Posted On Friday, 26th April 2013
Former NFA Chairman, Kojo Williams tells JOHN EGBOKHAN that the Super Eagles have little chances of doing well at the forthcoming FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil. He also speaks on other trending football issues.
Ahead of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers against Kenya and Malawi, what do you think the Eagles really need to get to Brazil 2014?
For once, I want to congratulate the team for the success of the 2013 AFCON. If you look at the standard of our football, we have dropped technically..There is still a lot of work to be done.
Any nation that wants to really develop football must always think ahead. That team that won the Nations Cup cannot meet the standards required at the World Cup. Even at the Confederations Cup, we can’t meet the standard.
I am telling you this because the standard of African football is low. So it’s not only Nigeria. The question is do we want to be in the league of mediocre or we want to come out of it and say we are African champions but we need to move forward, need to improve on our tactical and technical abilities, on our total management structure of the game itself.
As much as we are celebrating, we are to look at things critically, and critically speaking, we have not arrived. Yes, we are African champions. But then when we look at the standard of football in Africa, it is pretty low.
Even when you compare the last Nations Cup with the past three editions, the standard this time was really low. And one of the major reasons for this was because too much emphasis was laid on the so-called foreign-based players, and we have come away from this mentality.
What we need to do is to imbibe the culture where we can equally develop our league and our youth development structure and by so doing, there will be stiff competition, whereby you play for Ajax, Barcelona or Enyimba FC, the bottomline will be. ‘are we you good enough’?,Are you fit and sound enough to make the team? The other aspect is do we have a philosophy for football development, a philosophy that takes us from youth U-10, U-15, U17, U-20, to senior national team, in one football culture. I’m not here to criticise anyone.
But they say you are a critic…
Now, whatever they call me, they can hold on to it. The bottomline is when shall we truly develop a philosophy, a structure where a consortium of coaches would work with youth teams to the senior national team, with the same technical, tactical philosophy for us to have a culture? When are we going to start? We have a nation and a so-called professional league, which is very sub-standard.
In that league as well, I have made several investigations and when I was chairman of the NFA, I was able to establish that some players who played in the county offered gratification to coaches. Coaches collect money before bringing in guys into the teams. Now, the youngsters who can’t afford the money can’t even make the clubs.
That is why you see the best out there wasting away and you have the half-baked players, without the proper natural ability playing. The question now is how do we git rid of this. One of the major problems we have is coaching. Coaches don’t have enough exposure and training. Then administration is terrible. They just don’t get it. Corruption is high and the game is low.
Our coaches are being vilified to the extent that some coaches of the Super Eagles have been sacked by the NFF. Why are our coaches so vilified?
I am not saying our coaches are not good enough. One of the coaches who was sacked by the NFF, Sylvanus Okpala, is technically better many national coaches. I can even say that when it comes to technical and tactical abilities, I don;t see any one better that Okpala. Keshi is a better manager, he is a natural leader.
Is it not curious that a coach who is good has been sacked?
It shows the mentality of the guys in the NFA. They themselves are bereft of idea.
Is this not going to endanger our World Cup bid?
Do they care? It is envy. It is jealousy. Paul Okoku was spot-on in the Vendetta claim. These are small-minded characters that are bereft of ideas. So I didn’t expect anything better from them.
Okpala is technically very good. But I am not saying he is the best. I honestly don’t see anything wrong in Keshi managing the Super Eagles because he is exposed, he is matured, he has played top-level football, he is educated and Keshi is cultured. But can he cope? He is a motivator but he must accept that he needs guys to come there to work with him. He needs technically sound guys. The FA is wrong to sack an assistant coach without the consent of the manager.
The manager is the one in charge of the team. There are ways you can express your feelings without this drastic and negative action. Maigari does not understand modern day football. Chris Green is also not on the page of the new trend. This is not a local thing. How do you explain a situation where a Nations Cup hero signed for Rangers and Wolves at the same time?
What should happen to the player?
That boy needs to be helped. They should help him. It’s also part of the training. The boy needs help. When you see Suarez biting someone you realise that players need help.
Can this board deliver these lofty ideas of yours?
They don’t have what it takes, I am sorry to say.
