By Chidera Akalonu
Nigeria’s U-20 third choice goalkeeper to the World Youth Championship, Holland 2005 Kola Ige is still as agile as he used to be in his playing days. Recently at the National Stadium, Surulere, the former 3SC goalkeeper at a chance meeting during the Lagos SWAN Cup took a look at his playing career and concluded that though, he did not get to play at the senior level he bears no grudges and has no regrets.
Currently a student of the Nigeria Institute for Sports, NIS, Ige speaks on his days in the national team, life as a student and his dream for Nigerian football.
Q: What has been happening with you?
A: Currently I am studying at the NIS to enable me pursue my career as a coach
Q: You played for the National team in some matches, can you give us a flash back.
A: My experience in the national team at that time was a memorable moment. There is a lot to remember because as a person I don’t have any godfather to teach me, it’s all about what I can do on the pitch but whenever am there am very happy. I played under a lot of good coaches who were not discriminative. All they wanted was to see you on the pitch doing what you said you can do. I went to the Under 20 World Cup too and it was a very nice experience although it was tough and rough when we started, it wasn’t easy for our coach, Siasia because there was no money.
I remember back then he went back to Bayelsa to raise funds for us to travel but we thank God at the end of the day its history. There are lots of memories and a lot of guys I would still want be with if I have the chance. Players like Mikel Obi, Taye Taiwo, Adeleye and a lot others.
Q: During your travels with the team, which countries were of interest to you?
K: I remember we went to France, Belgium and Holland. What I like about France is this, if you open your window or look around you see fields so there’s no way you won’t think about football even if you are a dummy you will love to play, I think if we can put that up in Nigeria it will help our game and motivate the youths to play.
Q: What was it like competing for a shirt in the national team?
K: It was very tough, Vanzekin is my good friend and you know it doesn’t end there. If you are fighting for shirt you should use your brain, I can remember back then even if he wants to start a game despite the fact that Vanseki is the one to start, he will call me to pray on his head before he starts. So, the relationship is there till today even with Daniel Akpeyi.
Q: Talking about Akpeyi, do you think he should be castigated for the Eagles 2-0 defeat by South Africa or deserves another chance?
A: I think he deserves a second chance because Akpeyi is a very good goalkeeper but you know in the goal keeping department sometimes if it doesn’t work for you, it looks as if it was all your fault and everyone will blame you. I remember when I was in Shooting Stars, at a stage people believed that I can’t concede any goal so when a goal is scored, everyone will point fingers at you. Akpeyi is a very good keeper and is also a foreign based; so for him to get to that level they must have seen something unique in him. That match is not enough to castigate him.
Q: Do you have any regrets not making it to the Super Eagles.
A. Not really. I have been there also just that I did not play in major competition just like World Cup. I have been there I remember in 2004 we went to Libya and we also played against Benin Republic inside the National Stadium in Abuja, so is just that I did not play in a major competition.
Q: What would you say were your experiences during your tour with the Eagles?
A: I was privileged to play under good coaches and a lot of goalkeepers like Abiodun Baruwa, Alloy Agu and others. They were the people that encouraged and trained me. That’s why I wouldn’t want to waste the experience I have gathered from them, and a major reason I am training to be a coach so that I can impact knowledge to the younger generation.
Q: What do you think the Nigeria Football Federation needs to correct to be better our football?
A: I think early preparation is key because there is no magic in football better than it. Germany is the World’s best now because they have started planning a long time ago. It’s just unfortunate for us because we don’t plan. I believe that working ahead of events would help improve our lot because we have the raw talent.