Olusegun Fetuga wore the captain’s armband when the Golden Eaglets featured at the third edition of the 1989 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Scotland.
Even with Victor Ikpeba, Patrick Mancha, Benedict Akwuegbu, Godwin Okpara and Andrew Aikhuomogbe, the Eaglets were eliminated in the quarter-finals on penalties by eventual winners of the tournament Saudi Arabia.
In this interview with Completesportsnigeria.com’s JAMES AGBEREBI, Fetuga opens up about his short football career, his 1989 Eaglets teammates, the Super Eagles’ chances in Russia and what he up to these days…
What have you been doing since you quit active football after getting injured in Belgium early in your career in the early 1990s?
I have been back to Nigeria since eight years ago. I came back to see what I can do to help the grassroots and give back to the society. I manage some players, I do a lot of scouting, try to manage them and take them abroad to help them in their careers. So that’s what I have been doing. Godwin Okpara and I have a football academy that we are monitoring where we hope someday some of the players will move from the Nigeria U-17s, U-20s and also for the senior national team as well.
Tell us about your squad to the Scotland 1989 which was regarded as one of the best Nigerian teams that never won the U-17 World Cup?
That is what has always been said about the squad (not winning the U-17 World Cup), we were just unlucky. We did everything we could but Saudi Arabia beat us and ended up winning the tournament. It shows that Nigeria also could have won the tournament and remember we lost on penalties and as we all know, penalties is a game of luck.
After Scotland 1989 the thought was progression into the Flying Eagles up to the Super Eagles, did you manage to achieve this?
I played for the Flying Eagles in 1991 unfortunately, FIFA banned Nigeria which stopped from playing at the 1991 U-20 World Cup. After that I was injured for five years and later I just needed to relax and do something else which led me into sport management to equip myself.
Did you have the opportunity to play abroad?
Yes, after Scotland 1989, I went to Belgium and joined Anwerp who then moved me to a lower division club on loan where I spent three seasons. It was while I was in Belgium that I got injured and never fully recovered. But ever since then, God has been good, I have been trying to help young ones have great careers.
Would you say your injury prevented you from achieving your dream as a footballer?
It’s part of the game and once it comes and prevents you from going further, you have to take it in good faith.
Do you still keep up with your Scotland 1989 teammates?
We do talk or chat especially with (Benedict) Akwuegbu, Bobolayefa (Edon) too who is in Malta. We meet when we have ex-international games. I call on them, they also call on me. I still keep in touch with a lot of them, Patrick Mancha, Jide Oguntuwase, Victor Ikpeba. So once in a while we keep in touch.
How would you compare the Golden Eaglets squad of the 80s and early 90s to the current squad?
There is a huge difference and like I always say, we need to go back to what we used to do in those days, the grassroots. Thank God we have Manu Garba and Nduka Ugbade back in the U-17s and I believe they will produce quality players for Nigeria. The sad thing is that after every tournament we disband the team, and once there is a tournament we assemble again. England have about four or five teams and look at what is coming out from their junior teams now, they are world champions at both the U-17 and U-20 levels. They have four good national teams, on our part to even raise one team is a problem. So we really need to do something.
How do you think you would have contributed to Nigerian football if not for the injury that halted your career?
I believe I was talented enough to have done very well for Nigeria, but unfortunately that didn’t materialise. But I have decided to now try and scout for talented players who can help Nigeria in future. I do assist the national coaches too. So I have decided to contribute my own quota since I couldn’t do it while playing for Nigeria.
Let us look at the Super Eagles ahead of the 2018 World Cup, what are their chances?
If we really prepare well, we will go very far. Thank God we have a coach (Gernot Rohr) who has been going about looking for the best players to use for the World Cup. With the calibre of players we have, I believe they will do well. I watched them in Uyo against Cameroon and they did very well. If they continue like that, they will make us proud.
Lastly, looking at the Super Eagles group opponents, do we stand a chance?
We shouldn’t bother ourselves about the group, we should rather focus on ourselves. If we prepare well, we will perform.