Former Super Eagles coach, Adegboye Onigbinde, claims ex-Nigerian cetre-back Taribo West was “primarily responsible for Nigeria’s failure to progress to the finals of the 2002 Fifa World Cup.”
The former Green Eagle coach was responding to claims made by the ex-AC Milan defender that “he had no business coaching Nigeria” at the 2002 Korean and Japan World Cup finals.
Ongbinde, 73, highlighted the role Taribo played in the solitary Gabriel Batistuta goal Nigeria conceded in the opening match against Argentina, which got the nation’s campaign off to a poor start.
“I had a one-hour meeting with the players before our first match against Argentina,” Onigbinde, who took charge of the Green Eagles between 1982 and 1984, told supersport.com.
“I extensively discussed set plays and instructed the players on how to deal with the tricky Argentines in such situations.
“The goal Batistuta scored was from a corner and Taribo bluntly ignored my pre-game instructions and allowed him to score.
“I still do not know if Taribo did that intentionally because he was just standing and watching as Batistuta majestically rose and planted his header, unchallenged.
“If we had drawn against Argentina, I am convinced Nigeria have reached the final of that competition.
“In our second game against Sweden, Taribo West also contributed to the two goals they scored against us so you could see why I still regret taking him to the World Cup.
He was primarily responsible for Nigeria’s failure to progress to the final of the 2002 Fifa World Cup… Adegboye Onigbinde on taribo West’s lacklustre defending at the 2002 Korea and Japan World Cup.
“I decided to drop him for the final group match against England and that was why we had our best performance.”
Taribo had accused Onigbinde of having a hand in the axing of former coach Amodu Shuaibu, who qualified the national team for the world soccer showpiece, after the 2002 Mali African Cup of Nations (Afcon).
And these are what Onigbinde had to say: “Those accusations? They are completely baseless.
“When the Super Eagles were going to Mali, the Nigeria Football Federation selected four of us; Alabi Aissien, Christo Davis and Paul Hamilton were there to assist me in analysing their games played by the team and forwarding our observations to the coach and the members of his backroom staff.
“It was standard procedure as we were members of the technical department.
“During one of their games, at half-time, I went to the dressing room to pass a message from the technical department through a note.
“I did not ask Amodou to stop talking to the players. I just quietly passed the note to Keshi (Amodu’s assistant at the time) who read it, tore it into pieces and threw into the waste bin.
“I said nothing and quietly moved away.
“Afterwards, I went to Europe for a while only to hear stories that the team had been disbanded and that the coaches had been sacked.
“I started receiving calls asking that I should come and take over the team.
“What happened was that at the time, I was acting as the technical director. I was appointed after going through an interview.
“The standard process then was that if the federation had any problem with the coaching crew, the technical director would be mandated to take over.
“That was three months to the world cup. Initially, I was reluctant but I later accepted due to the interest of the nation.”
Onigbinde, however, led the Eagles to the 2002 World Cup, where Nigeria crashed out of the group stage, losing to Argentina (1-0), Sweden (2-1) and playing out a goalless draw with England.
Onigbinde insists he shouldn’t have taken Taribo, who he said pestered him to include his name in his squad, to the World Cup.
“Taribo was sending people to beg me to bring him into the team and that was the greatest mistake I made. He sent (former national team goalkeeper) Dosu Joseph to meet me in Scotland when we had a friendly match and begged me to bring him into the team. If Taribo was not in my team, I would have gotten to the final of that World Cup,” Onigbinde retorted.