ByÂ Peter Duru inÂ Makurdi
Former BCC Lions FCÂ Â Â skipper, and one time,Â Â Super Eagles playmaker, MosesÂ Kpakor spoke to Vanguardâ€™s , where he bared his mind on nagging football issues.
How is life after retirement?
Well, a lot has changed since then because in this part ofÂ the world when you are no longer entertaining on the fieldÂ and you are not fortunate enough you will never be heard of again or remembered. Anyway, Iâ€™m grateful to GodÂ that wherever I go there are still a few people who rememberÂ me and would readily appreciate me for what I did for country through football, and that is a valuable consolation for me
How would you compare your days as a footballer and now?
In our days, most of us stubbornly became footballersÂ because our parentsÂ did not want us to play football butÂ wanted us to be 100%Â dedicated to our studies. And that in aÂ way built into us the resistance, determination and theÂ never say die attitude to success against all odds.
TheyÂ failed to realize that the game brought great joy to us. ButÂ today the reverse is the case as parents are the onesÂ encouraging their children to play the game butÂ unfortunately a great number of them prefer other careersÂ even though they are good at football.
In addition, we were boys who all started the game in the streets and thereafter in the primary and secondaryÂ school schools before landing big clubs, and that is theÂ power of ideal progression. That reminds me of a personalÂ experience in the national team. You see, I was firstÂ invited to the national team in 1982 but could not make itÂ even though I was a bit good with just a few more years.
IÂ was again called up in 1984 and 1986, but still could notÂ play for Nigeria . But behold, came 1989 when I captainedÂ BCC Lions FC to the F.A.Â Â CupÂ victory over IwuanyanwuÂ National in Bauchi with that excellent performance, â€œTheÂ captainâ€™s stuffâ€. And finally in 1990, at the ECOWAS CupÂ in Bauchi I wore the green white green colours for the firstÂ time after eight years of patient apprenticeship. That isÂ how to develop players. In most cases and most of us wereÂ developed in this manner, but how many of our players todayÂ would be ready to wait that long? Every body wants to beÂ invited into camp to play for Nigeria despite theirÂ inexperience.
Like I said earlier, we were footballers who combinedÂ the game with academics and that also helped us in no smallÂ measure in assimilating what our games masters and later ourÂ coaches taught us. We were also taught to be disciplinedÂ irrespective of oneâ€™s ingenuity and we were warned thatÂ players who lack discipline do not go very far in the game,Â and we used to see a lot of them and learnt to be humble.
WeÂ were also held accountable for poor results in our days andÂ it gave us added determination to approach the next gameÂ with seriousness in order to prove ourselves, butÂ unfortunately, today the coaches are the ones heldÂ responsible for the teamâ€™s poor showing and this has madeÂ todayâ€™sÂ players innocent of the outcome of a match that they played forÂ 90 minutes.
Compare the Eagles of your time and now…
Just as I earlier on observed, there is always a battleÂ between the past and the present, and throughout history it has been proved that it is the present that fights a losingÂ battle because it is the past that helped to improve both the present and the future. MostÂ of the past national footballers had played at the top levelÂ in the local league and had the opportunity of playingÂ continental football against the best of teams on theÂ continent and were enormously exposed and experience too.
Today we have players that donâ€™t have any experience ofÂ African football and whenever they are on national dutyÂ against teams like Cameroon , Togo , Tunisia etc, and theyÂ do not have the slightest idea of the natural or typicalÂ Togolese football.
Again, because most of us played together and playedÂ against each other for a long time, we were able toÂ understand our different strengths and weaknesses and evenÂ when others went abroad, whenever they came for nationalÂ duties that bond was still intact. Our players today did notÂ play together and most of them are training together justÂ four days to a game and after the game they are gone toÂ their respective leagues. That is why I would always voice
for a home based Supper Eagle, but I think we have not beenÂ serious about it yet.
The home based Eagles would also want to play abroad and how would you deal with that?
Quite simple, in principle I agree, but I know that inÂ reality itâ€™s not going to be easy. That not withstanding,Â we all need to honestly come together in tacking this issueÂ because there are no longer stars in the league compared toÂ our days. Your league can only attract serious investment ifÂ there are stars in it, at that point all investors would notÂ be able to resist investing in it.
One way is for governmentÂ to do something about the decree 101 and after that theÂ Nigeria Football Federation NFF and the Nigeria FootballÂ League NFL would both sit together and come out with ideasÂ that would protect the Nigerian player form the EuropeanÂ football slavery.
For example, we could come out with an age limit that a player would get to before he can play abroad,Â or theÂ number of years a player should attain before he will beÂ free to play abroad. But these laws must not be seen to be violating the right of anyone. I am only giving an example which could be in the right direction for our football, forÂ the clubs and for the players too.
