Saturday 11 July 2015

Keshi Was Consumed By The Politics He Played – Odegbami

here do you stand on the disengagement of Stephen Keshi  as Super Eagles coach by the Nigeria Football Federation?
Keshi is my friend and I was one of those who championed his recruitment when he was being shopped for and I supported him all through to the 2013 Nations Cup and 2014 World Cup. We played together as team-mates and so I am very unhappy that he lost his job and the way he lost the job is another cause for concern.
I thought that if they wanted to sack him, it could have been done earlier or nicely done when the opportunity was right, when the conditions called for it, when everything was perfect for him to have gone honourably.
But that he waited for this long and they also waited, only to now sack him shows that they were looking for any opportunity or the closest to an opportunity to sack him. And that is why we have this unfortunate incident that is generating a lot of discussions and debate in the country. It is rather unfortunate.

What is the way forward in this unfortunate situation as the NFF has said Shuaibu Amodu should be the interim manager of the team. Do you think they should get another coach so that the qualification process for the 2017 Nations Cup will not run into hitches?
Time waits for no one. The world just trudges on. That Keshi has been removed doesn’t mean that is the end of the world. People were sacked before him and people will be hired after him.

Looking forward, I just thought that the issue of Shuaibu Amodu coming in as coach will now draw up its own debate and controversies. As technical director, he has an assignment, he has his own mandate, so I think he should just stay within that mandate, instead of coming in.
There was a time that he came in when Keshi was sacked but left after Keshi was recalled. It implies a musical game of chairs and there is no justification for him coming in at this point. But I like what I heard that one, they say it is a temporary thing, two, what Amodu said he was not putting out his neck forward for that position.
So what do we do now?

I am totally not in support of a foreign coach. I believe there will be a hidden agenda behind hiring a foreign coach that will come to Nigeria. Let us see his credentials. What has he won? What qualities does he have to be our coach? We are not going to look at his white skin to let him just come. Has he done better that the coaches that we’ve had and have? Has he done better than Keshi? 

Keshi remains the most successful indigenous coach in the history of football in Nigeria.

There has never been anyone, foreign or local that was better than him. And some of us have said that from Keshi we should start to look at their generation. Players who played at every level, players who were coached by the highest level of coaches, players who have gone further to get higher education and acquire coaching courses to handle our national teams. We have said so and we should not go back on our word. There is one person eminently qualified to become the next coach of the Super Eagles.

And I think he deserves to be given a chance. He is an international. He has the intellectual capacity to handle the team. He has demonstrated steady grasp of the game over and over again in his conversation and analysis of the game in the world. We have seen him, we have heard him and we think he can do it. That person is Sunday Oliseh. Under no condition must anybody go and bring one foreigner to come and say he wants to coach a Nigerian team in this age that we are in.

We have a Sunday Oliseh. Give him the job to do. Don’t say he does not have the experience because if you don’t give him the opportunity, he will never get the experience. Keshi started from somewhere. Samson Siasia started from somewhere. Go to those foreign countries and you will find out that there are certain coaches who started their careers at the top. Oliseh qualifies. No uestion on it. Bring in Oliseh. Those are my personal views on him.

Are you not worried at all by his lack of coaching experience at the national team level?

Not at all. There is no other Nigerian qualified for the job than him.
People will disagree with you on that based on the fact that he has no experience for such a sensitive and demanding job as the Eagles Coach…
Of course, but who says that he has not been coaching. He has been coaching in Belgium.
In an academy…

Coaching is coaching. Caching at the national level is the easiest job in the world. It is easier than to coach a club, where you go and get players, teach them, train them and make them play as a unit and a whole lot of other things. The national team coach is the one that assembles all the best players available, has two or three days to talk to them, tell them how he wants them to play and they go and play. He doesn’t do much. Anybody can coach the national team of any country, it will now depend on their intellectual capacity, nothing else.
What about the managerial abilities?
That’s part of it. Where do you get the managerial abilities? 

It’s on the job. And the truth is that as a former player and academy coach, he has the experience. Coaching an academy is the hardest kind of coaching. As a former player, he has experienced what it is like to play. That is the best experience to be a manager. And if you go to school like Oliseh has done, you have the knowledge to pass on. So let us see him impact the knowledge to our Eagles.
In terms of intellectual capacity, I believe, based on what I know that the most qualified man for that job today is Oliseh. Give him the chance. We are playing in African, anybody who comes to handle the Super Eagles and cannot pass through the African qualifies for the Nations Cup does not deserve to be called a coach. Ninety per cent of them will take Nigeria there. Anyway, so why not Oliseh.

That is my recommendation. He has everything it takes, we have heard him, we have seen him, the world has recognised him, FIFA recognises him, Super Sports recognises him. During the last World Cup, he showed class. He is amongst the best analyzers of football that I know.
Just like you
No I can’t do it

But can he cope with the politics there?

It is good that he does not know that aspect because if you play the politics, then you will be consumed by it. If you go there and face your technical job, you don’t have a problem. Keshi was trying to play the two. Why did he remain? It was politics. Politics kept him there and politics sent him packing. He didn’t leave the job now, they sent him away. How could they have had the guts to send him away but for the political change that occurred. That is the reality of it.

