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World’s football governing body, FIFA has introduced tougher player eligibility rules ahead of commencement of 2018 qualifying series in a bid to curb incidences of nationality disputes.

To eliminate the eligibility conundrum which led to defaults of eight matches in the 2014 African World Cup qualifiers, the new FIFA regulations for the 2018 qualifying programme now require each participating player to produce a national passport latest 24 hours before kick-off to match delegates. “A player without a valid passport shall not be entitled to play. Identity cards or other supporting official documents shall not be accepted,” the new rules 19.3 states.

The new rules became necessary as cases of players’ ineligibility nearly marred 2014 World Cup qualifications in the African bloc. Seven countries: Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Liberia, Sudan and Togo fielded players who did not have valid clearance, forcing FIFA to award 3-0 wins to their opponents respectively.

Africa was the only one of FIFA’s six continental confederations that had such cases of improper issuance of FIFA clearance for players; a development that FIFA competitions director, Mustapha Fahmy, pledged to address.

Another updated rule introduced by FIFA now requires matches abandoned during play to be re-started at a later date with the same line-ups from the point the clock stopped, unlike the previous scenario where a full 90-minute replay is ordered.

FIFA has also abolished the maximum fine limit of 1 million Swiss francs ($1.09 million) for national federations if a team which qualifies to play in Russia is withdrawn within 30 days of the opening match.

By Olisemeka Obeche

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