With the Super Eagles Africa Cup of Nations victory in 2013, many had thought that by now, our senior national team would have become a threat to top football playing nations around the globe, but that is not so. What is the problem?
Football today is not about winning today and getting assured of another victory tomorrow. The game is evolving and lots of teams are improving on their preparations and the way they handle things especially their administration and planning. I think we have not really done that, after winning the Nations Cup in South Africa we went to sleep and that is what is affecting us now.
And have you thought of the losses of not having a substantive national team handler since last year?
Well, we have not really lost anything. Nigeria is still Nigeria and we still command respect from other teams not minding the fact that we don’t have a substantive coach who should have been preparing us for the next AFCON, and I think the NFF is aware of this and they should plan very well to ensure that everything works out very well.
A coach they say is as good as his last game. Why is Keshi still in the picture of continuing as Super Eagles head coach despite failing to qualify the country for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations held in Equatorial Guinea?
I don’t think anyone is indispensable and untouchable. Keshi is a Nigerian and he has done very well by winning the Africa Cup of Nations after 19 years. Though a coach is as good as his last game, but I guess he is only being considered based on his previous achievement. What baffles me is that I don’t know what is slowing things down and I hope things get back to shape very soon.
Do you think that an indigenous coach can land Nigeria the FIFA World Cup?
Why not? If we talk of winning the World Cup, it may not be now because we still have a lot of work to do. Winning the World Cup is not just waking up and thinking you can win, it is achieved as a result of hard work of so many years. Germany won it as a result of efforts they have put in over the years and if we hope to join that league too, we have to start planning now.
Most of the Super Eagles reliable, like Vincent Enyeama, Osaze Odemwingie, Austin Ejide and Ikechukwu Uche are few years away from international retirement. How do we get better replacements for them?
This is a generational thing in football. As some are aging, some are coming up too, all we need to do is ensure that players coming from behind are given the enabling environment to fit in to the senior national team set up so they will have that confidence needed to excel.
The Flying Eagles are making the country proud at the African Youth Championship in Senegal. What should they do to ensure they do not slip like the Golden Eaglets who started well but ended poorly?
Looking at the Nigeria U-20 team, it is a very solid side that can break down any opposition. All they need to do is continue with that team spirit, zeal and hard work they are known for. I definitely believe they will not let the country down. They should also set their sights on doing well at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand because that will bring them to limelight.
The Dream Team VI have qualified for the next round of the All Africa Games qualifiers. Looking at the team, do you think they can win the Olympic football gold medal in Rio?
I am very sure they will. Samson Siasia has a very good team and we all saw what they did in Gabon before returning home to complete the job, so if they remain focused and don’t get distracted, they can achieve it. Why not?
Headmaster, all through your playing career abroad, was there any point in time you were racially abused?
Well, I never experienced that because I think racism was taken very seriously then unlike what is obtainable today.
Do you think racism has any negative impact on the way a player plays, or do you feel it’s just mere alarm?
Football is a global thing and everybody has the right to be treated as human. Aside from this, the round leather game is that which unifies the world not minding people’s religion, colour or country. The question on which race is better than the other should be kicked out of the world and sports in general because football knows no colour. So, everyone must enjoy it!
FIFA President Sepp Blatter recently said teams whose fans are found guilty of racism should have their points deducted, or relegated. Will this solve the problem?
If that will bring racism in football to a halt, so be it. Other strategies should also be put in place to ensure it is completely wiped out totally from the beautiful game. The World Football governing body too should also take this very serious and punish erring offenders.
Coming back to our domestic football, have you thought of ways of making our local league attractive once again?
We need to do a lot. First, we need to bring our fans back to the s t a d i u m to watch t h e s e games. T h i s will make it more colourful. The area of security must be taken more seriously and fans must learn how to be civil at match venues because in some stadia in the country, some people don’t act well and would prefer to act as they like. All they are out to do is cause trouble and injure others and all that. Our fans must be taught to act right. For players wages, they should be given as at when due because that is the tool that will make them play. Some clubs will even go to the extent of blacklisting players who complain of unpaid dues. Everyone should be given his due. If this is done, the players will be very happy and will be willing to compete very well.
Should there be a law that would see our foreign based professionals retire in the Nigerian leagues as a way of giving it a face lift?
That will be a very good step. For instance, an Argentine or Brazilian who goes out to Europe to play professional football definitely returns home to retire in their domestic league and that should not be different in Nigeria. This will bring fans back to the stadia and add glamour too. Clubs too must be able to do their own bit to ensure these players return home to play for them.