Following Tuesday’s sanction by world football governing body, FIFA, President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick has tendered an official apology to Nigerians.
FIFA fined Nigeria 6000 Swiss Francs and deducted a point from the Super Eagles standing on the World Cup qualifying Group B after a suspended player was fielded in the final qualifier against Algeria.
Shehu Abdullahi, who had been shown a yellow card in the first leg tie against Swaziland in 2015, was shown another in the game against Zambia in Uyo.
The defender was then supposed to serve a one-match ban in Super Eagles final game against Algeria, but was erroneously feilded; thus the game which originally ended 1-1 was overturned to 3-0 in favour of the Fennecs.
Pinnick had earlier vowed that ‘somebody must be punished’ for the error that led to the sanction, but in an apology note on Wednesday, the football chief explained how the technical department and the football house in general didn’t read a mail that was sent by FIFA prior to the game.
“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.”