Nigeria’s U17 side, Golden Eaglets on Saturday in Niamey lost 3-1 to their Nigerien counterparts in bizarre circumstances both on and off the field. The result means the Eaglets crashed out of the race for Madagascar 2017 on a 3-2 aggregate after their 1-0 win in the first leg in Abuja.
NFF General Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi, who was rough-handled by Nigerien securities even in the presence of Nigeria Ambassador Abduljelil Sulaiman, here narrated what transpired on Saturday at the Stade Municipal in Niamey. Excerpts…
How do you feel with the Golden Eaglets ouster from the 2017 Africa U17 Cup of Nations to be hosted by Madagascar?
Of course, I feel bad because we are out, but I feel terribly bad the way we were badly treated. Apart from what happened to the Super Falcons in Equatorial Guinea during a qualifying match, I have not seen this kind of maltreatment against a visiting team. It was very clear that the Nigeriens were up to something from their dealings with us while planning for this second leg match. We knew the rules that you must enter an agreement with the host football association if you want to broadcast a match live but in this case we came only with our Video Recording Camera and we sought for their permission during the match coordination meeting on Friday. They said they were not going to allow that, but we said this was just for our own consumption and after a lot of argument, they agreed we could mount our camera at the media tribune (with their local TV people) because the match was not taken live by any station.
I personally spoke with the match commissioner (from Chad) as well as the president, secretary general and deputy secretary general of Niger Football Federation and they all said there was no way they won’t allow us to record the match since it was just going to be for our consumption. But just before the match started, they came to the VIP Box where I was sitting with their federation president and they spoke in their local language. I did not understand exactly what they discussed but immediately the match started and in front of their Federation president, they started trouble and their fully –armed policemen forcefully took away the Video Record Camera from our staff and took away the camera. Later they came after me and wanted to take away my eye-glasses, which can also record but unfortunately the device was not working since it was not fully charged. One of them walked up to me and dragged me by the neck and wanted to take away the glasses.
All these happened in the presence of their governor, in front of their ministers and in front of their Football Federation officials, and this is unfortunate because we treated them well when they came to Abuja.
How would you rate the officiating by the Cameroonian officials?
I always prefer not to talk about things like this because I’m a sportsman and administrator, but there was more to what we saw here in Niamey from these officials. This, I believe, was why they seized our camera. Look at the penalty awarded against us by the referee; where did that come from? There was nothing close to being a penalty kick in that situation. Even the free kick that was given during the prolonged time-added-on time was strange. The referee was making foul calls on all the moves we made. I have never seen this kind of humiliation and officiating.
Are Nigerian football authorities not worried given the fact that the U-20 team recently lost to Sudan in Lagos with some disputed officiating and even the Golden Eaglets suffered bad officiating in Abuja during the first leg?
I’m personally worried and Nigeria Football Federation is worried and we are going to lay an official complaint and I can assure you that the Nigerian Ambassador to Niger, His Excellency Abduljelil Sulaiman, who also doubles as chairman of the Niger-Nigeria Joint Border Commission, is going to take over this case. He was shocked and deeply worried that such events as happened today can happen in football and was greatly touched about the ill treatment meted out to us both on and off the pitch. He saw what happened live and he said he was going to take up this issue with the Nigerienne people. These people were simply hostile right from when we were coming into Niamey on Thursday; we were delayed for several hours despite the fact that we had our documents complete. We were deliberately delayed and they have been frustrating us right from when we began making preparation for this trip.
We wrote them several times and yet they claimed they did not receive our mails. We had discussion with them but nobody came to receive us and; we drove into Niamey without any escort. They failed to receive us when we came and they did not even provide us with any security escort for our training on Friday and even on match day. Look at the kind of vehicles they gave to the team as well as to the Head of our delegation. The vehicle that took us to the match coordination meeting on Friday broke down along the road. They did so many things to frustrate to us. I can’t explain the kind of behaviour put up by the Nigeriens because of this match.