The present Super Eagles team remains an evolving bunch but the burden of expectations on them is enormous.
A former coach of the team, Augustine Eguavoen, speaks with PREMIUM TIMES on varying issues around the national team and other football matters.
He also shares a bit of his experience handling teams outside the shores of the country.
PT: Still in the mood of celebration of Nigeria’s 60th year of Independence, what is your general assessment of Nigerian coaches in these years?
Eguavoen: I think it’s been a successful journey so far. I believe we have not done badly to a large extent if you look at individual achievement statistically. Coach Sebastian Brodericks won the World U-17 World Cup, Amodu qualified Nigeria for two World Cup but was never given chance to lead the team, Keshi won the Nations Cup and took us to the second round, I also won Bronze in 2006 AFCON. Samson Siasia won silver in both U-20 and Olympics while Amuneke and Manu Garba also won the U-17 World Cup. So I can confidently say we did our bit in moving Nigerian football.
PT: The USA 94 squad is still highly regarded even till today, what was the key to success?
Eguavoen: Well it took time, there was good understanding like the United Nations. We were disciplined, committed and we knew what we wanted. It was a collective effort but it has to do with our generation. I think it’s a generational thing and we will get back there. The thing is, it didn’t just start overnight but by being patient and we will put it together. Nigerians just need to be patient.
PT: Do you agree with those that have labelled this present crop of players as models (fashionistas) rather than protagonists on the pitch?
Eguavoen: We need to go with the flow, we’ll go with the trend and you can’t blame anybody. When we were growing, I saw Maradona with different kinds of dressing. No, you cannot say our players are not concentrating. If you’re opportune and God has given you the opportunity to get endorsement why not. It doesn’t matter because, there is time for football and endorsement, besides the clubs know that you’re being endorsed for Versace, etc. I remember when Amokachi was in Turkey, he actually modelled for one clothing company and stuffs like that. If you see someone like Serena Williams, she models for one clothing company and she still plays Tennis. But we must be professional enough to differentiate between playtime and work time, so you can’t stop them. These are clothing companies and once the player can promote their company’s image why not. They’re professional enough and clubs that signed them also know that. Even Juventus is being sponsored by Versace and they put on their suits on every journey. When I was in KAA Genk, we also had a clothing company and we put on suits but it doesn’t mean we won’t play football. It’s just a generation thing. Don’t worry it’s their lives and their generation is different from ours and the children of nowadays need pampering but we should not over-pamper anyone.
PT: So how strong is our team under Gernot Rohr?
Eguavoen: We have a very strong team but my only biggest problem and worry is that we don’t give the opportunity to our local players. I’ve always said that anybody who is good enough to play for Nigeria no matter where he/she is should be invited, but that is not to say we cannot use those we have here in the league. 95 per cent of the 1994 squad played in the league. When I was in charge of Eagles, I gave opportunities to local players and Keshi gave more opportunities to them too, that’s my quarrel. Rohr should please help us impart something. During the Westerhof era, people like Okechukwu, Finidi, Elaho, Bazuaye just to mention a few had opportunities to develop before going abroad. When Rohr leaves tomorrow, he should be able to say yes I gave opportunities to these players from Enyimba, Insurance, or Rangers. They should please do that for us.
PT: What was the major takeaway in your coaching experience with foreign teams like Sliema Wanderers (Malta) and Black Leopards (South Africa)?
Eguavoen: It’s the organisation! We (Nigeria) have everything to be well-organized here but we chose not, it’s just organization. We’re blessed with everything, talents, administration but we chose not to be well organized, don’t get me wrong.
PT: How do you see the progress of the likes of Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukuweze?
Eguavoen: Man proposes but God disposes… We just pray they remain fit because they are good assets for us and then let’s see how far they can go. We pray they go all the way and make sure they achieve a lot in their club and also in the national team.
PT: Finally, what is your take on the appointment of another foreign coach, Randy Waldrum, as Super Falcons manager?
Eguavoen: He who pays the piper dictates the tune. NFF has decided they wanted this American chap, which is okay. I think it’s Omagbemi who won the last AFCON, she didn’t do badly and should have been given more opportunity. I don’t know what transpired but whatever has happened should be behind us now. Let’s just hope and pray this guy does well with the Super Falcons.
PT: Thank you for speaking with us
Eguavoen: Thanks for having me on.