NFF chairman Amaju Pinnick apologises for error after Fifa deducts three points from Nigeria

NIGERIAN Football Federation (NFF) chairman Amaju Pinnick has apologised to the nation after Fifa penalised Nigeria for fielding an ineligible player against Algeria during a World Cup qualifier last month.


Yesterday, Fifa's disciplinary committee fined Nigeria N2m and awarded the game against Algeria in Constantine, which ended in a 1-1 draw to the Desert Foxes. Nigeria was found guilty of fielding rightback Shehu Abdullahi in the match despite him being ineligible because he had picked up two yellow cards in previous games.


Following the Fifa decision, Algeria were awarded the three points for the game and records will show that they won the match 3-0. Had the Super Eagles not already garnered enough points to qualify for the World Cup before the match, it may have cost Nigeria her participation in the tournament.


Taking responsibility for the error, Mr Pinnick said: "I’ll start by tendering my wholehearted apology to Nigeria and Nigerians for the Shehu Abdullahi error. It is unforgivable and could have undone months of hard work.


"As head of the federation, I take responsibility for this as it happened on my watch.  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."


Apparently Shehu Abdullahi had been booked in the first round of the qualifier against Swaziland and then later in the penultimate game against Zambia in Uyo. Both the NFF and the coaching crew failed to notice this and Fifa did not notify the team about the fact that Shehu was suspended.


“Shehu Abdullahi got his first yellow card in our very first preliminary match against Swaziland away, so when the draws for the group stages were made, the technical staff made a grave error, assumption. To be fair to them, throughout 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 but he then received a yellow against Zambia in our penultimate game, two years after the Swaziland match," Mr Pinnick added.


He pointed out that another grave mistake then occurred as Fifa sent an email to the technical officer in charge that Shehu Abdullahi was suspended for the Algeria match. However, that officer was in hospital, with a severe heart condition, battling for his life.


Mr Pinnick added: “The biggest knock to our system is the fact that his official correspondences should have been forwarded to more than one person but it wasn’t. We went into our last match not knowing about Fifa’s notice.


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 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.”