In 2002 Nigerian football hit an unprecedented low which saw players quite revolt and complete break down of protocol leading to the sack of Super Eagles coaches and the appointment of a new technical crew barely three months before the World Cup campaign in Korea/Japan.
Several months ago Former Eagles Coach Festus Onigbinde revealed the depth of the rot he inherited, alleging there was a cabal that vowed to truncate the Country’s campaign in Japan if certain senior players from the 2002 AFCON were dropped.
Recently, another member of the squad in Mali alleged that he was betrayed by renegade teammates who did not go through with the boycott, “that was agreed to”.
However, responding to the claims of the “unnamed player”, former Eagles defender Ifeanyi Udeze denied there was any agreement among players to boycott the world cup if any senior player was dropped.
Onigbinde dropped the likes of Sunday Oliseh, George Finidi, Victor Ikpeba, Tijani Babangida, Wilson Oruma, and Yakubu Aiyegbeni from his 23-man squad for Nigeria’s second-ever world cup tournament.
‘There was no such agreement among players, none that I know of, that we would boycott the World Cup if certain members from the AFCON in Mali were dropped,’ said Udeze.
Ten players from the 2002 AFCON squad did not make the cut, while 12 members formed the core of Onigbinde’s selection as Nigeria prepared for the tournament.
‘Come to think of it, 2002 was my first opportunity to play at the World Cup.
‘The dream of every footballer is to play at the world cup, the biggest football tournament in the world. How could I have agreed to boycott it because some other person was dropped?
‘I was 21 at the time but how certain was I to make another World Cup if I passed off the chance to join the 2002 squad. And as fate would have it I got injured later in my career and did not go to another world cup.’
‘I have very close friends from that world cup who would tell you there was no such agreement; Aghahowa can vouch.’