By Bolaji Okunola
FIFA instructor and elder statesman of Nigeria football, coach Adegboye Onigbinde, recently celebrated his 80th birthday. But to him, age is nothing but just a number.
The Modakeke, Osun State high chief plans to live more years, hence he carefully chose what will prolong his life. Apart from staying loyal to local concoction called ‘Agbo,’ the former Super Eagles manager said part of the reason he divorced his wife was to have peace of mind and live long. The FIFA and CAF instructor in this exclusive interview with Saturday SunSports also speaks on his high and low as Super Eagles’ coach at the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea/Japan and lot more.
What’s the secret of your healthy and youthful look at age 80?
Yes I remain young and you can say that over and over again. At times people still find it difficult to call me an old man. I still look very much younger like a 40 year-old man. The secret remains the grace of God. Grace is above all things. Aside that, I have always engaged myself in sports. Sports men hardly grow old and I will forever remain in sports till I find it difficult to walk with my legs.
Sir, when do you plan to retire?
I can’t do that. I love moving around. If I should try it, I will fall sick. Sincerely speaking, I am use to walking around. I still do a lot of exercise kids of nowadays find difficult to do. As far as I’ve taken my local concussion (Agbo) I will certainly be okay.
How has life been since the past 80 years?
Life has been good to me. I am blessed with children and as the Yorubas will say “Omo Lere Aiye” meaning children are the profits of whomever liveth. I have achieved so many things that I can’t even disclose them all. I have worked as FIFA and CAF instructor. My greatest achievement was when I was appointed as the first indigenous coach to manage the Nigeria national team to the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea/Japan. And aside that, other successes such like the one I had with 3SC of Ibadan are primary. But as for now, seeing all my kids at age 80 remains my greatest achievement.
But you didn’t get to the knockout stage of the 2002 FIFA World Cup?
I still see myself as an achiever. We ought to have gone past the first round stage, but certain issues occurred between the senior players and the younger ones I introduced. I had no choice than to bench the senior players so as not to destabilize my plan. These senior players happened to be key members of my team and their absence really reflected. Let me just say rebels killed my World Cup plan for Nigeria. As I said earlier, I remain an achiever because my team wasn’t that bad. We were in a group of death, which had Argentina, Sweden and England. I went to the World Cup with new and young players and they held their own against the big teams. Most of these players later became key players of the team after I had been sacked as the manager. The like of Osaze Odemwingie, John Utaka, Vincent Enyeama and host of others became known all over the world. So, anyone who says I didn’t achieve as the coach of the national team should also apply for a post and showcase what he has to offer.
Away from football matter, what led to the recent divorce with one of your wives?
I don’t really like discussing the issue. I can’t face a trouble that is capable of taking my life. We have been on the domestic issue for almost two decades and I think it is time to put an end to it. That was the reason I dragged her to court for a divorce. I’m using this medium to advise young boys to study their partner well before jumping into marriage. There are different ladies out their with different characters, I won’t want such thing that happened to me at this age to happen to any of my children or fans. Even if I end up staying alone, it’s okay by me, as far as there is peace of mind.
Don’t you think women will dislike you for this assertion?
I know they won’t, but I have no choice than to beg ladies not to dislike me for this. I know they love supporting each other, but I just have to do it so as to save my life. It’s glaring, its not a good thing but this is a marital affairs and that is the reason why I’m begging young boys to watch before they run into any relationship. I don’t like talking much about the issue.
Why did you drop your Baptismal name, Festus?
I did that when I was young. To me, the name Festus has no meaning, so I changed to ‘Adegboye’, meaning ‘a child born to reclaim a chieftaincy title’. I have changed the name a very long time through the then Nigeria Daily Times newspaper.
The Super Eagles will be playing against Argentina, Iceland and Croatia in the World Cup, do you think the team can get to the knockout stage?
Gernot Rohr has very young and determined players. A united team can go ahead and win the FIFA World Cup. I won’t be surprise if we win the trophy because Nigeria has gone a long way in world football. We have won the under age FIFA tournament and the Olympic. Who says we are not ripe enough to win the World Cup? Even if we fail to win it, I am sure the team will get to a more respectable stage. All they need from us is support, while the technical department should do their job, which they have been doing by becoming the first African team to gain a qualifying ticket to the Mundial.