What should happen to them, should they get the kind of treatment you got 13 years ago?
I didn’t know. I have moved on.
You were going to do something good for our football but they could not stand it…
Yes, that’s typical of Nigerians.
Who do you hold responsible for what happened to you back then?
I don’t want to go back to the past. Let’s leave that. I’ve forgiven them, I have moved on. I don’t want to mention names from the minister to the director, they were all involved.
But are you inching to return to football administration at the top level?
Of course, anytime I am called upon.
Because you can’t have brilliant ideas and still be in denial?
I’m not living in denial. Ever since I left as FA chairman, I have not been called or invited by the FA to functions concerning Nigerian football. They invite other past chairmen but they never invite me. And when I talk of foreign technical crew working with Keshi, its to help Keshi form a new philosophy for the national team. It’s like the Dutch system, which Spain play today.
Can’t we be indigenous in our approach? Must we always seek foreign assistance because you are a chief proponent of foreign protagonist of foreign assistance?
Why not? Why won’t we have foreign assistance?
Keshi even said that he won’t accept any foreign coach not worth his salt…
Which level has Keshi reached? He can be better.
How many African champions have beaten the European champions or won the World Cup?
That’s what I’m saying. Le him get to the semi-finals of the World Cup first
Must we stoop too low to foreigner?
It’s not about that. You tap from what people have and you build your own system from it. That’s what Spain did with the Dutch game as taught by Johan Cruyff. If you look at our 1994 team, it was a mixture of the Dutch system and our game. And that’s why we excelled and were number five in the world at that time. And what did we do after that? We kicked everything away.
For sacking Eagles backroom staff, what should the NFF get for this?
These guys are backward. On what basis were they sacked? Why do you have to sack a winning team? They didn’t need to do that. All they needed to do was to sit with Keshi and resolve whatever needed resolving. Most importantly, the FA needs to send our coaches out there to get certification and they must train teams and based on their success.
And the role of the ministry in this, is it not curious and worrisome that they are quiet but if Nigeria fails to qualify for the World Cup, the blame will be on Keshi…
How can they blame Keshi? After the Nations Cup, Keshi gained a lot of ground over the minister and the people in the FA. Bolaji means well but then the problem is can assign them to different places take the bull by the horns? Of all the sports federations presidents, Ogba is the only one that’s doing so much. Unfortunately, he is not getting enough support from the ministry.
Do we even need the sports ministry?
We need it. If you look at the amount of money we have in this country, if you look at the money some government guys spend on their girlfriend, I believe we need our fair share but t must be properly managed. We are not serious. We need a nation with tradition.
Only recently the former DG in the ministry, Patrick Ekeji retired…
I didn’t want to talk about him
What are his legacies?
Nobody should come and talk about legacy. You went to Olympics with N2.3b and you gave Athletics Federations of Nigeria N110m and you are talking about legacy? It’s an insult. People should stop fooling us here. You know the problem with us is that we buy nonsense in this country. We accept rubbish. This nation is a great nation and we must work together to build it. Nobody is saying people should not excel in their careers but please add value to whatever you are doing. Where is the value added by Ekeji?
So this World Cup is a …..
Which World Cup
This 2014 World Cup, which we are attempting to qualify for
Let’s wait and see
Are you seeing us qualifying
I pray we qualify
Why are you praying
Why won’t I pray, it’s because I don’t want to cry
You don’t see the African champion qualifying?
(Laugh) African champions! Let’s wait and see
Confederations Cup chances
We are in the same group with Spain, so let’s play Spain first and Uruguay and you and I will talk after the game
Before the matches, what are you saying?
They are fairly a better side than us
So you are writing off Nigeria
Go and write it down. You think you are going to beat them like Cote d’Ivoire, whose problem is that they were called golden generation with a big-man mentality. A generation that had not won anything being called a golden generation. Typical African mentality, they looked down on our players who were psyched up and took them down.
So you don’t see that happening against Spain and Uruguay?
How? These are professionals to the core
Are they going to take us to the cleaners?
Wait and see. I must tell you the truth, with our style of football? No. We don’t have it yet. Not that we cannot but we are not ready yet. Unfortunately, the president said that we should go to win the World Cup. I think the president has to be properly briefed on this matter.