Why We Opted Out Of the 2002 World Cup – Victor Agali
Former Nigerian international, Victor Agali has opened up on the real reason why he and a few other players missed out of the super eagles’ squad to the 2002 world cup in Korea and Japan.
Victor Agali was part of the super eagles’ squad to the 2002 AFCON in Mali that was disbanded by the Nigeria football federation after a major altercation happened in Mali.
The Protest and The Ban
The team led by captain Sunday Oliseh protested about the match bonuses and air ticket repayments but, the action was termed embarrassing to the country leading to a ban imposed on the entire team.
Kanu Nwankwo and Jay Jay Okocha made a return to the team after an invitation from the new coach but, the rest of the AFCON squad including Victor Agali stuck to their guns and felt let down by the action of the few.
“I was thinking a lot of the players were going to follow suit, to kind of save our face. We know the players that were involved in qualifying for the world cup, we know the club they played for. Immediately after the nations cup, too many things began to happen. It looked like the team was not prepared for the world cup. A lot of players were pushed out and a lot of players; I don’t know what they did, got themselves back into the team and it was just contrary to what I stand for as a player. I just opted out of the world cup.”
Looking back at that moment, the former Schalke of Germany striker felt he did the right thing but, it was a sad moment that depicted a lack of unity in the national team.
“That is what has affected our football till today where some players feel they can make their way-in from nowhere and then go to the world cup, not thinking of the image of the country’s football just for an appearance fee. It doesn’t make sense. I think if we had united back then, we would have a better future for the super eagles, but that was when things began to nosedive. It’s a sad moment. I have put that behind me.”
The super eagles attended the 2002 world cup co-hosted by Korea and Japan with 80 per cent new players and an entirely new coaching crew led by Adegboye Onigbinde.
The team lost two matches to Sweden and Argentina before picking a draw against England.