Super Eagles of Nigeria have been sanctioned by the World Football governing body Fifa for fielding an ineligible player during the last qualifying match away at Algeria.
The match originally ended in a 1-1 draw but that has now changed to a 3-0 win in favour of Algeria after a decision by Fifa to forfeit the match.
Fortunately, Nigeria booked their place at the World cup before the last game so the sanction does not affect the qualification, the Super Eagles still finish as Group B winners but with 13 points instead of 14 while Algeria with 4 points instead of 2 points finished at the bottom.
Shehu Abdullahi was the ineligible player, the Cyprus based right-back played the whole match against Algeria even though he was suspended for picking up yellow cards in two previous qualifiers.
This could have been a costly mistake for the NFF, Nigerians would have been livid if their beloved team missed out due to the officials' incompetence.
See the official Fifa statement below:
The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has been sanctioned for fielding an ineligible player in the match between Algeria and Nigeria on 10 November 2017. The match is declared to be forfeited and awarded 3-0 in favour of Algeria, with the NFF also receiving a fine of CHF 6,000. The sanction relates to the player Abdullahi Shehu failing to serve the automatic one-match suspension imposed on him as a result of receiving a caution in two separate matches of the same competition. 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.
The chairman of the Federation, Amanju Pinnick, has taken responsibility for the error by posting a series of tweets explaining what happened.
Good morning. 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. It happened on my watch.— Amaju Melvin Pinnick (@PinnickAmaju) December 13, 2017
He claimed that the officials assumed cards during the preliminary rounds would not count in the group stages as Shehu Abdullahi was booked during the preliminary round against Swaziland and throughout the campaign official match documents did not show that the defender was on a yellow.
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 & Competitions Department.— Amaju Melvin Pinnick (@PinnickAmaju) December 13, 2017
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.— Amaju Melvin Pinnick (@PinnickAmaju) December 13, 2017
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.— Amaju Melvin Pinnick (@PinnickAmaju) December 13, 2017
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 recieved a yellow against Zambia in our penultimate game, two years after the Swaziland match.— Amaju Melvin Pinnick (@PinnickAmaju) December 13, 2017
It's unbelievable that Fifa would not alert a federation about a suspended player prior to a match, well Mr Pinnick defended this, he claimed that Fifa truly sent an email to the technical officer in charge, that Shehu Abdullahi was suspended for the Algeria Match but that officer was in the hospital battling for his life with a severe heart condition.
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.— Amaju Melvin Pinnick (@PinnickAmaju) December 13, 2017
This is still not acceptable Mr Chairman when a superior is not available, others in the department should have access to his official email or his emails be forwarded to another email where other officials can have access.
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.— Amaju Melvin Pinnick (@PinnickAmaju) December 13, 2017
Gladly, Nigeria is still going to the World Cup which is the most important thing. Trusting the current NFF officials after this is another case.
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.— Amaju Melvin Pinnick (@PinnickAmaju) December 13, 2017
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