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    Saturday, January 27, 2024

    Eguavoen Unveils Plans for Nigeria’s Football

    Augustine Eguavoen, the Technical Director of Nigeria Football Federation is a man of all seasons. He has seen the good, the bad and the ugly of Nigeria football. He was stand-in captain of the national team when they won the AFCON in 1994. He was in the Super Eagles squad that qualified Nigeria for their first World Cup in USA in 1994. He had a varied career as a player and has the singular honour to have served as Manager of the Super Eagles three times. He is observing and taking notes as the Technical Director of Nigeria at the ongoing Afcon in Cote d’Ivoire. Our Sports Editor, TONY UBANI spotted him turning and twisting on his seat in one of the Group matches of the Super Eagles. He fielded questions on the Super Eagles, Super Falcons, the NPFL and why only one home-based player is in the national team for the Nations Cup.

    Can you dissect what we have seen so far in the tournament?

    The performance of the teams are wonderful. It depends on how they prepared and their approach. Some countries are short of stars but the way they have been able to put themselves together as a team is exceptional.

    Officiating has been marvelous and there have been surprises and results. Even when the teams are poor they put up a good fight which means African football is really improving and growing. Things will change from what we saw at the Group stages.

    What about the shocking results?

    I’m not judging by results. If you are a football person you will see that there is a structure. They are not carried away by their emotions, there is a balance.

    When the game is on from defence to attack that is what I mean that they have improved. Gone are the days when you can tell the teams that are balanced and the ones that are not balanced.

    How will you rate the facilities?

    I’m very impressed. Last time that we played against Cote d’Ivoire, we used the old stadium and they have new ones that are modern and have all the facilities.

    We have the Olympic Stadium also known as Alassane Outtara, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, State de la Paix, Charles Konan Stadium, Amadou Gon Stadium, Coulibaly, Stade Laurent Pokou and others.  I think the Government has done well in terms of facilities.

    General assessment of the Super Eagles and what you expect from them?

    The Eagles are playing with caution. It’s a delicate stage. You cannot afford to lose points. If you lost three points you would be walking a tightrope. The only thing we’re missing is conversion of chances into the net. When you don’t convert your chances, the end comes to hurt you.

    We’ll grow with game after game. Super Eagles are a strong team. Nigerians need to be patient.  They lost a few points in the beginning but they can still bounce back. We know what we want and we are still in the game. If you look at the performance the only thing that we are missing is that we are not putting the ball in the net which can turn around to hurt any team because goal is paramount.

    By the time you get goals past your opponents your confidence rises and your opponents feel down. If you are not careful you can also be in trouble and that is why you need to stay focused. Defensively, we are very solid, the goal keeping department is solid. The organisation of the team is good. By the time we meet bigger and tougher opposition we will grow with the game.

    In the 25-man squad of the Super Eagles, only one home-based player is included. How do you react to this and what does it mean for the Nigeria Premier Football League?

    (Hmmmmmm! He sat back and exhaled deeply). One player? It’s not a good sign for our League. Things are going to change. I’ve been talking with the Chairman of the League, Hon Gbenga Elegbeleye. They are doing a good job in the League. Things are going to change but I must say that it’s not been easy, too. These boys must be given opportunity, that way there presence will impact on the league.

    It’s not only the NPFL. We must also strengthen the NNL and the NLO. The lower leagues must be looked into because there are equally good players who can help the other national teams, both male and female.

    We must first make the Leagues attractive and pay good salaries regularly. That way, it will checkmate the JAPA syndrome where our players jump into flights to Tanzania, Sudan to play because the clubs are offering to pay them in Dollars. We can’t stop the exodus but we can stem the tide, establish youth teams and academies. This way, there will be job for many coaches. Unfortunately now, it’s on Remo Stars that have youth teams just like many foreign clubs.

    What is your role as the Technical Director of NFF?

    I’m happy that my contract has been renewed. I’m happy also that Gusau’s administration is listening and ready to allow me implement my ideas. Very soon, people will see different things happening. There are going to be Regional teams that will be all involving. It will spread round the country instead the usual style of concentrating on some cities. We’ve shut out some fantastic stars from the national team because they had no opportunities. I’m in touch with FIFA and CAF and  we’re working in terms of development of players and coaches.

    The national team is a finished product supposedly. But then from the young ones to Super Falcons, everything is work in progress. We have come up with a template and very soon people will see it. We are trying to see how we can have national teams in all the zones. I’ve earlier proposed it but hopefully it will come to light now. There will be different categories of teams in all the six geo political zones and regionally. That will also be an opportunity to create jobs for the coaches in the region and tell them how we want it. They will know the style of our play. By the time me and my department are given the opportunity to do what we want to do, I think in the nearest future you will see the best of Nigerian football.

    We are working seriously on that. This thing about national team, sometimes the technical department is not very involved. I saw Peseiro yesterday and we talked. We can only talk but he is in charge of what happens. The head coach is in charge of the team anywhere in the world. He is responsible for the next game. The technical department that is headed by the technical director is in charge of the future of Nigerian football. That is the difference.  We are in charge of football development.

    We’ve been told that win or lose, Peseiro will stand down as coach of Super Eagles….

    (He interjects…)If that is the decision of the federation then I stand by it. One thing that I advise now is that whether Peseiro leaves now or later, let’s say positive things about him. If he keeps hearing negative things about himself he gets demoralized.

    Even if we are going to part ways let’s do so amicably. There is always tomorrow. If he wins AFCON for us, then we say he should go, he will go to a bigger country. Let’s be careful of what we say. Let’s speak positively about the boys and the coaches.

    Can you predict teams that are good to win the AFCON?

    Senegal hasn’t lost a game but they are beatable. One thing they have going for them is their continuity and the coach has been there for 7-8 years. They have a factory that produces players. Whether they win or not they will always compete in games. Morocco is another tough team. They are beatable as well.  Nigeria is my country and I hope we win and that will be our fourth title.

    Cote dvoire is not a pushover. We beat them because we raised our game.  All the small countries that did well at the group stage will fall and then we will have the big boys.

    When can we see ex-players like you become President of the NFF?

    Every position in the Board has a process. How many of us work in the FA right now? Those positions, you know what it takes to get there. You must have a position either as the chairman of a club or club owner. How many of us are interested in that? Few.

    We have Pascal, and others. Maybe sooner or later. It has to be about interest as well.  If these set of people are doing well, we have to encourage them to do well. Everything has its time and process and I believe that we can give this group a chance.

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