Former Nigeria safe hands, Ike Shorunmu has revealed how he contributed to the Super Eagles missing out in the final of the Mali 2002 Africa Cup of Nations.
In that match, the Eagles lost 2-1 to Senegal after extra-time in a match that saw three players sent off.
Shorunmu, said he was not supposed to be in the post in the clash against Senegal, as he suffered a head injury in the quarter-finals against Ghana. He also said the injury was played down and it came back to affect his performance in the semi-finals and eventually contributed to the Eagles’ loss.
With the game against the Teranga Lions tied at 1-1, a very easy to parry strike from Salif Diao in first half extra-time went past Shorunmu with ease which turned out to be the winner.
Shorunmu recalled in an interview on Brila FM’s ‘No Holds Barred’ with former Eagles’ teammate Ifeanyi Udeze.
“Back then, in Mali we had a lot of senior players and something happened, firstly, I was injured in our match against Ghana and I was rushed to the hospital. The Minister (Sports) then didn’t come to see me at the hospital,”
“Two days after I resumed training, but a day before the semi-final against Senegal, he (Minister) came to the practice ground and spoke to me, expressing support after the injury, but our captain Sunday Oliseh, confronted him.
“The captain asked the Minister, ‘Oga, if he was your son would it have taken this long for you to come see him?’. The response left the Minister’s entourage stunned.”
“Unfortunately, we lost the semi-final to Senegal, but initially I wasn’t even meant to play that game, because of the shock from the injury I suffered. But due to the pressure from the Coaches, who didn’t trust our reserve goalkeepers (Murphy Akanji and Ndubuisi Ego), I was included in the team.
“At the time Finidi (George), who was my roommate, and Austin Okocha after our last training session came to me and advised me not to play the semi-final. They noticed my performance was below par and they said ‘You look petrified’. I told them I was okay but only had a slight headache.
“But the coaches were also under a lot of pressure from some top officials, who were insisting on me playing, unfortunately we lost.
“When you look at the tape again and especially at the second goal we conceded, it was my fault. The shot was feeble and I assumed the ball was going over, but really it was the fear in me that I could get hurt again which made me stall.
“We lost that game, but went into the third-place game and we won that, however after that tournament; proceeding to the World Cup, the NFF announced they had disbanded the team.”