By Jacob Ajom
Former Technical Director of the Nigeria Football Association, Coach Kashimawo Laloko is angry with the entire set up at the Nigeria Football Federation. He is also not happy with the Gernot Rohr-led technical crew of the Super Eagles.
Laloko said all of them should be held responsible for dragging Nigeria’s name in the mud. Laloko who is also the Director of Pepsi Football Academy described the recent fine on Nigeria by FIFA for fielding an ineligible player, Shehu Abdullahi against Algeria in the final group match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier was a disgrace of monumental dimension.
Abdullahi had bagged two yellow cards in the preceding qualifiers and was therefore, ineligible to play in that match against Algeria. Apart from the N2m fine, the Federation of International Football Association, FIFA also awarded the match, the three goals and three points to Algeria. Luckily, the punishment had no bearing on Nigeria’s qualification for the World Cup because the Eagles had already secured their berth in Russia before the final group game.
The issue has sparked off a lot of reactions from stakeholders.
Coach Laloko did not mince words when asked who should be held responsible for the error. “Who selected the team that played Algeria?” He asked, adding, “as far as I am concerned, the head of the technical crew should be held responsible for the blunder”.
Shehu Abdullahi bagged the first yellow card against Switzerland during the preliminaries when Sunday Oliseh was still in charge of the team. His second was when the Eagles tackled Zambia in Uyo.
“The argument that the player got the first yellow card under another coach does not hold water,” Laloko insisted. He questioned the thoroughness of Coach Rohr because, according to him, “when he took over the team, he was supposed to ask questions like, who among the players have been given yellow or red cards? Who has played and who has not played? Who is on injury list? It is disheartening to hear things like that still happen at this stage of our development”.
The former coach of Stationery Stores FC of Lagos said Rohr is lucky because he is a foreign coach. “If he was an indigenous coach he would have been sacked by now,” he said.
He said the head of the technical crew is supposed to delegate duties to his assistants. “When a match is going on, there is supposed to be somebody who will be taking note on such details as yellow cards, throw-ins, corner kicks and so forth. Some others face the technical issues and other such details. They shouldn’t just sit on the bench and watch like spectators?”
He did not spare the football house, which he blamed for the failing of the technical director. “How often do they carry Bitrus Bewarang, the technical Director along? The technical director should be in all matches and not sit tight in the office. He too should have had such records, if he has been attending matches.”
He was, however consoled by the fact that the sanction did not affect Nigeria’s qualification for the World Cup. If it had, Laloko said, “all of them would have been sacked.
The veteran coach dismissed the 4-man panel set up to probe the yellow card disgrace as it would come to nought. “That is begging the question. They do not need to go far because that falls under the function of people they know very well. It doesn’t need a probe”
He said Nigeria had seen similar scenarios in the past and not much was done to serve as a deterrent. We have been sanctioned severally by FIFA in the past. First was in 1983 in the U-17 when somebody forgot his passport in Lagos.
Secondly in 1989 when we fielded an ineligible(overage) player, and then this, the fielding of Shehu Abdullahi who was ineligible to play the match against Algeria, having bagged two yellow cards in the preceding matches of the qualifiers. He said apart from the first incident which resulted in some form of punishment to the culprits, who were later pardoned, the second incident died a natural death. “Nothing was done,” he recalled, adding that the current probe would lead to nothing tangible.