In what could have turned out to be a disaster, Nigeria Football Federation, through its president Amaju Pinnick has apologized for the sanction by FIFA for fielding an ineligible player in the Super Eagles last World Cup qualifier against the Desert Warriors of Algeria.
Super Eagles right full back, Shehu Abdullahi was expected to observe an immediate one match suspension which coincide with the Algerian match. This situation was communicated to NFF but unfortunately the recipient; according to Pinick ‘was in the hospital battling for his life’.
Therefore, the notice was not received by the Super Eagles manager nor his technical committee leading to the decision to field the impressive Abdulahi in the dead rubber game.
For that action, FIFA fined NFF for fielding the player against Algeria, after he was suspended for a match earlier. The world football governing body also awarded a 3-0 victory to Algeria. This, fortunately did not affect the Super Eagles’ qualification for the 2018 World Cup.
In a series of frank tweets, Pinnick addressed the whole issue that led to the new development and apologized to Nigerians without any form of ambiguity:
“Good morning. I’ll start by tendering my wholehearted apology to Nigeria and Nigerians for the Shehu Abdullahi error. It is unforgivable and could have undone months of hard work. As head of the Federation, I take responsibility for this. It happened on my watch.
“While accepting the Federation’s fault here, let me quickly explain how this went by unnoticed. It doesn’t change the fact that we didn’t keep our eyes on the ball and will help us in our planned restructuring of the Technical & Competitions Department.
“Shehu Abdullahi got his first yellow card in our very first preliminary match against Swaziland away. When the draws for the Group Stages were made, the Technical staff made a grave error; assumption.
They assumed the cards gotten prior would not count.
“To be fair to them, throughout the qualifying series, official match documents didn’t even show that Shehu Abdullahi was on a yellow card. For instance, when we played Cameroon, Mikel, Moses and Balogun were put on notice that they had yellow cards.
“Team meetings were even held about how to handle their cards so they wouldn’t miss crucial games. Shehu Abdullahi was never in the mix. Shehu then recieved a yellow against Zambia in our penultimate game, two years after the Swaziland match.
“Another grave mistake then occurred. Fifa sent an email to the technical officer in charge, that Shehu Abdullahi was suspended for the Algeria match. In a twist of fate, that officer was in hospital, with a severe heart condition, battling for his life.
“The biggest knock to our system is the fact that his official correspondences should have been forwarded to more than one person. It wasn’t. We went into our last match not knowing about Fifa’s notice. Not acceptable, I agree, but these are the facts of the matter.
“On the match day, we were unaware, the match officials were unaware and our opponents were unaware. It was a horrendous error and we at the Federation are truly apologetic. We thank God it did not undue years of hard work.
“It was a lack of due diligence in and by one of our departments and we are ensuring that errors like these never happen again. On behalf of all of us at the @thenff; I apologise, Nigeria. Our focus remains. We will soar higher.
“Thank you,” Pinnick wrote.