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Eagles not lacking yobo leadership – Ike Shorunmu

Joseph-Yobo

Former Nigeria goalkeeper and current Super

Eagles goalkeeping coach Ike Shorunmu is happy

with the progress of the national team. In this

interview with OLUFEMI ATOYEBI, the ex-

Shooting Stars and Besiktas custodian speaks

about the game in the country.

How would you assess Nigerian football in the

last two years?

Comparing the development of football in Nigeria

in the last two years will entail placing it beside

the immediate past period before the last two

years, or comparing it with the golden era of the

nation’s football when talent was in abundance.

What I will not do however is to compare the last

two years of the nation’s football with my time.

However, I will confidently say that the game has

improved considerably in the past two years.

Administratively, we have moved from the past to

the modern day even though we are struggling to

put things right. And each time we have the

opportunity to do so we fail because of different

interests. Government funds football in the

country and if it doesn’t provide money, there will

be crisis in our football. I remember that when I

was with Heartland as a coach, we had financial

crisis that forced to the players to embark on

strike. We tried to make peace with them,

assuring them the money would come as

promised. Some of them believed us but the

development affected the team.

Despite winning the Africa Nations Cup and

reaching the second round of the World Cup in

Brazil, Nigerian players weren’t part of the big-

money moves in the transfer window which

ended on Monday. What’s your reaction?

As a professional goalkeeper in Europe, I was

involved in transfers from one club to the other

so I know that many factors determine which club

will buy a player. Chief among the factors is how

good the player is. Managers have a big influence

on who comes into their clubs. I think our players

should work harder to secure bigger contracts

with top clubs.

Do you see Vincent Enyeama losing his place in

the Eagles to another keeper?

The goalkeeping department is a very sensitive

position. There are many good goalkeepers in the

country but they have to be patient. Enyeama

learned from the keepers before him before he

established himself as the country’s first choice.

Would you suggest Enyeama is not getting

stiff competition from other keepers?

In our days, it was hard to cede the first choice

position to a keeper because the quality was high.

Like I said, we still have great keepers in Nigeria.

In the national team, we are trying to improve on

the techniques of those working with us. We

cannot fault those keepers for not taking over

from Enyeama. When the time comes, they will

have their chance.

Can Nigeria defend their title at the 2015

Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco?

Let’s make it to that stage first. But we have to

consider the growth of football in Africa. Apart

from that, teams step up their game anytime they

face Nigeria. That is why we must always play at

our best when we meet any team in competitions.

Are you not worried that the current crisis in

the Nigeria Football Federation would affect

the growth of the sport in the country?

Football brings the nation together but instead of

moving forward, we are always in a dilemma.

When are we going to move forward? I don’t

know what to say because the problem keeps

coming.

What’s the solution to bonus row between the

NFF and the Eagles?

I think that issue is now forever settled with the

way we dealt with it in Brazil. I hope we will keep

to the blueprint that resolved the issue.

What target did you set for the team in Brazil?

Every coach wants his team to do well in every

competition because that will be the evidence of

his excellence on the job. I was looking at the

semifinals as the least stage we could reach and

that would have kept us in it until the final day of

the competition.

The players and coaches were not happy losing to

France in the second round. We will try to work

more on areas where we did not measure up.

What happened to us is a lesson and I am sure we

will all learn from it.

Joseph Yobo has retired from the Eagles. Some

people believe the team will miss his

leadership.

We have three or four players worthy of taking

over that role. Enyeama is still in the team. There

is Austin Ejide and the likes of Mikel Obi are

growing up too. So there is enough quality to lead

the team. The coaches are part of the leadership

required too so we will not have problems in that

regard.

You were in the middle of club/nation row

while playing for Besiktas in Turkey. Sola

Ameobi had a similar experience while playing

for Newcastle. Where did your loyalty reside

during the period?

It was a simple choice to make. No matter how

long I stayed in Turkey, I would still return to

Nigeria. I wanted my country to take priority. The

club wanted me to take one and I made my

choice but reinstated my commitment to the club

as a professional player. Before I knew it, my

contract was cancelled. I said fine and moved on.

There was no love lost between me and the club. I

thank God that there were people who stood by

me. Nigeria was behind me and it helped me to

work harder and concentrate on my career.

If you had not been a footballer, what would

you have preferred as a profession?

That depended on God. He gave me what He

prepared for me. We have people who trained as

medical doctors and ended up being politicians.

My desire does not matter but what God wants

for me in life. I don’t know what tomorrow will

still bring but I must thank God for what He is

doing in my life.

When you had the injury that ruled you out of

the France 1998 World Cup team, what went

through your mind?

It was during a friendly match and I injured my

arm. I asked myself if I was going to miss the

tournament having put in so much effort. I was

taken to the hospital and the doctor confirmed

that the injury required surgery that would take

six months to heal. It nailed my participation in

France ‘98 and extended my wait for World Cup

appearance. I thought why me because in 1994, I

was dropped because I was the youngest keeper

in the team. But thank God I was at the Korea/

Japan World Cup in 2002. As a professional

football player, the beauty of your career is to

play at the World Cup. Great players like George

Weah and Abedi Pele could not make it despite

their brilliance. Only God’s grace brings man to

the top level.

When you are not busy, how do you relax?

I am a sportsman so I try to keep fit at all time.

When I am not with the national team, I assist

clubs to prepare their teams.

Your former club, Shooting Stars, are on the

verge of returning to the Premier League.

What advice do you have for the team?

They have the experience at that top level. They

are one of the biggest clubs in Nigeria and I think

they are playing very well now. I urge them to be

focused because it’s a pity they are playing in the

lower league and seeking promotion now. When

they eventually get it, they should ensure they

retain that Premier League status because that is

the level that befits their status.

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