Posted: June 1, 2011
To start with, what is your view regarding the dropping of Osaze Odemwingie by coach Samson Siasia from the Eagles squad that will play against Argentina and Ethiopia.
Osaze Odemwingie is one of the best players in the Eagles presently but his decision to leave the camp without the coach’s approval as he reportedly did the last time was not good enough.
It shows lack of respect for the coach, the team and the country as a whole and such behaviour should not be condoned for the good of the whole team. On that basis, it is normal that Siasia took the decision to instill discipline in the team by leaving Odemwingie out of the squad. I won’t call that a punishment per se, but a way of correcting an erring Odemwingie so that other players too will learn from the issue.
Now a standard has been set and I believe after this episode, the team would be better for it as everyplayer would show more commitment to the team’s cause.
The Super Eagles will be playing against Argentina in an international friendly on Wednesday. What are your expecations as regards the game?
First I want to commend the organizers of the game, Guinness Nigeria Plc for bringing Argentina all the way down to Nigeria. A match of this magnitude doesn’t come that easily and we must take maximum advantage of the benefits. And that’s why I will expect the Super Eagles to put up a solid performance in the game and hopefully beat the South Americans.
I don’t need to tell you that Argentina are a tough nut to crack anyday but because they’ll be playing us on our own soil, it will be good if we can beat them to improve our rating in world football.
You played against Argentina in your playing days. What was the experience like playing against the South Americans?
It was a big experience really. Argentina is a team filled with quality players and that gives you motivation to play your very best. As a player, you cherish playing against such quality opposition because you’ll always want to see how you can measure up against the very best.
In 1994, we lost 2-1 to them at the World Cup and I remember the present Super Eagles coach, Samson Siasia scored our only goal. I was also part of the Eagles team that played against them in 1995 in the King Fahd Cup (Confederations Cup) which ended goalless. On both occasions, it was a nice experience because you’re playing against one of the best football teams in the world.
Can you compare the past Argentina team which had the legendary Diego Maradona with their present squad?
Argentina are a great side anyday and they are always blessed with great talented players. They had Maradona back then but now they have (Lionel) Messi who is just like Maradona.
But the Argentina team are also, not a side that rests solely on individual talents because the average Argentine player is very skillful. They are quick, strong and are blessed with the ability to use the ball intelligently. They are a team that has won the World Cup on different occasions so they understand what it takes to play football competitively at the highest level.
Messi will not be part of the Argentine team this time. Does that make them a weaker side?
Not at all. Argentina are always a complete team because all their players are very skillful. Don’t forget that they also have good youth developmental programmes which ensures they always produce good players. It would be very unwise to think that they are weaker because Messi won’t be playing.
What motivation do you think would be driving the Super Eagles on when they confront Argentina in Abuja?
Every player loves to play in big games and I believe the Super Eagles players are well motivated for the match. Some of them played against the Argentines in the past and they’ll be looking forward to doing so again, especially in front of their home fans. It is a game that will naturally inspire the players to give their best and it is promises to be very interesting. Even the coach, Siasia too is motivated to want to do well in this game, having played against them both as a player and a coach in the past. The setting for this match is truly interesting and I’m looking forward to a good game.
The Super Eagles are also preparing to play against Ethiopia. Don’t you think the friendly against Argentina could disrupt the team’s focus?
It is all about planning which I believe the authorities and the Super Eagles technical crew have put into consideration. The two matches are important but of course, the game against Ethiopia is more crucial because it is an African Cup of Nations qualifier which we must not lose, considering our present position in the group.
Having said that, it is quite possible for the Eagles to give good performance in both games because even though the motivation for each game is different, both are quite important.
Do you see the high altitude in Ethiopia affecting the Eagles?
Everything is down to planning and adequate preparations. The coaching crew are not new to such things and the fact that some of them were experienced ex-internationals means they know what to expect and I want to believe they’ll know how to prepare the team for such weather.
With good preparation that will make the players adapt quickly and the right tactical approach, I don’t think the high altitude should pose a big problem.
The NFF recently banned certain people who tried to form a parallel body to run football in the country alongside the football house. What is your take on that?
The NFF is right to take that decision but it is unfortunate that such issues cropped up in the first instance. The NFF is a body recognised by the law of the country and FIFA to run the affairs of football in Nigeria. Any other body is illegal and is bound to attract certain penalty and that’s what has happened.
Do you think the NFF took the right decision by retaining Super Falcons coach, Uche Eucharia to lead the team to the World Cup despite failing to qualify for the All Africa Games?
The decision to retain Eucharia as Falcons coach is quite commendable. Situations where we sack coaches very close to major championships are not ideal. Eucharia has been with the Super Falcons for some time now and recorded certain successes with the team. It is unfortunate that the Falcons failed to qualify for the All Africa Games but then, they qualified for the World Cup with the same coach and it is only logical that she be allowed to lead the team to the world tournament.
We need to encourage our coaches and I believe the NFF is on the right track.
You were known as the ‘Headmaster’ for your ball-heading prowess during your active days in game, there has been a dearth of good headers in the national team of late. What do you think is the cause?
Getting to be a good header of the ball is something that has to do with individual ability and interest. The player must have a natural instinct and love for heading which is then developed. You know that there are certain players who are scared of heading the ball and there is little you can do to train such players to be good headers of the ball.
I want to believe that we’ll soon have players with good heading abilities in the national team especially with several players being tried out.
You played in Spain in your active days. Do you think Barcelona can repeat their 2009 Champions League triumph by beating Manchester United again in today’s final?
It is always very difficult to predict a Cup final. I know most people are tipping Barcelona to win but Manchester United are also a very good team too. The coaches’ influence as regards tactics would also play a big role and both teams have good coaches. Barcelona are known to play a special brand of football but they can come unstuck against United if they have a bad day in the final. Therefore, I wouldn’t like to predict the outcome.
I do know it is going to be a very interesting final, better than that of 2009 and like they say in football, may the best team win!
3SC have not been faring too well in the domestic league this season. Do you agree?
I’m not too comfortable with our performances recently and it is no doubt a cause for concern. But we’ll keep working hard to get better and find ways of moving up on the league table. Hopefully, by God’s grace, we can still achieve our target for this season.