From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The National Technical Director (NTD), of the Nigeria Football Federation, Augustin Eguavoen has revealed that his mission at the secretariat of Nigeria’s football governing body will be to fashion out a brand of football style peculiar to Nigeria.
Fielding questions from SportingSun in Abuja recently, the former Super Eagles captain and chief coach, dismissed the insinuation that the Super Eagles may not qualify for the next Africa Nations Cup following the last unimpressive two-legged outing against Sierra Leone.
He also spoke on the call for the sack of the Super Eagles technical adviser, Gernot Rohr, pleading for more chance, just as he promised to convince him to draft home-based players into the Super Eagles.
What is giving you the confidence that Super Eagles may still qualify for Nations Cup considering their recent poor outing against Sierra Leone?
It is very wrong of you to use the expression may still qualify. We should not think negatively because I know that experience is the best teacher. Yes, we saw the outcome of those two games against Sierra Leone and that is probably why many Nigerians reacted the way they did.
However, the confidence is that the team has enough good players to qualify. All we need to do is to get a draw in Benin and win at home without disrespect to the team. With the result we will qualify. I don’t want to sound negative because we still have two games to play. The players just like every Nigerian know the importance of qualifying.
Did the call for the sack of Rohr after the matches come as a surprise to you?
I don’t think it is right to call for the sack of Rohr because he has done well before now. He is the same person who qualified us for the last Nations Cup and got us a bronze medal. He also qualified us for the World Cup in Russia. That is why I said you count on experience sometimes and you take a step up when things start unfolding.
What happened should be a serious lesson to Rohr. Calling for his sack is too hasty but I can understand that the anger is because of the quality of the opposition they played – Sierra Leone. Anybody who knows football and loves the game would rightly react like that but they must get over it. The result will propel the players to do better.
I don’t want to believe that the calibre of players we have now made the Super Eagles lose the fear factor. If you look at the Eagles first 11 and the reserve bench, they are players doing very well in their clubs out there. However, sometimes there has always been a question mark when they come back home.
But we should also know that there are factors that can influence performance. One of the few factors include, weather. I was in Benin during that match and I noticed it was very humid. The pitch is also completely different from what they have out there in Europe.
The rank in the competition table is another factor. Somebody already down is not afraid of fall. Sierra Leone was already down without any disrespect to them and they threw in everything into the game and our relaxation gave them the advantage.
We would have done better in our outing in Sierra Leone, but it was much better than the one in Benin.
As I said earlier, there are factors that can influence a game. The players may be a bit relaxed, may be overconfident but with what happened, I don’t think they will allow it to happen a second time.
What is your view about involving home-based players since the over reliance on foreign-based is not helping us?
We all saw the game Iwobi played for Everton against Fulham after that international outing with the Super Eagles against Sierra Leone. He was very spectacular. He does well with the Eagles but I think he is usually slow perhaps because of examples I mentioned above especially the weather. I am an advocate of involving home-based players that people are clamouring for. Don’t forget that we all played in this league previously before leaving the shores of this country for Europe.
However, I know that it might take a while. My coming on board now and my colleague Garba Lawal who has been in the league, we will make Rohr understand that there are good players in the league. Yes, they may not be better than those other players out there, but Rohr should understand that he is not just the technical adviser of only the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) but the entire country.
We hope that he might buy into it gradually. We will convince him and he will understand with time. Hopefully, he will consider them and the home-based will take their chances.
Many commended your appointment as the National Technical Director, but what exactly are you bringing on board to treasure your name by the time you leave the stage?
Yes, I am aware that I will not be in this position forever, not at all because no one can be in a position forever. As part of the target, we monitored the U17 to see how we can raise another Jay-Jay Okocha, Kanu, Babayaro, Siasia, Amokachi, Ikpeba and many others to represent us in future.
I was 20 years old when I played for Bendel Insurance FC. But, today, we see 20-year old players playing in an academy. It is not acceptable. My target is going to be short and long term plans. In the short term, we want to ensure that the national coaches for the youth teams do thorough screening of the right players.
The target should not be winning the tournament but ensuring that they can achieve something in future.
In the long term, we want to explore the possibility of designing a philosophy or style of play for Nigeria. The one we can call and know as a Nigeria brand of football. Nigerian football is old enough to have a football playing identity and brand. In the past, we didn’t stick to one pattern of play because there must be variations and we must be flexible because of the way our opposition reacts.
You can remember that we had the Odegbami, Amasiamaka, Sam Okpodu, Temile, Garba Lawal, Amunike, Finidi that all operated from the wings. Since Nigeria has assets for that, we must identify some kind of system suitable for the country but we must mix it because of opposition.