Ten years after been disgracefully bundled out of the football event at the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, defensive lynchpin of the Nigerian under 23 team, otherwise referred to as the Dream Team II, Inyenemi Furo has opened a can of worms.
The Nigerians reached the quarter finals where they were bundled out by an Ivan Zamorano-inspired Chile team but Iyenemi says they were fortunate to even reach the last eight in that competition.
“We had no team in Sydney. The players were just bunched together barely weeks to the start of the games and we were never going to do what our predecessors did at the previous Olympics in Atlanta, four years earlier,” Furo told MasterSportsng.com.
The former Akratitos of Greece defender however did not absolve himself of blame for Nigeria’s woeful showing at the tournament.
“Some of the players were carrying injuries but decided to hide it for personal and selfish reasons. I was also suffering from an ankle injury but I chose to play through the pain barrier for the love of my country. Unfortunately, things did not quite go as nicely I wanted in the end,” he said.
Nigeria began the competition with a thrilling three-all draw with Honduras before beating the hosts, Australia, three-two in their second game. A one-all draw with Italy, rounded off their preliminary campaign as they finished second in group A with five points, two behind the Italians who topped the group with seven points.
Inyenemi and friends came unstuck in the quarter finals as goals from Pablo Contreras, Ivan Zamorano, Reinaldo Navia, and Rodrigo Tello condemned Nigeria to a four-one defeat: Victor Okechukwu Agali’s goal on 76 minutes proving to be scant consolation.
“To be honest, I was not at my best in that game because of the injury I was carrying and the trainer eventually substituted me. I still feel bad about that game and I want to use this opportunity to apologize to all Nigerians for the pain we caused them on September, 23, 2000,” Furo said.
The physically imposing defender has since hung his boots but is now giving back to society via his football academy, WAGAS, in Belgium.
“The academy is actually based in Belgium where I played professional football at a stage in my career. It is a synergy between me and my partner in France. We use it to help young players who are gifted and subsequently help them take their skills to countries like France, Switzerland, Spain, UAE, and north African countries like Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. Football has given me so much and I just have to reciprocate in my own small way,” he said.