The former Director-General of the National Sports Commission, Chief Patrick Ekeji, has revealed the reasons behind the disbandment of the Super Eagles after the team’s dismal outing at the Mali 2002 African Cup of Nations.
Ekeji, a former national team defender and chief coach of the Eagles, who was the Director of Sports Development at the time, stated that, the Sports Minister at the period, Ishaya Mark Aku, took the decision to disband the Eagles because of the gross indiscipline noticed in the team at the 2002 Nations Cup.
Sunday Oliseh, was captain of the Super Eagles at Mali 2002
He stated that: “The whole episode started ahead of the semi finals of the championship, when I went to the team’s training alongside the Sports Minister to watch their progress as Nigeria needed the team to get to the final and possibly win the cup. But the players had a contrary plan.
“On reaching the training pitch, we noticed lack of seriousness and indiscipline and poor coordination. The players were out of control while the chief coach Amodu Shaibu and the assistant coach, Stephen Keshi, were definitely not in charge of the training sessions with the players dictating what goes around. The players were just doing their thing not following given instructions. It was a total breakdown of order in the senior national soccer team. I expressed my displeasure to the team’s coaches and they told me, that everything was under control, but that wasn’t true.
“At this point, as a trained physical educationist, I knew the Super Eagles won’t go beyond the semi finals. And that was exactly what happened on the match day. The Nigerian team played poorly and was woeful because of poor preparations and players’ disrespect. Nigeria crashed out of the competition when the team actually paraded the team of the tournament by the class of the players in the team.”
Ekeji added that: “At half time in the semi final of the Nations Cup, when I visited the team’s dressing room with the Sports Minister, the Eagles captain, Sunday Oliseh, openly insulted me in front of the Honourable Minister and other Eagles team members.
“The fact of the matter is that I never wanted to say anything on the issue of disbandment of the team. Since the two coaches are late, I am not always comfortable talking about the two of them, as they are no more with us and are not here to defend themselves, but I just felt I needed to clarify the matter after some of the team’s players commented that the Super Eagles disbandment after the Mali 2002 Nations Cup was the end of the progressive era of the Nigerian national soccer team.”
Ekeji, noted that, the disbandment of the Eagles in 2002, was the best to happen to the future of national team football in Nigeria. And ofcourse progress was made afterwards and the country was able to produce great players after the 2002 squad.
“We cannot continue to harbour grossly in disciplined players in our national team. With those set of players, Nigerian football would have regressed badly, because in sports, discipline is the watchword.”