argentina on that occasion in a thrilling match where they twice came from behind to win 3-2 with a last minute winner from Emmanuel Amuneke.

It was Nigeria's first-ever Olympic gold medal and the first time that an African country had won a major international football tournament.

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