In this interview with our Deputy Sports Editor, EMMA NJOKU, former Benin Republic international, Muri Ogunbiyi, revealed how he was dropped from Nigeria’s Under 23 national team because he didn’t have a ‘godfather’. He also spoke on the crucial 2022 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier between the Squirrels and the Super Eagles in Cotonou next year, his days at Enyimba International Football Club, where he won the CAF Champions League trophy back to back in 2003 and 2004, his kids and love life, among others.
Muri good to see you after a long time. What’s happening to your football career?
I’m at home for now because I don’t have a club at the moment. But some agents are trying to work out something for me. I believe the coronavirus pandemic has been delaying the process, but I believe they’d be able to get a deal for me very soon.
When last did you play club football and which club was that?
My last club was Paris FC in France and I left the club about three years ago.
Are you concentrating on getting a foreign deal or would you consider playing in the domestic league once again?
Last two years I played in Benin Republic for Dragons FC, my former club before I joined Enyimba International of Aba. Early this year, too, I played for another club, Beef FC, also in Benin Republic, I returned to Nigeria when the league was put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But by the time the league was about to restart, we had some contract issues which we’ve not been able to resolve, that’s why I’ve not returned to Benin.
When did you retire from international football?
That was after the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, but I played at last year’s Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) in Togo with the Benin Republic team.
What’s your assessment of the current Benin Republic national team?
I think they have really improved. For the first time, Benin Republic went far at the last edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). And the team is doing well in the ongoing AFCON qualifiers where they are currently occupying the second position in Group L with just a point behind Nigeria. I think their last match in the qualifiers will be against Nigeria in Benin Republic and if they work hard they can beat Nigeria and qualify for the Nations Cup again.
What’s your prediction of the match between the Super Eagles and the Squirrels in Benin Republic?
I did not watch the Super Eagles against Sierra Leone, but I watched the Benin Republic team in their last home game because they invited me for the match. From what I saw, I think they can beat the Super Eagles in Benin.
You were in the Enyimba squad that won the CAF Champions League back to back in 2003 and 2004; how would you rate the club today?
Last three years I was with Enyimba on the invitation of the chairman of the club. He told me that they needed experienced players and I was in camp with the team in Oshogbo throughout their preparation, but at the end of the day, they told me they didn’t need me and I was surprised. But from what I saw, the team has changed from what it used to be during our time.
There’s no more competition among the players. Some players now feel that whether they train or not they would be selected on match day. It was not like that in our days. In our time, if the supporters did not see you at training, they would not allow the coach to select you on match day.
During our time, when you watch our training, you would think it was a match. That is lacking in the team now and it is not good for the club. I don’t even know if there’s that team spirit and unity among the players. If such things are lacking, the team cannot move forward.