Which change are you talking about?

The political change. How did Keshi remain there? He was backed by the Presidency. And I am not talking of the President.; But he was backed by the Presidency and we know they backed him because they felt that he was unfairly treated and that they should have treated him with modesty and decorum. Anyway, those who were trying to get him out are also people who were put there politically. 
So why would you now use your political advantage to sack somebody else? They were all coming from the same pot of soup.

You have experienced your fair share of political misadventure with the NFF, so you are talking from experience…

Absolutely, that is why I say leave the politicians to face their game and you will have no problem

But you are also a politician…

I am learning the trade of politics. Previously, I was just a technical person, thinking that I could contribute my technical knowledge to develop  Nigerian sports, but I have been told that it does not work that way. I have tried to be NFF President about four or five times but it did not work. I have left it for them because I am a political neophyte.

In this season of change, are you not thinking of a rebound?

In this wind of change, there is a storm that is blowing everybody, everywhere. When things settle, you never can tell where it will land

What kind of Sports minister are you expecting President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint?

One who is a visionary, one who captures the original action plan for the development of sports in Nigeria, which was on course and derailed through succession of bad administrators who had no idea of what sports development was. We want somebody who will come with a vision, a road-map and everybody can think clearly and which is implementable, taking it one step at a time until we get to the level we hope to attain.
It is not a sprints event. Anybody who comes and tells you that he wants to win the Olympic Games does not deserve the assignment. Ask for somebody who will tell you that we are going to take the 15 million out of school children back to school, because we are going to use the instrumentality of sports. Get somebody who will tell you that we are going to reduce the unemployment amongst our youths in Nigeria because we are going to promote sports to generate employment for our youths.

Listen to that person who will tell you that we are going to raise a generation of sportsmen who in eight years time will make Nigeria one of the foremost sporting nations on earth and we would now be competing for Olympic gold medals not tomorrow but in the future. So the foundation is essential. We should not rush. It is a marathon race. You don’t sprint when you start a marathon, you have to lay the foundation and let it be strong.

Looking back at the old days that produced people like you, are you hopeful of a return to such glorious days?

Absolutely, I don’t even have reasons to articulate why. But the Presidency of Buhari, without raising a finger, without doing anything, the corruption level has dropped in the country. Discipline is returning to several arms of government. That is the benefit of having one person come into office, without doing anything. That tells you that if he starts to do something, that the change that we all require will come. And if he has good people around him, Nigeria would not be same in another four years time.
What emotions run through your mind when passing 

the National Stadium in Lagos?

I weep. Every time I pass there I  shed tears over what has happened to this national edifice.
How did things get this bad there?

It is a reflection of Nigeria. How had is Nigeria? 

Very, very, very bad. The state of Nigeria is very bad and the National Stadium is just there, serving as a picture on the wall, telling us how bad we are. When we fix the place, we can look at the new National Stadium and see the beauty of Nigeria.
The Super Eagles don’t even have a base now, leaving some persons to call for their return to Lagos…

18 million people to support the Super Eagles, you can’t have a better incentive than the National Stadium. The National Stadium, when it was the National Stadium, was a slaughter house. If you came in there you would be intimidated, afraid to play as the fans would subdue you.

Were the Algerians subdued by the fans when you played them in the final of the 1980 AFCON?

Of course, they were the best team in Africa that time. The Algerians had the young team, they had just returned from the World Cup. They were a team on the ascendancy. In fact, when we were going to play them, if you looked at the records of both teams, we didn’t even stand a chance. If that game had been played outside Nigeria, probably we would not have won.

The atmosphere in the stadium, the team, everything elevated us to a certain level that the opponents were intimidated and there was no way they could have won. But they came back later, less than two years and taught us a lesson, even though we still had some of the blame to take.

Any comparison between your generation and this current ones?

You can’t even compare. The level of sports administration is so low. The level of our administration is so low because we are not doing development. Don’t let me say negative things against people. This is not it. We have shopped the production of quality players in Nigeria. Although in the past few months, truth be told, I have been watching what is happening in our league and I see there is a renewed interest and players are doing fairly well again. The domestic league is coming up and maybe that portends hope for us.

Your marks for the NFF after about eight months in office?

Maybe it is too early to judge them because they have a four year tenure. So far, I think it has been a mixed grill. They have done certain things well, confused us in certain things and I think they can do better. It is too early in the day for us to start to condemn anybody.
Your word to the next sports minister on not interfering or intervening with the affairs of the NFF…

When you say a sports minister, you are talking about someone who is responsible for sports in the country. There is no way that he will not intervene in sporting issues. He may not interfere, he may not disrupt but he definitely will intervene at critical times.

Don’t we need to draw a line between what they do in the sports ministry and the NFF?

Of course, the minister has his mandate for him as sports minister. But I am not even in support of keeping the sports ministry. I think we should revert to our National Sports Commission so that we take the politics in the country away from our sports. That way technocrats can run the place rather than have politicians in the place. Once, you start politicising the place, of course, it affects our growth

Via - Vanguard

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