Chukwu: How Agali, Babayaro, Aiyegbeni Were Caught With Women At 2004 AFCON

Chukwu: How Agali, Babayaro, Aiyegbeni Were Caught With Women At 2004 AFCON

Former Nigeria international Christian Chukwu has revealed how the trio of Victor Agali, Celestine Babayaro and Yakubu Aiyegbeni were caught bringing in women into the Super Eagles hotel at the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia.

Aiyegbeni, Babayaro and Agali were kicked out of the 2004 AFCON after they were accused of bringing women into the team’s hotel.

The incident occurred after the Eagles lost 1-0 to Morocco in their opening group game.

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And recalling what happened, Chukwu, speaking on “No Holds Barred” Thursday, a radio programme on Brila FM anchored by his former Super Eagles player, Ifeanyi Udeze, said: “We got report from the security people of the hotel who confirmed they (Agali, Aiyegbeni, Babayaro) came in with women into the hotel.

“The three of them didn’t deny it and it got their teammates really angry. First thing is discipline and if that decision was not taken what kind of message are you trying to send? And that’s why Osaze (Odemwingie) came up and proved himself.”

The 1980 AFCON winning captain stated that the decision to send the three players out of the tournament was a collective decision and not only the coaches.

Chukwu added: “The decision to send them away from the competition was not only taken by the coaches, it was a general decision.”

After the defeat to Morocco, the Eagles bounced back with a 4-0 win against South Africa and qualified for the quarter-final with a 2-1 victory over Benin Republic.

In the quarter-final, the Eagles came from a goal down to beat Cameroon 2-1 thanks to two brilliant goals by Austin Okocha and John Utaka.

Unfortunately, the Eagles lost on penalties to Tunisia in the semi-final before beating Mali 2-1 in the third placed match.

By James Agberebi 

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  • Dr. Drey. 11 months ago

    Poor man-management..! There are many ways to punish errant players in the middle of a tournament. Decamping not 1 but 3 of your key players is tantamount to cutting your nose to spite your face….! What if there were 7 of them, or 8 or 10….would they all have been decamped too…? I hope we never shoot ourselves in the foot in this manner in future. We probably could have scaled the Tunisian hurdle with a little more depth in the team especially the attack.

  • @ Dr.Drey.I think is a clever decision and a case study for the on coming generation to learn
    You do not put the horn before the bull but the bull before horn.mind you
    It was an international competition not a street football competition whereby some players act similarly.
    You should understand that it is unprofessional and not acceptable anywhere in the world.

  • “The decision to send them away from the competition was not only taken by the coaches, it was a general decision.”

    Is Chukwu trying to exonerate the coaches for sending off the players rather than thinking of an alternative punishment? Why pass the buck? Why didn’t the security stop the women or were they made to scale the walls? Sending your skilled soldiers away in the midst of a battle is a poor, poor decision. Period. 

  • Mr Hush 10 months ago

    I believe the decision taken by Chukwu was the best at the time.
    We should try to relate it to these factors;

    1. The person of Christian Chukwu comes across as a calm demeanour,understanding and very relatable. So for him to take that decision, however harsh, he had no choice but to instill authority like a calm father would do when an indiscipline son has gone too far undermining his calmness.

    2. The decision was taken after a loss; emotions were running high in the country and camp but these trio still had the audacity to carry out such act. It shows lack of self awareness,lack of care and concern and lack of patriotism on the part of the players. The coach just did the needful.

    3. As stated in the interview; the decision was at all rushed, as it was made in total unison of all in camp. Heck, the team mates of the trio were angry with their actions. So the coach did get enough backing.

    4. The aftermath of the decision brought about a fresh fight by the remnants in camp. The battle was fought with all mind and purpose by the rest. In fact, the legend of Osaze was born from then. We didn’t win the cup but we got to the semis,only losing to the host on penalties. If the trio had remained, would we have won the cup? No knows, maybe we would have been knocked out before then. But we do know is that, after they left,we put up a spirited fight that got us far enough that kept our pride and respect.

    For what’s worth; I find the decision taken by Chukwu in that situation as decisive and right move.

  • Mr Hush, I think somewhere between yours and Dr Drey’s sentiments is an opinion that I can relate with.

