Nigeria midfielder Sani Kaita has been inundated with death threats from home after he was sent off in the Super Eagles' 2-1 loss to Greece in their Group B World Cup match, on Thursday.
"Kaita has so far received more than 1,000 threats to his email from within Nigeria," said team spokesman Peterside Idah."We are taking these threats very seriously. We've spoken to the Nigerian government to inform them about it and also written to Fifa to notify them."
Nigeria were leading 1-0 in last Thursday's game when Kaita kicked out at Greece's Vassilis Torosidis on the touchline in the 33rd minute. The referee showed him a straight red card.
The west African side went on to concede two goals, seriously damaging their chances of getting to the second round of the tournament in South Africa.
"We consider it a very serious matter because this is a young man who is putting his best at the service of his country and football," Idah said.
"That is why the team received the news of the threat to his life with shock and disappointment and is urging the authorities in Nigeria to take measures to protect him."
He said the 24-year-old midfielder was "terribly shaken, but, fortunately, he is receiving great support from his team mates and team officials".
Nigeria take on South Korea at the Moses Mabhida stadium, in Durban, tomorrow and must win to stand any chance of qualifying.
The team spokesman said defenders Taye Taiwo and Elderson Echiejile, who suffered injuries in the match against Greece, were making "good recovery" and might be available for their final group game.
Kaita had apologised "to everyone" after his red card helped Greece to a crucial 2-1 victory in a World Cup Group B match at the Free State Stadium on Thursday.
"I apologise to everyone. To the Nigerian people, the officials and my team mates," the 24-year-old told reporters after his first-half sending-off for violent conduct.
Before Kaita received his marching orders, the Super Eagles had been leading 1-0 after a Kalu Uche freekick and were seemingly in control. The Russian-based player looked aghast as he left the pitch with his shirt pulled over his head, almost heralding the Greek onslaught which quickly ensued.
Within 11 minutes, Greece were level thanks to Dimitris Salpingidis's deflected strike – his country's first ever World Cup goal – and they grabbed a deserved first World Cup win with just under 20 minutes to go through Torosidis's poached effort.
"I accept the red card as a justified decision, I am very disappointed. I hope Argentina can help us out," Kaita glumly added after missing out on the rest of an entertaining match.
Victory for Greece puts them on three points with South Korea, who were trounced 4-1 by table-topping Argentina earlier on Thursday, while Nigeria have no points from two games.
Nigeria, one of Africa's great hopes for the competition, must now beat South Korea, on 22 June in Durban, and hope that Argentina can beat Greece in Polokwane the same day to have a hope of progressing.
Laid-back forward Nwankwo Kanu remained typically relaxed about his country's chances.
"If you look at the table it is not really bad, but we need a win," he told reporters.
"We cannot go for a draw, we have to go all out and make sure that we win and then it depends on what happens between Argentina and Greece," he added.
Nigeria coach Lars Lagerback told reporters he had not seen the sending off, or spoken to Kaita about it but the Swede did reserve some praise for his side's second-half display.
"In the circumstances, I am proud of the attitude and the work that they put into the second half and I hope that the Super Eagles' fans back home also can see and appreciate that."
Lagerback could face some selection problems at left-back after losing both Taye Taiwo and Elderson Echiejile to injuries during the Greece defeat.Reuse content