By Patrick Omorodion

*Set to train coaches from the grass-root
*Laments failure to make football history
*Urges Nigerians to believe in the Eagles

Before the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup kicked off last  week, Saturday Vanguard Sports interviewed Nduka Ugbade, the first captain in the world to lift the U-17 (then it was called U-16) trophy when the Nigerian team beat Germany to become the first winners. He spoke on sundry issues including warning that Germany was not going to be easy for the Golden Eaglets (which turned out so), how some people stopped him from making football history, his new move to train grass-root coaches scientifically as well as  produce World Cup players for the country. Enjoy it.

Nigeria is hosting the U-17 World Cup. As captain of the team that won the first cup in 1985, what is your advice for the team defending the trophy Nigeria won in 2007?

Good morning, my name is Nduka Ugbade. I’m a football educator and a football coach as well. I’m a trained principal  man, internationally trained and I travel all over the world, sometimes on some pleasure related to football.

We thank God we are hosting the U-17 World Cup in Nigeria and I honestly want to thank FIFA for actually giving us the chance of winning it three times and bringing the competition to Nigeria. Like you know, anytime that you get to four and spiritual number, you will be looking for completion of like about five which is the number of grace. Nigeria is 49 this year and this same month we are hosting the U-17 World Cup. I honestly hope that the situation in Nigeria now will be better and lifted up by us after seeing what happened with the U-20 team and some of the things that we saw or have seen so far with the senior national team, I want to believe that the national U-17 team will bring us the hope that we greatly desire.

As a Nigerian, I don’t always want to have the believe that there is nothing impossible, every other thing is possible. I think the Nigerian U-17, with what I’ve heard so far, I think we might be able to get to the final. And I hope that everything being equal, Nigeria will do well.
In 1985, you led the Eaglets to beat Germany in the final to win the cup. In 2009, Nigeria will be playing Germany in the opening match. What do you expect this time around?

It’s going to be very very difficult but one thing I’ll tell you is this, during the U-20, I analysed for Complete Sports and I told Nigerians that when you talk about football technicalities and tactical discipline and pace of the game, that we have Brazilian philosophy in Africa, we have an edge over the Germans. But when you talk of discipline, the Germans have an edge in endurance, which we saw in the U-20 and how it all turned out to be. But in this U-17, we have defeated Germany twice, in the final in 1985 and the one they won in 2007 in South Korea. That is still very possible, the only thing is that Nigeria must be very very tactical. The strategy to play for that 90 minutes must not wither, the discipline to maintain pressure of consistency in all movement must be well nurtured and we must develop a high mental skill so that as our opportunities come for goal scoring we don’t miss them, we utilize them.

I want to believe that the German U-17 team are the European champions. I don’t expect anything that is going to be easy for the Eaglets.
It’s like Nigerians have lost hope on the Super Eagles because of their poor performance in the 2010 qualifiers. In their last match against Mozambique, the stadium was almost empty. What is your advice to Nigerians now that the Eaglets are going to defend the title they won in Korea in 2007.

Ugbade: Honestly when you look back 10 or 15 years now, we must know that we have not done great things as the largest Black  nation on earth. You know the meaning of Nigeria? It is simply black, that is black area. I very much believe that same name given to us should be a thing that we must hang on to, no matter what the situation is, be it in economy, in business, in social life and other activities. We must try as much as possible to always love and support ourselves, even when we are failing.

So Nigerians must support the Golden Eaglets with everything that they have, their resources, their time. You leave your office, go and buy tickets and get inside and try to do something. You saw what Governor Fashola is doing, buying tickets for every other person and ensuring that the stadium will be very filled so at the end, we may have cause to be happy. You don’t expect success all the time but I want to tell you that even with the Green Eagles, people said all hope is lost and the stadium became empty. In the last match they played against Mozambique, in the very last minutes Nigeria was able to score the lone goal  that kept us in the competition.

If you read my analysis before the match, they said, they have a Dutch coach. Yes, the Holland football philosophy is indirect as well. Nigerian has the largest technicalities when you are judging by nation, even better than Brazil because we are a combination of Germany with endurance, combination of the British in speed, combination of Brazil with technicalities or should I say the South American with technicalities. And we have edge over every other person because we have a very strong heart. So with this same combination like I said, at the end of the day, they will play a lot better. We might be dull but we are going to win.

I This time around, I want all Nigerians to support the Golden Eaglets, keep supporting the Super Eagles, and pray for them as well and let our boys too do every other thing based on determination and commitment to the country, even for just once, so that they can get the ticket.

