Former Super Eagles goalkeeper Dosu Joseph in this exclusive interview with Completesportsnigeria.com’s IZUCHUKWU OKOSI speaks on the challenges facing new Super Eagles coach Sunday Oliseh who has a mandate to make the Nigerian national team one of the best teams in the world that they were between 1994 and 1996. Dosu who was a close friend and teammate of the Eagles head coach at Julius Berger FC of Lagos and in the national teams also takes us down memory lane as he reveals Olise started his storied career. Excerpts.
With the appointment of Sunday Oliseh as Super Eagles coach, what do you think he will bring to the national team?
Well I think during his unveiling Oliseh said it all. He said that any player who is not playing in the first team of his club should count himself out of the national team. The thing is that he wants the best Nigerian players to play for the national team. So it is a wake up call for the players to work harder.
But there are some Nigerian players whose clubs are not in the first divisions but are really good players. Players like Ramon Azeez and Omatsone Aluko whose clubs were relegated last season…
We’ve seen before where players in the second divisions are actually very good but most times in Europe, you don’t see players in the lower divisions in the national teams. That is not taking anything away from some of our players in Europe like the guys you mentioned, plus youngsters like Kelechi Iheanacho who plays in the Man City U21 side too. Yes, we shouldn’t forget because if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. Now it is a big challenge for them to help their clubs gain promotions back to the top flights or perhaps get another clubs.
When Sunday Oliseh was playing for the Super Eagles, he was a defensive midfielder. Does the playing positions of coaches during their playing careers impact on their coaching philosophy?
I don’t think so because when they go for coaching courses, they don’t attend the courses to learn about their positions only, but the technical and tactical aspects of the game. So I don’t think Sunday Oliseh will set up his team to play defensive football for example because he was a defensive midfielder.
Oliseh was your teammate at Julius Berger Football Club of Lagos. Could you share with our readers the memories you have of your days at the club with him?
When you talk of memories, I have them in abundance. Sunday and I started playing football as hungry players. We would trek from Festac Town to the Julius Berger training ground every morning. And in the afternoon, we will trek back to Festac because we didn’t have much money for transport fares. Most times we would eat just yam and red oil before we set out for our training sessions. That difficult period gave us the determination and desire to succeed in our careers.
And both of you were in the Nigerian football team to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. What kind of a man was Sunday Oliseh while in camp-how does he relate with others?
Sunday was player who cared about the interest of his teammates. He was a leader in the dressing room and was someone we all respected. When we were not playing matches during the Olympics, he was always on the phone calling his family. He would go shopping and bought things for his family members before thinking of himself. Sunday is still a caring man; he is nice to be with.
John Mikel Obi’s name comes up whenever the talk centers on creative midfielders for the Super Eagles. He has been criticized by most Nigerian football followers for supposedly not improving his game. What is your opinion about the status of Mikel in the Nigerian team?
I think the criticism of Mikel is harsh and uncalled for. Most of the guys who condemn him do so because they feel he is no longer a creative player like he showed the world he was during the 2005 FIFA U20 World Cup. My answer to that is that it is not the fault of Mikel. He was bought by Jose Mourinho who converted him from an attacking midfielder to a defensive midfielder and who can blame him for doing the bidding of his club manager. That change in his playing position is why he is now a defensive midfielder at his club.
Mikel started his career playing as an attacking midfielder but we all saw from his performances at the 2013 Confederations Cup and the 2013 African Cup of Nations that he can still play that creative midfield role. At the Confederation Cup, he was fantastic and scored a beautiful goal against Uruguay. That proved that he can still be our playmaker but I think the best bet is for Sunday Oliseh to sit down with Mikel so that they can discuss this subject. Sunday needs to know which position Mikel is presently most comfortably playing at. Mikel has played under all the managers that Chelsea employed, it means that they appreciate him. Some would say he is not a regular now at Chelsea now but hasn’t been regular before now…
Vincent Enyeama could retire from international football in the nearest future. Which of our backup goalkeepers would you say is good enough to take over from him when he hangs up his gloves?
We have very good keepers like Theophilus Afelokhai, Daniel Akpeyi and Chigozie Agbim amongst others but I will say that because a keeper like Dele Alampasu has age on his side, he should be gradually integrated into the national team. See, I don’t even know him in person but I’m saying that he has age on his side and although I would say that the other keepers you mentioned can compete with Enyeama at the moment, I see Alampasu as the one for the future. Our coaches and the NFF should monitor his progress.
Finally, do you think the Super Eagles’ FIFA ranking will soar once again under Sunday Oliseh like it used to in the 90’s?
When he was a player in the Super Eagles, he was part of the team that won the 1994 AFCON and the Eagles were ranked 5th in the world. After the USA 94 World Cup which he also played in as one of our star players, the team were ranked 12th. Now he is going to coach the team and I’m sure that our poor rankings these days give him some concern. For me, the most important task facing him now is to ensure we qualify for the 2017 AFCON. But in winning our matches, to qualify us for the African Cup of Nations, definitely the rankings will improve. I’m hopeful that there is a new dawn in the national team.