Criticism has emerged from Nigerian football enthusiasts following FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee decision to impose a two-game ban on England’s Lauren James for her actions during the Women’s World Cup round of 16 match against Nigeria. The incident in question involved James receiving a red card for a challenge against Nigerian defender Michelle Alozie in the 87th minute of the game. England eventually triumphed in a penalty shootout, securing a spot in the quarter-finals against Colombia.
While the ban was initially for one match, FIFA later extended it to two games, which means that if England progresses to the semi-finals, James will also miss that match. This development has sparked discontent among Nigerian observers who view the decision as biased, given the circumstance.
Many Nigerian critics cited a perceived double standard in the ruling. Deborah Abiodun, a Nigerian player, received a straight red card in the opening game against Canada and subsequently served a three-game suspension. This contrast in penalties has led to accusations of inconsistency and favoritism by FIFA.
Veteran sportscaster Deji Omotoyinbo voiced his concern over the perceived disparity, saying, “FIFA says Lauren James’ offense is ‘serious foul play’ and not ‘violent conduct’ so she gets a two-match ban. So, Deborah Abiodun’s red was violent conduct? James’ offense was deliberate and violent. Abiodun’s was a misplaced tackle. Laughable double standard.”
Pius Ayinor, another seasoned sports journalist, echoed these sentiments, labeling FIFA’s decision as “shameful double standard” and expressing his bewilderment at the inconsistency displayed within the same competition.
Adeola Omole, a fan of the sport, sought clarification from FIFA, demanding an explanation for the differing punishments. The sentiment of bias and the need for transparency in decisions resonated among fans, with one fan, Atrium Tech, emphasizing that “James’ tackle was cynical and intentional.”
Lauren James has been a standout performer for England in the Women’s World Cup, tallying three goals and assisting with three more during the group stages. Following her red card incident, she apologized to Michelle Alozie on social media, acknowledging her mistake and pledging to learn from it. In response, Alozie forgave her, displaying a commendable spirit of sportsmanship.