Godwin Uwua: We should be grateful that Super Eagles reached 2022 W/Cup playoff | Dailytrust

Godwin Uwua: We should be grateful that Super Eagles reached 2022 W/Cup playoff

 Godwin Uwua
Godwin Uwua

A former Super Eagles assistant coach, Godwin Koko Uwua, has said Nigerians should be grateful that the Super Eagles have managed to qualify for the final round of the 2022 World Cup qualifying series. Speaking to Trust Sports, the former U-23 national team, Lobi Stars and Enyimba gaffer spoke on the deafening calls for the sack of Gernot Rohr, the way forward for the Super Eagles and their chance of qualifying for Qatar 2022 World Cup.

How satisfied are you with the performance of the Super Eagles in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers? 

Let me start by saying, most times we believe that with the calibre of players in the Super Eagles, we should win every match. But in football, it is not always like that. Anyone who watched all our qualifying matches would have noticed that we play better away than at home. To make matters worse, Super Eagles matches have been taken to Lagos where national teams are exposed to so much pressure. When you are playing in Lagos and your team is not made up of brave players, they would fumble. We have good players who are doing well in European clubs but when they come home to play for the national team, they struggle due to the pressure, poor playing turf and sometimes harsh weather conditions. So the Super Eagles didn’t live up to expectations but we should be grateful that they have qualified for the play-off. Instead of dwelling on what happened, we should be thinking of ways to ensure they qualify for the 2022 World Cup. 

In the final round of qualifiers, the Super Eagles may face perennial rivals like Ghana or Cameroon. What are Nigeria’s chances of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup? 

As an experienced coach, let me say that when you have good players, they give their best whenever they play against good opponents. However, if they were to play against opponents who are not at the same level as them, they would definitely struggle. It is the same thing with the Super Eagles. They play better when they are up against formidable opponents like Cameroon, Ghana, Algeria and the rest. So I am optimistic that they will qualify for the 2022 World Cup. 

But in concrete terms what do you think the handlers of the team should do to ensure that the Super Eagles qualify? 

There is no cause for alarm. However, my only worry is with the Victor Osimhen and Odion Ighalo combination in the attack. They have almost the same style of play so it will be difficult to get the best out of them. In attack, there must be someone who is very skillful and the other very strong so that they can complement each other. When you have two strong people without skills, you will see a lot of running without results. Osimhen is strong and fast but he lacks some basic skills. He is not too skillful but he disturbs defenders a lot. So when you pair him with a skilful forward, he will give his best. 

Most Nigerian football fans want the team’s Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr, sacked. What is your take on this? 

I was a member of the Super Eagles coaching crew to the 2002 World Cup in Japan/Korea so I will use my experience with the team to answer your question. After Amodu Shuaibu who is now late, qualified us for the 2002 World Cup, he was dropped. Chief Adegboye Onigbinde and some of us were asked to take charge of the team. The time was too short for us to prepare for the tournament. Some of the players who played under Shuaibu didn’t fit into our plan. We started building a new team and that was why Nigerians weren’t too disappointed even when we didn’t do so well. If Rohr is to go, I think Nigerians will have themselves to blame. Rohr’s contract will expire after the World Cup, so why can’t we exercise a little patience? After the World Cup, he can leave. I think this will be more reasonable. I think, if Amodu was allowed to lead Super Eagles to the 2002 World Cup, maybe the team would have done better. When we took over, Sunday Oliseh was asked to go because of disciplinary problems and it cost the team. There was no immediate replacement for him. So from hindsight, Rohr should not be sacked now. 

Don’t you think over-dependence on foreign based players is one of the major problems of the team? 

Most of the players in the team didn’t play in the domestic league. So they are not used to the African style of football. I think the problem is with the NFF. They don’t encourage coaches to accommodate local players in the team. When hiring a coach, they should insert a clause in the contract that 30 or 40% of the team must be home-based players. When I was coaching in South Africa, it was mandatory that 30 to 40% of the players were from the localities. Even in the Nigerian league, all the clubs that I coached insisted that 40% of players must be from such states to encourage the home players. I think the League Management Company also has a role to play here. The local league is no longer attractive enough to catch the attention of national team coaches. Most of the players in the NPFL don’t know the basics of football. 

Would you say the present Super Eagles are as committed and dedicated as their predecessors?

You see, the players are oftentimes accused of lack of commitment but I don’t blame them. Only recently, I read and heard over the news that the players were owed match bonuses and allowances. But in their clubs, as you finish a game, they are paying you. As the week is ending, they are paying your wages. When it comes to the national team, these players are paid their return tickets and that is all. They start fighting to get their bonuses. In such a situation, they won’t put in their best because they know where their cake is baked. 

As a former coach in the NPFL, how worried are you that the 2021/2022 NPFL season is yet to start?

Each time I speak on this, people call me to say I have started again. I like to speak the truth. Going by what is happening, there is no Nigerian club that will do well in CAF Inter-club competitions, be it Champions League or Confederation Cup. As we speak, the football leagues in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Ghana, Angola etcetera have started but here in Nigeria, we are yet to start. And when they start, the league will still go on a long break. If there is no league, how do we get players that are fit enough to play for the national team? How do you assess players’ fitness? 

Are you done with coaching? 

I have to take a break. The Lord has done a lot for me in football. I started at a very early age and I have achieved so much. On the domestic stage, I have won everything that a coach should win. I have also won trophies outside Nigeria. I have coached up to the World Cup. Let them continue with what they are doing. If I am there, I won’t keep quiet. At the moment, I am a Principal Special Assistant to Governor Samuel Ortom on Youths and Sports. So I am grateful to God.

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