Odegbami: Former Super Eagles captain rues his failure to play at World Cup

Segun Odegbami

Ex-Nigeria captain Segun Odegbami has revealed he feels "unfulfilled" not to play at the World Cup during his active years.

The 68-year-old enjoyed success during his football career, winning three Nigeria Premier League titles with Shooting Stars and one FA Cup trophy.

The fleet-footed winger captained Nigeria to their first Africa Cup of Nations title in 1980, where he emerged as the top-scorer in the tournament.

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Odegbami had 47 caps for the Super Eagles, scoring 22 goals before his retirement from the national team.

Despite his success for club and country during his playing years, he has revealed his regret of not featuring in the global tournament.

“Missing out of the World Cup and not featuring at that level is very painful. It is even more painful because we had the opportunity twice, but on both occasions, we couldn’t,” Odegbami told Punch.

“We knew it was important to go to the World Cup, but if we had realised the enormity the way we know today, we would have done everything possible to ensure that we went.

“I feel unfulfilled not to have played at the World Cup. If I had gone to either of the two or both World Cups or played in the final of the Caf Champions League, I would have been named Africa’s best player very easily, but those two events stopped that in my career.”

Nigeria came close to earning a place at the 1978 and 1982 World Cup tournaments during Odegbami’s time but narrowly missed out after losing their last qualifying games.

The forward revealed their failure to qualify for the competitions were as a result of some poor decisions from the then Nigeria Football Association.

“Failure to qualify for the 1978 World Cup had nothing to do with the performances of the players, but with the administrators, whose last-minute decisions did not favour the team,” he continued.

“They increased the gate fees for the last match against Tunisia and there were less than 3,000 people inside the stadium following a massive protest against the administrators.

“For the first time ever, our own fans booed us and supported the Tunisians. We ended up losing that game 1-0 and there was silence everywhere because all we needed was a draw.

“Also in 1981, with just a match to go, the coach allowed the administrators to influence his decision and took the game for granted by replacing the bulk of the players that had taken us that far.”

In an effort to contribute his quota to the development of football in Nigeria administratively, Odegbami contested for the post of the president of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) twice but failed to garner enough support to win the elections.