Veteran tactician and former Super Falcons’ head coach, Kadiri Ikhana (MON), in this interview with our Group Sports Editor, Emma Jemegah, faulted the hiring of a foreign coach to manager the senior female national team. He also spoke on other issues bordering on Nigerian football and his coaching career.
Good to see you back on your feet, how are you feeling now?
I want to give Allah the glory and as you can see, I am no longer walking with the aid of a stick, I am now back on my toes and doing very well. I must thank God for everything.
When you cried for help, did you expect the kind of response you got?
Obviously I did not expect a very quick response, but at the same time, I was surprised that between two to three days, someone took responsibility for my treatment, it was like a magic. I want to thank the press because, if not for them, maybe, by now, I would have been in my grave. I want to also appreciate the hospital that gave me free treatment, they carried out the surgery on me, helping to replace my hips, I will continue to be grateful to them forever.
You had injury while in active service for Nigeria as a player, what would you tell the current generation of players with our experience?
I don’t think this situation can happen to players in this generation because most of them know their rights. When we were playing, we just wanted to play the game and didn’t care about what would happen next. And I must say that sport is a very good way of living because when my problem started, the country rose to help me. Fine, it was a hospital that treated me, but I will say contributions from so many people, really helped during that period. I spent money to buy my medications, hotel accommodation and feeding in Abuja, putting into consideration how expensive it is to stay in Abuja. Coaches like Imama Amapakabo, Gbenga Ogunbote and the rest of them contributed huge sum of money to support me. Also, clubs that I had worked with in the past, like Enyimba and Kano Pillars, all contributed to help me. Players in diaspora, also, supported; somebody like Victor Moses gave me N1million and others too, ranging from N50,000 and above, so I was able to live comfortably until I left Abuja. All these people I mentioned are all Nigerians, so if I say the country never did anything for me, I would be very ungrateful.
You actually played football when there was no money in the game compared to now, would you have loved to come in this generation?
I think I am very lucky to come during my generation because now, everybody is playing for the love of money, but I can tell you, money is not everything. When I walk on the street, enter the stadium anywhere in the country, people always come out to greet me, relate with me, try to take pictures. I could have all the money in the world and they might not have that love for me. My association with football has paid me more dividends that I ever expected. I will say it was good I came in my own generation.
Are you done with coaching?
Obviously I am. By December 2020, I will be 74, at that age, it would be very wrong for me to want to go back to coaching. Imama and Ogunbote are both my children, and I should now start to stay on the opposite bench against them, at my age, I am already forgetting things. It is right for me to step down and probably try to give advice from the background. I think I am done with coaching.
The NFF recently appointed a new coach, Randy Waldrum, to handle the Super Falcons. As a former coach of the team, what is your take on that?
It is very crazy. I have to put it that way because the country has produced great players who are now coaches, and all we could do was to go and get a foreign coach, then it is crazy. We are not working on building our own, all we are saying is that they don’t have experience, where are they going to get the experience? Is it something they can get at the market or where? They can only get the experience working with the tools which, for me, is the national team; without that, it is difficult. I have coached the Super Falcons in the past and I say we have those who can stand their own and lead the team at the moment. I don’t know what we want to gain bringing in a white-man, all we are thinking about is how to qualify for the World Cup, but are we thinking about how to develop the game in the country. The same thing is happening to the male national team, imagine a country like Nigeria cannot get a player from the local league to be invited to the national team, this is disastrous for the game.
Do you think any of our teams on the continent has a chance with the league yet to start?
It is minus 50 percent chance for us. I don’t expect any team to do well, because, as a coach, I know how to prepare for international games like the CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup; it is not something you just go for a preseason and now come out to say you are ready, football is not like that. If you leave football for six months, it can leave you for six years. Imagine, we have teams that would be playing on the continent and they have not been playing for so many months now. I won’t blame them if they fail.