E x-international, Tajudden Disu talks about the merry-go-round that surrounded the death of former Eagles goalkeeper, Wilfred Agbonavbare, the exclusion of John Mikel Obi from the game against Chad as well as lists what could make Stephen Keshi succeed in his second coming as Super Eagles coach. JOHN EGBOKHAN caught up with Disu before the final match off the Channels Television Kids Cup. Excerpts:
Ques: How crucial is it for talents to be discovered at competitions like Inter-House Sports and Channels Kids Cup.
It is very crucial because people like myself, Keshi and Henry Nwosu were first discovered at such events. This is the type of programme that I enjoy most because we were once like these kids. At that time, this type of programme was the foundation.
I think its good, inter-house sports, school sports, academy sports are all good because it is where you catch them young. And from what I’ve seen today, most of these kids will go far in sports. From what I see, some of these kids will be representing Nigeria in the future.
What is your message to sports officers in the local government areas in the identification of talents from such competitions.
I am tasking them to do more by discovering budding talents because it is catch-them-young programme that will bring out these kids to the limelight. They have to do more in encouraging these kids and make sure that they organise programmes that will bring out the best from these kids. It is from this platform that they will grow to become Nigerian stars.
As an ambassador of Greater Tomorrow, we will continue to encourage these kids, tell them that for them to excel they have to be disciplined, hard working and go to school. They have to bag University degrees that they can fall back to when sports is over. The combination of education and sports is wonderful. It’s not easy to combine both but it is wonderful and very rewarding if you pull through. If we could succeed, there is no reason why these kids cannot.
This reminds me of the case of the late Wilfred Agbonavbore, who died in Spain
It does. I was then in the U.S.A and I knew how many times I called the NFF and my colleagues to come to the aid of Agbonavbere. But they kept promising, promising until the guy died. They failed him when he needed their help. Myself, Paul Okoku, Femi Olukanno and Humphrey Edobor went to the hospital in Florida and l saw the terrible state that Agbonavbare was in and relayed the message to Nigeria. We contacted the NFF, who promised heaven on earth until he died. They didn’t do anything.
In fact, after his death, we even sent messages to the NFF to come to the aid of his children and arrange for his burial but they didn’t do anything. That was how NFF treated Agbonavbere and that is the reason why we should encourage our youths to go to school because our system in Nigeria is a failed system.
Any ex-international who relies on these sports administrators is laying the ground for his death. I weep when I see the suffering of my former colleagues.
But ex-internationals were duly remunerated when they were active. So how come they still expect government to take care of them long after retirement?
The blame goes both ways. It’s not all of us that went to school. It was easy not to go to school in those days because of the attraction of football. But the truth is that after representing your country at various competitions and winning laurels in tow, it is not good to be abandoned by your country.
There are other countries with all these stars who did not go to school but because they have retirement programmes on ground, their former stars don’t live in penury. Such countries have good programmes which they use to engage these former players. But nothing of such exists here. There is no plan or programme for people who represented and toiled for this country. We don’t have pension scheme for these stars.
So you think ex-internationals deserve pension scheme.
They deserve it. Absolutely.
But they got allowances, bonuses and a lot of largesse when they played.
Those allowances and bonuses were for the matches they played. It’s just like when abroad, you get bonuses and after retirement, you still get your retirement money.
Is it even professional for players to be demanding for certain allowances and bonuses when on national duty.
Yes. Countries like USA, UK, France have pension schemes for former players. Even some African countries like South Africa plan for the athletes. If planned well, pension scheme will make life after retirement better for athletes, who served the country. Bonuses are for what you did while pension scheme is reward after service to the country. What about other workers who get pensions after serving the country?
A lot of people see this as a waste of money but those who know about sports know that it is the best way to enhance sports excellence. When at the end of the day they get their pension scheme, it will encourage the young ones to go into sports and serve their fatherland with all their might. And maybe that is the reason why the standard of sports is going down in the country.
Still on the issue of allowances, what is your reaction to a threat to reduce by half the allowances of coaches and players of Abia Warriors if they don’t win their next three matches when the league resumes on June 14.
That is what happens in a country like Nigeria, where people who have money and with no knowledge of sports dabble into sports and form their teams and act as if they are the alpha and omega of those under their payroll. I tell you and I will continue to say it that you can’t excel in sports if you don’t do the right things that coaches require to make their job a success.
A coach will tell you that he needs certain things but the owners will not provide them and at the end will sack these coaches if the results don’t come in. That is why I will never be a coach because you see people without any sports background pushing you around. Our coaches suffer a lot.
Turning to the Super Eagles, what is your advice to Stephen Keshi as he prepares for the 2017 Afcon qualifier against Chad on June 13.
I wish him the best but I must say that it was the NFF that made Keshi to fail last time around. They frustrated him.
You are saying all these because he is your friend?
Yes, he is my friend but I’ve not seen him for a very long time. I didn’t play for long with Keshi in the Eagles. We played together for about a year or so before parting ways.
But Keshi admitted that he caused our failure?
He didn’t but was told to apologise and accept the blame by the NFF. He’s the coach and must definitely takes some blame for what went wrong.
In going forward, what is the time-line for the game against Chad. What should Keshi do differently.
He should tell his players not to underrate Chad. It will be suicidal for Keshi to think that Chad are weak. Keshi must realise that a lot of things are at stake in this his second coming. He must motivate his players and let the boys know that everything is at stake for them against Chad.
And your reaction to his exclusion of Mikel Obi from the Chad game.
It is the best thing that Keshi has done since he started coaching Eagles. Keshi knows why he didn’t invite Mikel. Mikel could never have played for Nigeria when we played. When you talk about midfield, I wonder which position in the midfield Mikel plays in.
In our days, Mikel would not even be invited. Mikel does not have the quality to play in my midfield. Mikel can’t distribute, entertain or change the direction of the game. I don’t see any reason why he should be playing in our midfield.
What are our chances of qualifying for the next AFCON 2017 in Gabon
We can qualify if Keshi is supported. They should not interfere in his job. They should work with one mind because if the NFF has a different agenda from Keshi’s then we can never qualify. Different agenda will kill Eagles. That has been the problem of our Eagles. There should not be imposition of players. Let Keshi pick his players and they should support him.
They brought him back because of the pressure they were facing. Half of the people in NFF didn’t like Keshi and are waiting for him to fail. Our administrators should be scrutinised. They don’t care about players welfare. At times, they even want players to lose so that they will share the money. A task force should be set up to probe our administrators. They are the real cause of our football woes.