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Onigbinde killed Nigerian football – Babangida

What do you think is the missing link between the players of your generation and today’s players? If you can remember when we came into…

What do you think is the missing link between the players of your generation and today’s players?

If you can remember when we came into the system, I found out that Nigeria was playing a system that other countries envy because we always get our own talents from every position, like Segun Odegbami, Muda Lawal and all these players when they were playing, and Nigeria tries to get a player that can replace them whenever they leave the stage.

When I was coming in, Clement Temile and the rest had gone, and I came and met Finidi George and the other fine players who were playing similar style of football. Then if you look at them other side you find Adokiye Amiesimaka, Elaho and Amuneke, and all these players other countries don’t have. So, we have a culture of producing players in Nigeria at that time.

But before the World Cup all of us were dropped without any system of replacing us and they went ahead and brought players that never played in the national team before and were not fit to be at the World Cup, and after the World Cup all the players were nowhere to be found.

If we start doing the way we were doing before, like when I was leaving, Pius Ikedia came in, or find somebody who will replace Amuneke and others gradually, it would have not been this bad, but they took young players to the World Cup who had nobody to talk to them or somebody to look up to, and that was the beginning of the downfall of Nigerian football.

I remember that Westerholf was shouting at that time that the approach would kill Nigerian football but nobody listened to him, and the people at that time went ahead and did what has today become our problem. So, the question now is what style are we playing now? Are we going to continue with our traditional way of playing football by getting the right players to play in such positions or are we still struggling to play with one striker or 4-4-2 and come back to defend?

The issue is we have all these players, but we have to start from the grassroots.

Our own generation of players is gone but we have to move forward, and that we can do by getting good scouts to monitor the Nigerian league, and also make effort to see that we keep our young players back home do that they don’t go out of the country unripe. With this we can make our football stronger and have the players who will feature in the Super Eagles.

You were a successful player and one would expect you to go for a bigger club, but here you are with Taraba FC, what do you want to achieve with Taraba FC?

I want to reform the club. Since I came back I have been busy with academies. Just last month I came back from Sokoto State and Niger Republic where I went round all the villages in Sokoto and took 30 youth players and travelled with them outside the country in a kind of an empowerment programme.

It is the same programme that I took to Taraba when I found out their football is in chaos. Though I am not from Taraba, but I went and met the Governor and told him my mission to reform the club and make it professional and may be two years after I would leave it with the people of Taraba State, but first of all make a truly professional club….Again, the major way of developing football now is investment in the youth, so you don’t need to focus on your state alone and that is why I am in Taraba State with Taraba FC. Taraba is a forgotten area, nobody even thinks of Taraba; so I am there to look for these youth players and bring them up because Nigeria is looking for youth players and that is my mission.

So, I am organizing the club and my eyes are also on the development of the youths, so that in two or three years time Taraba FC will not look outside the state to get players to beef the squad.

The Super Eagles did not qualify for the 2012 Nations Cup in Gabo and Equatorial Guinea, as a former Super Eagles player, what is your thinking as to how to reposition ahead of the 2013 edition?

We have a very big problem in football because our U-20 didn’t do well and the U-23 team didn’t do well and the Super Eagles did not even qualify for the Nations Cup. So, we need to come back and reorganize ourselves.

But at the moment we have an issue to tackle, and that is any time we are to be busy with preparations for competitions, the NFF is taken to court, and I begin to ask is it that these people want our football to grow or they want to be recognized? Should the NFA now focus on developing the game or they should concentrate on fighting in court?

There are two things here, first is to put our house in order and that is to finish the issue of this illegality they are talking about. If you change a name make the papers ready and go to court and put everything in place, but we have to be patient because as it is it can drag us back.

The second issue is that we should be sincere in our choice of players that we select for the national teams, especially the age grade team because a situation where we bring a player who has played five years in Enyimba or any other club to feature ion the national U-17 team and everybody keep quiet will not help us.

We have to be sincere in our preparation by picking young players for our teams who are actually within the age bracket. We don’t have to win the World Cup now; we have won the World Cup before but nothing to show for it.

So we have to come back and look for youth players who will be groomed and prepare for the challenges of our future football.

We should send scouts everywhere and they should go without sentiments and work with the academies and bring players who will represent Nigeria well in future; It should not be a situation where when we come back from the Olympics and other countries are improving our own should be going down.

If you are to compare the present Super Eagles team with the one of your days, where are you going to place the current team?

During our time, we had a generation of players who were exceptional, such that even if Okocha is on the bench, nobody will feel his absence.

I remember in the semi-final, he was kept on the bench and the in the final, he came in and was the Man of the Match and that is a team. You can see Ikpeba the Prince of Monaco and Babangida sitting on the bench.

But if you look at the Nigerian team now, if not for Yakubu Aiyegbeni that we are saying he is old, which striker now will you beat your chest and say he can come and beat Yakubu who is finishing his football now? So that is what is holding Nigerian football back now.

Look at it this way, a coach can go into camping for one month with the local players and as the match approaches, he will invited entirely foreign-based players to take over, so what is the essence of the camping? I don’t think Nigeria can do a camping like that and that is why I keep saying what Keshi is doing now is great, because this is the same way we were brought to limelight.

He can do the camping and see the lapses in the players and only bring in two or three players from Europe that are good and mix them up with the local ones to strengthen the team; I say this because the players at home are more ambitious that those playing outside the country.

But if we keep doing the way Eguavoen used to camp players for one year but during match days he brings in fifteen players from Europe to take over, will not develop our football.

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