By James Agberebi: Nigeria Football Federation President Amaju Pinnick has apologised to Nigerians after the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) on Tuesday sanctioned the country
for fielding an ineligible player in the Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying match against Algeria on 10 November, 2017, Completesportsnigeria.com reports.
FIFA awarded Algeria three points and three goals after Shehu Abdullahi who was suspended for the game was fielded.
The match ended 1-1 but the Super Eagles’ point became null after the FIFA decision.
The world football governing body also fined Nigeria 6,000 Swiss francs for the offence.
Pinnick, who has vowed to punish those responsible, explained how the error occurred and then apologised.
“Good morning. I’ll start by tendering my wholehearted apology to Nigeria and Nigerians for the Shehu Abdullahi error,” Pinnick tweeted on Wednesday, the day after the FIFA sanction.
“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 and 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, through out 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 received 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 the NFF; I apologise, Nigeria. Our focus remains. We will soar higher. Thank you.”
Fortunately for Nigeria, the points deduction didn’t not adversely affect the Super Eagles World Cup ticket as they had already qualified before the Algeria match. It does mean though that they lost their unbeaten qualifying record.