“It was sad and painful”- Ex-Super Eagles midfielder Duke Udi reveals how Bonfere Joe dubiously excluded him from Nigeria’s Atlanta 1996 squad

There have always been talks of racketeering in Nigeria’s national teams across various sports, but very few situations have come to light, reports.

However, a former Super Eagles player Duke Udi has brought some of the activities of former Nigeria coach Joe Bonfere to light. The 47-year-old was an important member of the Nigeria Under-23 team in the run-up to the 1996 Olympics, featuring in most of the games.

However, he was omitted from the final squad for the Olympics despite playing in their last friendly game against Togo and being fully fit.

In a recent interview on Elegbete TV, Udi who has now gone into coaching revealed that he was excluded from the squad because he turned down Bonfere’s request for him to move to Dutch club Heerenveen in 1996 before the Olympics.

“I remember when I was in Zurich, Bonfere Joe came to my hotel in Zurich with his wife,” Duke Udi told Elegbete TV.

“His wife tried to sell the idea of moving to Herenveen to me because she was managing some players at the club that time. However, I said I wanted to go back to Nigeria. His wife was shocked. So he was angry that his wife was talking to me and I still refused.

“So when he came to Nigeria, that was the first thing he told me in Enugu. But before that time, after every training in Enugu, I would not be released from training for another 30 minutes. If not for the pressure on him to take other players like Patrick Pascal to the Olympics, he wouldn’t have taken them.

“Bonfere Joe called me and Dosu Joseph to his room then. He spoke to Dosu first, then after that, I entered his room. He said, ‘Duke, you think you’re stubborn, I told you to go to Holland and sign for a club, you refused and came to 3SC. You see this Atalanta, you played all the matches, includig the qualifications – you’re a good player, but I will not take you’.

I started begging him, I though he was joking. Bonfere Joe was someone that will never forgive you, he will not forgive you.

Nonetheless, despite the shenanigans behind the scenes, Nigeria still went on to win gold in Atalanta, beating top teams like Brazil, Argentina and Japan.

Meanwhile, Bonfere had two stints in Nigeria. He coached the Olympics team and worked as head coach of the Super Eagles.

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