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Monday, 10 June, 2002, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
Japan accused of sabotage
Nigeria goalkeeper Ike Shoronmu poses with fans
At least some fans have seen their heroes in the flesh

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Fans coming from Nigeria to support the Super Eagles are only now arriving in Japan.

They had been stuck in Lagos waiting for visas, which were only issued the day before Nigeria played Sweden.

"We are not happy coming so late," said the head of the Nigerian Football Supporters Club, Dr. Rafiu Oladipo.

"It was never of our making, rather an act of sabotage by the Japanese.

"Back home in Nigeria we started the process of obtaining visas three months ago, and we were not obliged until a day before our second match against Sweden."

Excuses

The 271 fans who obtained visas travelled to Tokyo via Dubai, where they had a 15 hour stop-over, ensuring they missed the game.

Oladipo says they have not been given a satisfactory explanation for the visa delay by the Japanese embassy.

"We were given a lot of conflicting excuses. They asked for match tickets, air fares and asked for Fifa's confirmation, which should not have been the situation.

"The Nigerian Football Supporter's Club is known all over the world. If any country is hosting the world, they should know that the Nigerian supporters club should be there."

The fans now have only the last group match against England to look forward to, as the Super Eagles are out of contention after losing to Argentina and Sweden.

Oladipo says things could have been very different.

Beating England

"If we had been there, certainly my team would not have been beaten the way they were.

"We are considered the twelfth player of the team. All the time we give support, by cheering and singing. All the songs are messages to tell the players to do the right thing at the right time."

And he says they will do everything to help the team beat England.

"We are playing for prestige and the integrity of Nigeria. We cannot afford to lose to England.

We have been beaten twice, and we have to make a point that we are a nation that is serious, and one that will defend itself on the field of play. We are going to implore and motivate the players to play a good game against England."


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GROUP F
  P GD PTS
SWEDEN 3 +1 5
ENGLAND 3 +1 5
ARGENTINA 3 0 4
NIGERIA 3 -2 1

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