Nigeria Football Federation supremo Amaju Pinnick has tendered an unreserved apology to Nigerians and the Super Eagles faithful over the docking of points by Fifa for fielding an ineligible player in the national team's final group match in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
In a series of tweets on Wednesday morning, Pinnick explained what went wrong and highlighted the fact that due diligence was not conducted by the Federation before the meeting in Constantine on November 11, 2017.
Anorthosis Famagusta right-back Abdullahi Shehu was first yellow carded in the second round of the African World Cup qualifiers against Swaziland on November 13, 2015, before collecting a second booking on match day five against Zambia, effectively ruling him out of the game against Algeria.
''Good morning. I'll start by tendering my wholehearted apology to Nigeria and Nigerians for the Shehu Abdullahi error. It is unforgivable and could have undone months of hard work. As head of the Federation, I take responsibility for this. It happened on my watch,'' Pinnick stated.
''While accepting the Federation's fault here, let me quickly explain how this went by unnoticed. It doesn't change the fact that we didn't keep our eyes on the ball and will help us in our planned restructuring of the Technical & Competitions Department.
''Shehu Abdullahi got his first yellow card in our very first preliminary match against Swaziland away. When the draws for the Group Stages were made, the Technical staff made a grave error; assumption. They assumed the cards gotten prior would not count.
''To be fair to them, through out the qualifying series, official match documents didn't even show that Shehu Abdullahi was on a yellow card. For instance, when we played Cameroon, Mikel, Moses and Balogun were put on notice that they had yellow cards.
Team meetings were even held about how to handle their cards so they wouldn't miss crucial games. Shehu Abdullahi was never in the mix. Shehu then recieved a yellow against Zambia in our penultimate game, two years after the Swaziland match.
''Another grave mistake then occurred. Fifa sent an email to the technical officer in charge, that Shehu Abdullahi was suspended for the Algeria match. In a twist of fate, that officer was in hospital, with a severe heart condition, battling for his life.
''The biggest knock to our system is the fact that his official correspondences should have been forwarded to more than one person. It wasn't. We went into our last match not knowing about Fifa's notice. Not acceptable, I agree, but these are the facts of the matter.
''On the match day, we were unaware, the match officials were unaware and our opponents were unaware. It was a horrendous error and we at the Federation are truly apologetic. We thank God it did not undue years of hard work.
''It was a lack of due diligence in and by one of our departments and we are ensuring that errors like these never happen again. On behalf of all of us at the @thenff; I apologise, Nigeria. Our focus remains. We will soar higher.''
The Nigerian Federation were fined the equivalent of N2.2 million for contravening the rules of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
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