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History book: Reason Super Eagles team was disbanded before Korea/Japan 2002 World Cup

- Ike Shorunmu's side of the story

Despite achieving a 3rd place finish at the 2002 AFCON, the Nigeria Football Federation-NFF as directed by the Sports Ministry disbanded the Super Eagles team.

In this edition of’History book’, SportsRation correspondent Nsikakabasi Akpan presents a throwback to Ike Shorunmu’s side of the story of why the the team was disbanded.


That year (2002), this writer was still a school boy but with the aid of the history book, he understands the Sunday Oliseh skippered Eagles was disbanded for ‘ indiscipline ‘.

That decision plus sack of the Late Shuaibu Amodu led Technical crew forced Interim manager Chief Adegboyega Onigbinde to assemble a three-month old new team to represent Nigeria at the Korea/Japan 2002 FIFA World Cup.

Ike Shorunmu and three other members of the disbanded squad managed to get into the squad for the tournament.

Boosting of a decade long international experience at the time, Shorunmu alongside Taribo West, Nwankwo Kanu and Austin Okocha were drafted in as Onigbinde sought experience for his youthful Eagles.

The Eagles failed to fly in Korea/Japan, loses to Argentina and Sweden confirmed their elimination before an inspiring draw vs England in the last group game.

Truth be told, there was so much trouble preceding Nigeria’s participation at the tournament. The players had their own side of the story while the Ishaya Aku led Sports Ministry/NFF were confident the disbanded team had developed a “Mafia” cable to bring the countries image to disrepute.

” I don’t want to castigate anybody here. Life is like a riddle which no one can easily unravel,” Shorunmu told VANGUARD.

” The problems we had at Korea/Japan 2002 started from Mali 2000. Not all the players that took part in the qualifiers made it to Korea/Japan. ”

” In Mali (during the AFCON) , I was injured during the quarter final match we played against Ghana. I was rushed to the hospital because I was unconscious.

” Thank God for the Oxygen they put me on in the ambulance, I was resuscitated before we got to the hospital.

After regaining my consciousness, I was taken to the hotel. I got there before the rest of the team arrived from the stadium.

” They were all happy to see me on my feet. The Sports Minister then, late Mark Aku was in Mali. In fact, he was at the stadium when the incident(my injury) occurred but never bothered to visit us at the hotel to find out how I was doing.

” Not even the leader of delegation, Dr Patrick Ekeji visited, ” Shorunmu lamented.


Nigeria was due to face Senegal in the Semi Final of the Mali 2002 Africa Cup of Nations tournament.

On a balance of all reports from the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations, the players were not happy with their welfare.

From having to fly economy class with no leg space, unpaid bonuses, to what they termed as ” lack of care ” following Ike Shorunmu’s injury in the Quater Final win over Ghana.

” In the semi-final, we were to play Senegal. The Minister came with his entourage, including Ekeji and Coach Onigbinde,” Shorunmu continued.

” After the minister addressed us, they asked the captain of the team, Oliseh to respond to the minister’s address.

” Oliseh cleared his throat, looked the Minister in the eye and said, Honourable Minister, we are not very happy that you have not demonstrated enough care for us, your children.

” One of our prominent players in the team was injured and stretchered out into an ambulance and you never cared to visit our hotel to check how he was recovering till this moment that you are charging us to go all out and beat Senegal. ”


That speech by then skipper Sunday Oliseh did not go down well.

” This caused a lot of ripples, ” Shorunmu added.

” Particularly, among the government delegation and the NFF. Incidentally, we lost that match to Senegal. There was so much talk about a mafia in the Eagles and that the players had become disrespectful and uncontrollable.”

Senegal defeated Nigeria 2-1 in the semi-final game. A loss that not only denied Nigeria a consecutive Africa Cup of Nations final appearance, but also drew the hammer of the Sports Ministry/NFF.

According to Shorunmu, when the team arrived from Mali, the announcement of the disbandment was made plus sack of the entire technical crew over what was termed ” Indiscipline and uncontrollable nature of the squad.”


With three months to start of the World Cup, Nigeria was without a Coach to lead preparations .

” Now they were looking for a coach to take the team to the World Cup. At the end of the day, they decided to give coach Onigbinde the job, ” Iker Shorunmu continued his narration.

” For anyone who was in Mali to play at the World Cup, one was expected to call coach Onigbinde first before one was invited.

” Meanwhile, chief Onigbinde had called up young players like Austin Ejide, Vincent Enyeama and others to camp, ahead of the World Cup.

” One of your senior colleagues, Ade Somefun of the Tribune called me and asked that I should call Chief Onigbinde. I asked, what for? And he reminded me of how I had suffered over two previous World Cups and recalled my 1994 and ’98 misses.

” He said if there was anyone who qualified to be between the post for Nigeria at the Korea/Japan World Cup, that person was me.

” I weighed his advise and decided to call chief Onigbinde. But before I called Chief, I first called my guys, Finidi, Oliseh and a few others so that it won’t be seen as a betrayal of trust.

” They encouraged me to call Chief Onigbinde, saying that my case was different. By then they had been to two World Cups so they were not bothered. Finidi, Oliseh and a few others refused to call the Chief.

” When I eventually called Chief Onigbinde, he answered me politely and asked me, ‘Are you ready to play for me?’ I answered in the affirmative, ‘if you invite me’.. He was pleased by my gesture and promised to get back to me.

” Two weeks after, to my greatest surprise, Nigeria’s official list for the World Cup was out with prominent names like Babahgida, Oliseh, Finidi, Ikpeba among others missing. These two goalkeepers, Murphy Akanji and Ndubuisi Egbo were not included.

” They sent an invitation to my club and I flew to Lagos. The team had already departed to Ireland for the pre-tournament camp.

” I joined the team there. With Chief Onigbinde as head, were Coaches Fany Amun, Henry Nwosu, coach Ekpenyong and one other coach from the north. Coach Ekpenyong and his counterpart from the north were the two goalkeeper coaches we had.

When I joined the team, one of the coaches said to the hearing of a player that ‘Ike has just come to waste his time here. We already have our team.’ When the player told me this, I was not bothered because I had seen worse things than that. I advised him to just wait until Chief released his list.

” Two days after, when we played Ireland in a friendly, Onigbinde addressed the press and said he had not selected his team yet but that I was the only one whose place in the World Cup bound team he could guarantee. That was after the match against Ireland and I was voted Man Of The Match.

” The next day we flew to England, to the Queens Park Rangers ground to play Jamaica, Coach Onigbinde handed me the Captain’s band. After the first half, the scoreline was still 0-0 and he said he wanted to try another goalkeeper and I made way for Ejide. After the Jamaica match, he released his team. ” Shorunmu concluded.


A lot of things went wrong before Korea/Japan 2002. The deed had been done and will remain in the history book as reference and lessons going forward.

20 years on, Nigeria is set to miss the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup after failing at the playoffs to arch-rivals Ghana.

The Ghanaians alongside Cameroon, Morroco, Tunisia and Senegal are Africa’s representatives at the world’s biggest footballing event this year.

Ahead of the tournament in November, Ike Shorunmu believes African teams have what it takes to reach the semi-final in Qatar.

” African teams have what it takes to reach the Semi-final (at the world cup). That will be a huge plus for the continent,” Shorunmu told PUNCH on Wednesday October 25, 2022.

Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010) achieved Africa’s best finish at the FIFA World Cup (Quater-final).

If the semi-final feat is achieved in Qatar, that will grace the History book.



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