Former Super Eagles Goalkeeper Ike Shorunmu has opened up on some of the reasons why the team was disbanded by the Federal Government after the 2002 African Cup of Nations.
The Eagles finished third in the tournament hosted by Mali, but the outing was marred by a high profile fall out between team captain Sunday Oliseh and then Sport Minister Ishaya Mark Aku.
Shorunmu, who was the first choice goalkeeper to the tournament explained in an interview on Brila FM’s ‘No Holds Barred’ with Ifeanyi Udeze, that the misunderstanding started following the head injury he suffered in the quarter final clash against Ghana.
“Back then, in Mali we had a lot of senior players and something happened, firstly, I was injured in our match against Ghana and I was rushed to the hospital. The Minister (Sports) then didn’t come to see me at the hospital.”
“Two days after I resumed training, but a day before the semi-final against Senegal, he (Minister) came to the practice ground and spoke to me, expressing support after the injury, but our captain Sunday Oliseh, confronted him.”
“The captain asked the Minister, ‘Oga, if he was your Son would it have taken this long for you to come see him?’, The response left the Minister’s entourage stunned.”
“Unfortunately, we lost the semi-final to Senegal, but initially I wasn’t even meant to play that game, because of the shock from the injury I suffered,” he told brila.net
Ike Shorunmu would return for the semi-final game against the Teranga Lions of Senegal, but his blunder helped the Senegalese to a 2-1 victory.
The former FC Zurich and Besiktas shot-stopper said he wasn’t meant to play the match, but was rushed back after some top officials of the NFF and Sports Ministry pressurized then coach Amodu Shuaibu and his assistant, Stephen Keshi.
“But due to the pressure from the Coaches, who didn’t trust our reserve goalkeepers (Murphy Akanji and Ndubuisi Ego), I was included in the team.”
“At the time Finidi (George), who was my roommate, and Austin Okocha after our last training session came to me and advised me not to play the semi-final. They noticed my performance was below par and they said “You look petrified”. I told them I was okay but only had a slight headache.”
“But the Coaches were also under a lot of pressure from some top officials, who were insisting on me playing, unfortunately we lost.”
Ike, who later worked as Super Eagles goalkeeper trainer, however took responsibility for the semi-final defeat.
“When you look at the tape again and especially at the second goal we conceded, it was my fault. The shot was feeble and I assumed the ball was going over, but really it was the fear in me that I could get hurt again which made me stall.”
“We lost that game, but went into the third place game and we won that, however after that tournament; proceeding to the World Cup, the NFF announced they had disbanded the team,” He concluded.
Three months before the World Cup in Korea/Japan, the NFF under the instruction of the Sports Ministry disbanded the team with several players tagged as Mafias.
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