Eagles not lacking yobo leadership – Ike Shorunmu
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
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 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
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
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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