Super Eagles coach to the 2002 Korea/Japan World Cup, Chief Adegboye Onigbinde believes in this interview that lack of functional technical department in the FA is affecting the game. He also backed coach Stephen Keshi on players invitation while urging the FA to learn from the Flying Eagles failure in New Zealand. Interview by BAMIDELE BOLUWAJI.
How will you react to the Flying Eagles exit from the FIFA U- 20 World Cup in New Zealand?
We have all seen the result and what the players can do and we have started reacting in our usual way, blaming the coaches and anyone around the team we feel we can blame, while we forget that the problems which affected the team did not just start with them today. We need to understand that football is technical and the right thing should be done at the right time to help the players and coaches.
Many are blaming the technical shortfalls of the Coaches for the team's defeat. With your experience in the game, what do you think was the problem with the team?
For us to have a strong team, we need to identify these talents, polish them and harness them before they can perform to optimum level and the problem with this has to do with technical program me on ground. We are not doing the first one and whether you like it or not,, the fact is football is a technical matter and nerve centre of football should be the technical sector, unfortunately, the technical sector in this country has been relegated to the background, in fact, it exists in name and not adequately functional and that is the problem we are have in our football. Many quality developmental programmes like the Pepsi Academy are being held in the country but you won't see NFF officials there to identify talents, so long as we neglect the functional technical aspect of the game, the situation will remain the same.
But we saw some of these players at the U-17 tournament and they did well….
Yes, they were just assembled for a tournament but we are talking about a real technical programme that will help the coaches identify real talents and not just assemble teams for competitions which we are doing in Nigeria. I have written many papers on this same issue but nothing has been done about it, I wrote the first paper in 1965 and when you look at FIFA status, the first aspect there is developmental which we are not doing.
Don't you think the players were not good enough for the competition?
Nothing is wrong with the players; it is the system that is in trouble. We should not just be throwing blames when a team fails to win a match or competition, we should look at the foundation and ask if we have done the right thing to make the team perform well.
How do you see the future of the Flying Eagles after crashing out from the FIFA U-20 World Cup?
What future? The future is blank when we don’t have a monitoring unit in the NFF that can follow up after the tournament and what that means is that all the players will just go on their own and do whatever they feel they can do to survive. Normally, the result of the U-20 World Cup should serve as a template for the NFF to begin to think of what they can do to monitor and better the players and I must tell you that in an environment like Brazil, their players will be monitored and that is why you see that after few years of taking part in under aged tournament, the players become world stars. The boys are good but the NFF are not doing what they are supposed to do.
How do you think we can guide against this in future?
We can guide against this only if we have a functional technical department that will be well equipped and focus on the developmental aspect which will allow real talents to be discovered, polish and harnessed for national teams. For us to get rid of this problem, we need to bring some intelligent and highly experienced elderly coaches on board, to organize the technical department, all the coaching seminars the NFF has been organizing has not yielded the result we need to move our game forward and I must tell you that not all good players can become good coaches. If that was possible, Maradona would not be running from pillar to post and Pele would have been the best coach in the world today.
Super Eagles coach, Stephen Keshi invited 15 foreign based players for Chad; do you think that was right for such a game?
Keshi is in charge and he knew what he wanted the players to do and I can’t blame him for the decision he has made.
The pattern of game a coach wants to play will inform the caliber of players he will invite for that match and he will be the only one that can explain it but if I were in his shoes, I will invite 35 players for the match because there must be competition for the shirts up to the last minute when they file out for the match. If there is no competition for shirts, some of the players can decide to expose any coach when they know that they are the only ones in camp for the match but if they are many, everyone will work hard, so I can’t blame Keshi for that. I remember when I was going for the 2002 World Cup, we were preparing for a friendly match with Paraguay and I brought a list of 32 players, the NFA then said how can I have 32 players for a match like that? I told them if they reduce it, I won’t go for the match and when we got to the UK, when the players who said they would not report for the match saw the crowd I brought, they realized that their positions were at risk and they started reporting till I got what I wanted.
Vincent Enyeama has made it clear that he will quit international football after the 2017 AFCON if Nigeria qualify, this is the same player you took to the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea/Japan. What legacy do you expect him to leave behind?
Enyeama has done a lot for Nigeria; he came on board about 13 years ago and for him to have been consistent in the national team, shows he has sacrificed a lot for the country. Incidentally, I spotted him in Abeokuta when Julius Berger hosted Enyimba in a league match and since then, he has not disappointed me. Even when we invited him to camp, he demonstrated a leadership quality that made everybody love him. He played his first game for us against Kenya in Lagos but the biggest one was at the 2002 World Cup against England, he was shaking when I told him that he would be in goal for the match but I psyched him up and as God would have it, the match ended 0-0 and we all saw what he did in the match. Enyeama is a player that has shown patriotism and love for this country.
Why do you think Nigeria has not been able to produce another goalkeeper in the caliber of Enyeama?
We have other goalkeepers in the league but because we have not been monitoring our players, so it has been difficult for the coaches to discover goalkeepers who can fit into that shoe and that problem is from the lack of a functional technical department in the FA. What we call technical department at the FA is not a department but a division. There should be a Technical Director monitoring the players and also coming up with developmental programmes for these players but we don’t have that and it is affecting our football.
Nigeria on the march again for the 2017 AFCON, what do you think should be done to avoid the mistakes that led to our absence from the 2015 edition?
The first thing is to make sure that our league is properly and technically monitored and we need to train quality coaches who can go out, watch the league and give quality and technical analysis of the matches. We also need to make sure that our preparation is of good standard and not the one that will be done with lip and eye service.
Recently, the NFF has taken some coaches and ex-internationals abroad for courses; do you see this as a right move?
They are moving in the right direction but with wrong approach because we need to ask them the criteria they used in choosing the people they took abroad for the coaching, is it because they were ex-players or what? That will not lead us anywhere.
Finally, how will you react to the Super Falcons performance at the Women’s World Cup in Canada?
It still boils down to the same situation we find ourselves in, we need to learn from other countries and do things the right way.