Troussier's honesty cost him Eagles job
Jonathan Akpoborie has claimed that French coach, Philippe Troussier was kicked out of his Nigerian job in 1997 because "he was liberal."
Troussier, popularly known as the White Witch Doctor, had just qualified Nigeria's Super Eagles for the 1998 Fifa World Cup but got sacked after losing 1-2 to Guinea in Conakry.
But Akpoborie believes there was a hidden agenda at that time behind the sack of Troussier, now head coach at Chinese outfit Shenzen Ruby.
The 44-year-old Nigerian, now retired from football, believes the Frenchman's sack back then is because he did not play ball with the ring of those bribing their way into the national team, as alleged by former Super Eagles' coach, Clemens Westerhof, earlier this week in an interview with supersport.com.
"He was a liberal and free coach. He had his programme set up. But the bad eggs saw it and got rid of him fast," said the former Nigerian striker.
When the ex-VfL Wolfsburg man was told that some of his teammates were quoted in 1997 saying they did not like the formation used by Troussier, he dismissed the claim as a "big lie."
"(It is a) big lie. We qualified with it. We were getting better with every game," Akpoborie shot in defence of Troussier's 3-5-2 style he adopted in a few games during his few months in charge of Nigeria in 1997.
Akpoborie did not spare Westerhof, who had the balls to lift the lid on the bribery scandal in Nigeria's national team in the past.
"My question to him (Westerhof) would have been, was it the bribes he received, then, that made him not to play me at the 1992 Africa Cup of Nations? He was chief coach, so that statement does not separate (exonerate) him," he said.
The former VfB Stuttgart forward's revelation to supersport.com about allegation of bribery in the Nigerian squad during his playing days did not end there.
He recalled before his first game for the Super Eagles in Lagos against Burkina Faso in a 1998 Fifa World Cup qualifying, how he was accosted on giving kickbacks to ensure he made the squad to France.
"I remember my first game for the Super Eagles in Lagos. I flew in on Monday (before the game on that weekend), and of course the crowd at the hotel was plenty.
"I checked in and came down with friends to the lobby. It was a while since I mixed with the football crowd in Nigeria. I was surprised, I was hauled into different meetings with different groups of journalists and all sorts of people, claiming to be the group that had direct access to the Super Eagles team and that I should have payment arrangement to ensure I go to the World Cup.
"Well of course I did not pay. I thought it ridiculous to pay to represent your country," said Akpoborie, who once played for Julius Berger FC, a club now known as Bridge Boys, before moving abroad.
In spite of playing most of Nigeria's World Cup qualifying games in 1996 and 1997, and being the country's best striker in Europe at that time, Akpoborie was dropped from the team to the 1998 Mundial in France.
"Well I was shocked. But you can ask journalists that were around then (why I was dropped). Because I refused to pay someone that came to me for bribes.
"I believe they already gave Bora (Milutinovic) the team for the World Cup because he was ridiculed on live TV in Germany when he said, he had to still look at me," said Akpoborie.
On the so-called Mafia in camp at that time, Akpoborie simply laughed it off but agreed that the group existed as "the core of that team" and even talked on the group's influence on the team.
"I think that has always been blown out of proportion sometimes. But they were there. The core of that team (made up the mafia).
"Well a coach has a relationship with core members of the team. But this became a tool that was then used to their own personal advantages later," revealed the former FC Hansa Rostock man.
Akpoborie made his debut for Nigeria against Colombia in the 1995 US Gold Cup but scored his first goal against Mexico in same tournament in Dallas that same year.
He also appeared 12 times for the Super Eagles and scored four goals.