Twenty one years after Nigeria hosted the FIFA U-20 World Cup, one of the Flying Eagles’ players on parade then, Chikelue Iloenyosi, has told Completesports.com the reasons behind the team’s dismal performance in the tournament.
Iloenyosi, a defender, has now revealed that the removal of coach Tunde Disu and replacing him with an Dutch gaffer, Thijs Libregts, amongst other factors played a destructive role in Nigeria’s U-20 side’s failure to win the FIFA U20 World Cup Nigeria 1999 title as the host team.
The Nigerian side was knocked out in the quarterfinals by Mali who won 3-1 at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium Enugu.
The Flying Eagles had emerged from from Group A, after finishing second behind Paraguay. Costa Rica finished third, while Germany brought up the rear. The GroupbA matches were played at the National Stadium Lagos. The Nigerians beat Rebulic of Ireland 5-3 on penalties in a Round of 16 match at the Sani Abacha Stadium Kano. The regulation time had ended 1-1.
Iloenyosi, Who is now an aide to NFF President, Amaju Melvin Pinnick, opened up to Completesports.com revealing what transpired in the Flying Eagle’ camp then, insisting that the change in technical leadership of the star-studded squad brought in its wake a negative consequences that divided the team.
“Nigeria ’99 squad [Flying Eagles] was a very great team, you know. I was part of the team, so I know what went wrong that we didn’t win that U-20 World Cup,” Iloenyosi told Completesports.com.
“The reason we did not do well was because of the politics in the system. This is because, when they sacked our coach, Tunde Disu, and brought in a new coach, Thijs Libregts, the team became divided.
“Of course, a house divided against itself does not stand. Libregts they brought in does not know anything at all about the team – the Nigerian terrain, and was not part of the building process.
“It was like shifting the goalpost in the middle of a match. They said he was was on a rescue mission to make sure that we got to semi final and possibly to win the cup as the host nation”.
Iloenyosi nicnamed ‘General’ would go on to highlight other factors that militated against the Flying Eagles’ success despite parading an avalanche of quality players.
“As a matter of fact, the first mistake he ( Libregts] made was telling us to drop all our match bonuses with the Federation, (NFA then),” the Abagana, Anambra State born defender continued.
“He told us that the Federation has to keep our money for us and we said no because majority of us were professionals (most of us playing in Europe then).
“Joseph Yobo, Eddy Dombraye , Gbenga Okunowo, Ikenna Eneh, John Aranka, (now late) goalkeeper Sam Okoye, Julius Aghahowa etc were all members of the team.
“So when this thing happened, the team was divided into two. We were struggling to win matches and to remain in the competition. The pressure from Nigerians was too much.”
As if these were not enough distractions, Iloenyosi pointed out that there was also an allegation against coach Tunde Disu who was accused of taking bribes from the players.
He strongly defended the coach saying the bribery allegation was baseless.
“They were also saying that Tunde Disu collected bribe from the players. But I can tell you the truth, that he did not collect any bribe from anybody.
“It’s just that the Federation decided to remove him because we did not play well in the first match.
“The team was great, but it’s just that we didn’t have luck to push our quality to victory,” he submitted.
Iloenyosi,42, had an illustrious career that spanned through Fenerbahce S. K A2 (1999-2000), tennis Borussia Berlin (2000-2001), Caykur Rizespor of Turkey (2001-2002), Ittihad FC (2001-2003), Address Tripoli (2003-2005), Sydney Olympic (2005) and L-Ittihad Club (2005-2006) before calling time on his career.
Flying Eagles Nigeria ’99 Full Squad
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