FIFA has stripped Nigeria of the one point they earned from their final 2018 World Cup qualifier against Algeria in Constantine on November 10, after the world football body discovered that the Super Eagles fielded an ineligible player, Shehu Abdullahi.
The Eagles had secured Russia 2018 qualification with 13 points in their first five matches, with the bottom-place Algerians eliminated, thus making the game in Constantine, which ended 1-1, a dead rubber.
But FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee stated that Anorthosis Famagusta right-back Abdullahi failed to serve a one-match suspension after being cautioned in two separate games during the qualifiers, and awarded 3-0 in favour of the Desert Foxes.
The Eagles now have 13 points while Algeria, who previously had two points, now have four points in Group B of the African qualifiers but still remain in last place behind Zambia and Cameroon, who have eight and seven points respectively.
“The match is declared to be forfeited and awarded 3-0 in favour of Algeria, with the NFF also receiving a fine of CHF6,000. This sanction bears no impact on the final result of the preliminary competition for the FIFA World Cup since Nigeria had already qualified (and Algeria eliminated) before the match took place,” FIFA said in a statement.
Meanwhile, ex-internationals Clement Temile and Segun Oguns have lamented the negligence.
“What were the coaching staff and those keeping records doing? Were they not aware that the said player had been cautioned twice before the match? I think it’s bad organisation that can only lead to that,” 1984 AFCON silver medallist Temile stated.
“I can’t blame the coach (Gernot Rohr) because you can’t expect him to do everything. It could have been a costly mistake but thank God it didn’t affect us. We are destined to be at the World Cup, perhaps, we would have been lamenting by now.”
Ex-Eagles goalkeeper Oguns said, “Who are those who made such a mistake? Patrick Paschal, who is the Team Manager should know that the player had two yellow cards and shouldn’t have played that game.
“We probably do not have people keeping records of players with red and yellow cards in the team.”
…NFF president apologises, orders investigation
The Nigeria Football Federation President Amaju Pinnick has ordered an investigation into the circumstances surrounding FIFA’s decision to sanction the country for fielding an ineligible player Shehu Abdullahi in their Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier against Algeria in Constantine on November 10.
The dead rubber ended 1-1 but FIFA docked the Super Eagles’ point and awarded three points and three goals to the Desert Foxes.
FIFA also fined the NFF 6,000 Swiss Francs for playing Abdullahi, who was to serve the automatic one-match suspension imposed on him as a result of receiving a caution in two separate matches during the qualifiers in Algeria.
But the sanction does not affect the Eagles as they had sealed their place at the World Cup before the Constantine clash.
Pinnick, who frowned upon the negligence on the part of the officials attached to the national team, vowed to punish any officials that caused the country embarrassment.
However, the CAF executive member apologised over the bad publicity and said “we accept the decision of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee to fine the NFF and award the match to Algeria”.
Spokesman for the federation Ademola Olajire, confirmed that Pinnick “has directed that an internal inquiry be instituted immediately and persons found culpable be dealt with”.
“This is a grave error and somebody must be punished,” Olajire quoted the NFF boss as saying in a statement on Tuesday.
“We apologise to Nigerians for this and assure that this will not in any way derail or even distract us in our well-laid plan to ensure that the Super Eagles have a great outing in Russia.
“At the same time, I want to assure that persons responsible for this slip-up would not be given just a slap on the wrist. We are actually looking at a re-organisation of the technical department.”