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DATELINE WORLD CUP 2002 / NIGERIA

Players Are No-Shows at President's Banquet

June 25, 2002|Jim Barrero

President Olusegun Obasanjo played host to a banquet Monday to honor Nigeria's World Cup team, but after a disappointing first-round exit for the Super Eagles, none of the players showed up.

Officials at the dinner said players had been forced to decline invitations because of other club commitments. However, Nigerian media reported that some of the players had planned to boycott the event because the government had not paid bonuses to team members.

Obasanjo praised the squad for "preparing well," and said bad luck was behind Nigeria's first-round exit.

"We have not been disgraced. Next time we believe all the ingredients will be in our favor: hard work, prayers and luck," the president said.

Obasanjo insisted the team stick with Nigerian-born coaches, despite calls to hire a foreigner after the failure of team trainer Festus Onigbinde.

"Hiring a foreign coach for the national team is unacceptable to me," Obasanjo said.

On Sunday, Onigbinde accused Taribo West and other star members of the Super Eagles of disobeying orders during the team's short-lived World Cup campaign.

"I discovered that my instructions were being flouted after some senior players told the other players to disregard them," Onigbinde told reporters.

West was a "bad influence" on the young players, Onigbinde said, referring to comments by the player describing some of his Nigerian teammates as "junk."

"We are confounded because the so-called junk players held England to a draw," Onigbinde said.

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