Let me give an example, John Mikel Obi went to Manchester United and I am aware of a lot of things thatÂ happened, but unfortunately at the end of the saga bothÂ Manchester United and Oslo Club got a whopping ?15m from Chelsea as compensation. This moneyÂ ordinarily should have gone to Plateau United who ownedÂ Mikel. Why would these two European clubs cheat NigerianÂ football of what belonged to us? Because there is noÂ legislation in place and I believe it is about timeÂ something is done in that direction.
Having played under Amodu, do you think he is good enough for the Eagles?
For me, Amodu Shaibu is the best active coach in thisÂ country at the moment and his credentials are always thereÂ for anyone to see, especially his critics. I know there areÂ some of the opinions that because Amodu did not play for theÂ national team and for that reason he lacks the tacticalÂ know-how to handle the Eagles.
Reasons like these are just sentimental and theyÂ cannot be found in any football book.
Anyone of us who played for this country knows in hisÂ heart that there were better players than him who did notÂ have the chance to play for the national team. We were onlyÂ privileged that a particular coach liked our style and notÂ because we were better so why would anyone of us come outÂ today to think he was better than another player simplyÂ because he did not play for the national team?
On reflection, in any country you would always seeÂ players that really had nothing to do with their nationalÂ team football, but they were eventually there, simplyÂ because the coach saw one thing in him that he liked and notÂ because he was the best to man that wing in theÂ country.
So, for some of us who were privileged to play underÂ Amodu, we have no doubt about his tactical ability,Â knowledge of football and his personal level of educationÂ which has earned him numerous laurels.
Remember that AmoduÂ was the first coach that won the modern day F A Cup forÂ Northern Nigeria in 36 years when BCC Lions beat IwuanyanwuÂ Nationale 1-0 in 1989. Prior to this time, Kano xi had wonÂ the trophy in 1953 when it was called the Governorâ€™sÂ Cup.
Amodu also became the first indigenous coach to winÂ the African Cup of winnersâ€™ cup in 1990 when the legendaryÂ BCC Lion of Gboko roared to a convincing victory 3-0 homeÂ win and 1-1 away draw. Nigeria â€™s previous winners wereÂ IICC Shooting Stars in 1976 and Rangers International inÂ 1977, but both teams were then coached by foreign coaches.
Amodu also won the African Cup of Winners runner_up medal inÂ 1991 and added three more FA Cup trophies to his Kitty;Â El_Kanemi Warriors, 1992 and BCC lions 1993 and 1994, and also one league title 1994 and three super cups in 1990,Â 1994 and 1995.
More than that, Amodu became the first Nigerian coachÂ to qualify this country for the world cup in 2002. In fact,Â that particular qualification was historic because it cameÂ at a time that everybody in this country gave up hope andÂ the expatriate coach, Bonfere Joe was sacked.
This was theÂ only time in my life that I saw our great country lose hope.
But thanks to Amodu Shaibu we were finally there, evenÂ though he himself was not to appear there. Does anyoneÂ remember that it was Amodu Shaibu who assembled the AtlantaÂ 96 team from the beginning to the last minute? Before IÂ forget, Amodu won this country a third place in Mali 2000 inÂ his first attempt at the tournament.
I donâ€™t think thatÂ Â someone with such credentials and enormous experienceÂ could be a mediocre as some people are suggesting. ToÂ conclude on Amodu, let me say that he has been veryÂ consistent and that is why today he stands as the only coachÂ who has been saddled with national responsibility on three
different occasions and by three different footballÂ boards.
What is your view on theÂ Presidential Task Force for the Super Eagles?
Honestly, I think the Nigeria Football Federation needsÂ every support and concentration to finish up the good jobÂ they have started since the departure of German coach, BertiÂ Vorts. For the task force I express my profound support forÂ them and I thank Mr. President for his vision which hasÂ shown that he has interest in football and he is alsoÂ concerned. which makes it more commendable.
But from theÂ look of things itâ€™s like this good vision of Mr. PresidentÂ may at last prove to be the bullet that has shot down theÂ Eagles as some of the members of the task force are alreadyÂ claiming credit for themselves to some extent and this isÂ glaringly turning the vision into a distraction for theÂ Nigeria Football Federation.
So my personal and candidÂ advice to the force is forÂ Â them to function quietly in anticipation of when theÂ President would call them and say to them â€œthank youâ€Â for a job well done, that would be their day of honour andÂ pride, but not what is presently happening in the camp ofÂ Â our rejuvenated Super Eagles. And to the NFF, they shouldÂ remain focused and not lose concentration bearing in mindÂ that anything of such could be disastrous.