A former Super Eagles assistant coach, Ben Duamlong, has advised the duo of Austine Eguavoen and Emmanuel Amuneke to shun personal interests, if they are to guide the Super Eagles to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Speaking to Trust on the forthcoming World Cup playoff with the Black Stars of Ghana, the former Kaduna United gaffer said the appointment of Eguavoen and Amuneke by the NFF is a right step in the right direction but the Super Eagles must show more zeal and commitment to qualify for the World Cup.
Coach Duamlong, how is life treating you?
I thank God so much for the gift of life. I recently had a total knee replacement. And very soon, I will be having a second operation on one of my hips. These are some of the prices we pay for playing professional football. Like I said, I thank God who is making it possible for me to care for myself.
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As the countdown to the World Cup playoff with Ghana continues, do you see the duo of Austin Eguavoen and Emmanuel Amuneke qualifying Nigeria for Qatar 2022?
I am convinced that with the necessary support, they will get the job done. My confidence is hinged on what happened in Cameroon. Although Eguavoen was not long on the beat, he was able to bring back the Nigerian fighting spirit. That was evident when we played against Egypt. If indigenous coaches are given half the attention that is usually given to foreign coaches, I believe they will deliver. Therefore, I can say with confidence that the appointment of Eguavoen and Amuneke is a right step in the right direction.
Are you not worried that a power tussle may ensue between the two coaches to derail the team’s World Cup ambition?
That is very true but I still believe that it is something that can be taken care of with ease. To avoid any conflict, the responsibilities of the coaches must be clearly spelt out. Their profiles must be laid bare. Once the coaches know their responsibilities and limits, there won’t be any problem. Moreover, based on the information released by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Eguavoen is the technical adviser while Amuneke is the chief coach. So I don’t think there is any ambiguity.
As a former coach of the Super Eagles, what is your advice to the two coaches?
They must avoid divide and rule. They should cooperate with each other and be truthful in all their dealings. Most importantly, there should be no personal interests. They should work for the progress of Nigeria. In all that they do, they should put the country first.
Would you say they have enough time to prepare the Super Eagles for the World Cup playoff?
Nobody would have had enough time. Even if the Portuguese had come to coach the Super Eagles, he would have had the same duration to prepare the team for the World Cup playoff with Ghana. In any case, I want to reiterate that it is high time we put the fate of the Super Eagles in the hands of indigenous coaches?
Don’t you think the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) was forced by pressure from Nigerians to appoint Eguavoen and Amuneke?
I don’t think the NFF was forced by anyone to appoint the coaches. Instead, I believe they were convinced that Eguavoen did very well in Cameroon so there was no need for them to spend a lot of money bringing an expatriate coach to come and manage the Super Eagles. I think it was more of a conviction than being forced to appoint the coaches.
Super Eagles coaches have been accused of overlying on foreign based players. What is your take on this?
Well, you see none of these so-called minnows that performed wonders at the just concluded Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon depended exclusively on their local players. You must have heard about Comoros going to their communities in Atlanta, Portugal and all over the world to assemble players who are citizens of the country to play for them. So if a Nigerian is in Belarus, Ukraine or Russia and he is qualified, he should be given a chance to play for the Super Eagles.
Don’t you think over-reliance on foreign based players will kill the dreams of home based players to play for the country?
I am not calling for exclusion of home-based players. It should be by competition and merit. If a local player is better than somebody coming in from England, he should be given a chance to play for the Super Eagles.
Do you believe we still have quality players in the domestic league that can play for the Super Eagles?
That is a story for another day. Whether we have quality players, is another story. When you look at the reasons players from abroad are preferred to the local ones, especially by the foreign coaches, you will discover it is because those coming from abroad have better inbuilt techniques and ability to quickly catch up with the technical strategies of the coaches.
Would you say the Super Eagles have the quality to qualify for the 2022 World Cup?
I believe we have quality players in the Super Eagles. Some of the players are plying their trade in some of the big clubs in Europe. They can beat the Black Stars, if they focus on the job at hand. They have to go out there and give their best. If they can do that, I have no doubt in my mind that they would qualify for Qatar 2022.
It is said the new generation Super Eagles lack commitment and dedication to national duties. Don’t you think this might work against the team?
This is what the football association should look into. They should try to find out what is causing the disenchantment among the players. It is not a one way thing. If there are reasons for their alleged poor attitude, the NFF should try and correct it. When somebody is complaining, there must be a reason. When you find the reason, it becomes easier to proffer solutions.
Your state owned club Plateau United are in the running for the 2022 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) title. How do you fancy their chance of winning?
They do have a big opportunity to win another league title. My confidence is coming from their performance in the ongoing season, the massive support from the government and their teeming fans. If they maintain the momentum, then there will be no stopping them.