    From all indications, the actions of the 3 errant players riled up not just the coaching crew but in fact their own fellow players too, who were looking at the coach for a reaction that would demonstrate direction, decisiveness and discipline.

    As a fan, it was a blow to lose Yakubu, Agali and Babayaro in such a high profile tournament – one which I was wholly expected us to at least reach the final.

    It will almost be like throwing Ighalo, Ndidi and Ekong out of the last Afcon. Well if that had happened, at least Osimhen would have had to be thrown in the deep end (and perhaps his star may have started shining earlier).

    Let’s be in no doubt: the actions of Yakubu (Everton), Agali (Shalka 04) and Babayaro (Chelsea) were hugely reprehensible which warranted a huge response from the coach. However with their profile being that huge, what response would have been proportional?

    If they had been given a ‘slap on the wrist’, other players might have been aggrieved by their actions and equally aggrieved with Christian Chukwu for such a lame response.

    A fine or exclusion from maybe 2 games might have been an adequate response from me (speaking solely as a fan).

    But in truth, the indiscipline actions of the 3 meant-to-be professional players left Coach Chukwu with a decision to make and he elected for the severest option open to him by chucking the players out of the tournament.

    A fully loaded Super Eagles of Nigeria had inextricably lost the first match of the tournament 1:0 to Morocco with the 3 errant players in the nebulous squad. Once the three players were ejected, clarity appeared to have opened up in the thought-process of coach Chukwu as he was then able to rearrange and set up the players he had at his disposal in a manner that brought out the best in the team for the remainder of the tournament (as the results revealed).

    Arguably, one of Nigeria’s most memorable Afcon encounter was the 2:1 victory against Cameroon in the quarter-finals. If the terrible-trio were still available, no one will ever know how trying to accommodate them in the match-day squad would have helped or hindered in that encounter against Cameroon.

    Additionally, John Utaka and Odemwingie came alive with the expulsion of Agali and Yakubu whilst the conundrum of accommodating Udeze and Babayaro was effectively extinguished.

    All in all, as a fan, I was devastated that such high profile players were ejected from the squad. At the time, I think even Coach Chukwu actually regretted the decision as local newspapers reported that he tried to recall them.

    On another note, I think it sends a strong positive message that regardless of a player’s pedigree of whatever club or league they play, there is a code of conduct that they have to abide by when in camp for a major assignment.

    If they fall foul of this, whether they play for Real Madrid or Barcelona, they will face the music!

    Christian Chukwu showed decisiveness in the matter: I think he deserves some credit for that.

  • Pompei 10 months ago

    Good to see you again, Deo. Long time.
    I agree with the viewpoint that decamping your soldiers in the middle of a fierce battle is not wise. No doubt, punishment was necessary and unavoidable. However, instead of sending players away and limiting our options for matches, I would have imposed significant monetary fine on each offending player. By the time you slap each of them with $100k fine each, they will all sit up, and the other players watching will be satisfied that adequate punishment has been dished out.

  • Dr. Drey 10 months ago

    My question is:
    If the expulsion of these players from the tournament was just and justified, why did the NFF hierachy led by the then sec gen Late Taiwo Ogunjobi go begging the players after the tournament, just before we commenced the WCQ to return to the National team.

    I still recall Ogunjobi leaving Abuja to go begging Yakubu right there in his parlour in Benin city on national television.

    Listening to Ifeanyi Udeze on brilfm online and the interviews with Agali too….the said players were just simply scapegoated by NFF officials for the loss to morrocco. They were merely chilling in the bar of their hotel the night after the match. They didnt bring any women into their rooms. It was a bitter loss and the FA officials needed to look for a way to douse the tension and angst of fans. According to Ifeanyi Udeze, the anger of the players was the decision to sack the players from camp at 2am which most of them felt was rather uncalled for.

    It is still on record that we started the 2006 WCQ series with a very weak, depleted and low-morale team which was one of the major fall outs of the AFCON saga. Not qualifying for the WC was probably a just punishment for Nigerian football and the NFF for the terrible way the team was managed btw year 2004 and 2005.

  • Sunnyb 10 months ago

    Sending players home in the middle of a serious competition based on a mere  allegation by corrupt officials, how many NFF officials has the Yeye country send to jail for corruption. 2006 was just a display of power by the late minister of sport..