In Mozambique, it is going to be extremely difficult for Tunisia to survive. What will happen might be something that happened here in Nigeria but Tunisians will not equalize if the Mozambicans score because they want to go to Angola and the level of their thinking now is a lot  higher than whatever Kenya will be thinking about their qualification for the Nations Cup in Angola  as well.

You were on the verge of making history as the first player ever to graduate from the U-17 World Cup in 1985 to the U-20 World Cup in 1989 then the senior World Cup in 1984, but you lost the opportunity. Do you have any regrets about that.

Yes a lot of regrets because whatever you do and whatever you miss can be regained but you must count it as a loss. When you have the greatest opportunity and you think you are fit to make the team to USA ‘94 and played in most of the qualifying series as well and there was no injury, there were nothing. All that happened was just a thing of a bad mind set from some people that felt that you are not supposed to achieve this and they worked against it. In all, I have put it behind me, why, because what I have in my hand now is a thing that will produce a lot of players. I’m just an individual, but with the kind of technical weapons I have in my hands now, to develop players, I am going to produce players that will go that World Cup competition in my name, Nduka Ugbade. Because I never went, I will produce players who will go and say yes, Ugbade brought me to this stage, not one, not two, not three, not even 10, a lot of them. As time goes by, you are going to be hearing, in the next four or five years, the players that I would have produced that would be able to go to the World Cup and perform so well.

What are you doing right now?

Yea I do a lot of things but specifically I’m a football educator, maybe among the few in Africa, with a different mind set on football and a different way of preaching the game. I’m a UEFA international free licence educator or coach if you want to use that, because in Africa it is strange to hearing Educator. As an educator, you are always better than a coach because you are the foundation of football science.

I’m having a Irish Level 2 licence as well, I have a Brazilian free licence as well, to do my B licence by next year or middle of  next year, a USA free licence as well. So what I have been doing after my course is going around with some of my professors preaching football in some places all over the world. About 2 or 3 years now, I came home and tried to introduce the same thing I was told by my last professor to do.

That we can do this in Nigeria, that it will take a lot of leverage towards it and maybe after 2010, by 2014 Nigeria will be talking about winning the World Cup and not just participating because we would have gone past the level of participation.

To compete you must have something that you bring to the table, you understand. Aspiration is not enough. Aspiring to go to the World Cup is not enough, you must be a candidate for the World Cup.

Did you go back to school after you stopped playing because you talk like a professor now?

No, I didn’t not go to the university. I didn’t go to Polytechnic as well. I didn’t go to any higher institution, just that somehow I don’t know the kind of intelligence that God has placed in my hands and I want to give thanks to a lot of Nigerians for the support. Somehow because of the kind of friends I have and some of the things that I’ve been lucky to get myself involved abroad. This has given me a lot of leverage and like the last one now, a lot of people have asked a question if I have a Masters degree or Doctorate degree or one thing in sports. I don’t have anything, the only thing I have is just my educational qualification on football. Like coaching course diplomas and certificates but I think I am much more padded than that. That is because I have worked with professors of football and we did something that is quite strange or true to believe.

As from next year the states will be interested, because I’m going to try to reach all governors and if they can produce for me at least 30 coaches at every given time, then I will have to disclose the tricks of the game, what makes Brazil or what makes Argentina or what makes South America to dominate the World Cup and international competition, all over the world and what brought the Europeans to what they are known today about football but most importantly what made Brazil a household name in football. These are things that are not seen normally by the naked eyes but they can be taught to people.

This is what I do all over with youths and with senior players as well and believe me these are non believable things. If Nigeria will learn it and will start to teach it and we start to spread it, honestly speaking, it will not be too long for us to know that formation does not play football, it’s only important as part of the game, that you have to show what you want to do because inside the formation the strategy is built, what is the strategy, the scheme is built and what is this scheme, the system is built, and what is this system, the technicalities, then education.ptions to choose from. When you control once but when you are not able to control a ball on time you are going to have less option to choose from and a lot of time to react.

From what you said now, it is like our coaches have a long way to go. How do you think Nigerian coaches can improve?

This is why I am here because I have to educate a lot from the grassroot to the top on the ways to do things, better ways that we can do things. I myself used to be like any other Nigerian coach and footballer that played based on talent but in modern football talent is not enough, it must be developed to become non-profitable to the one that talent has been given to by God. So if you have the right education, you will teach the right concept and philosophy. If you have the right education on coaching, you will perform in the best of manner that will bring achievement and success at the end of the day. So our coaches must be shown or trained in the new and modern aspect of footballing because there is what they call technology in the past. Now there is what they call I.T. (Information Technology) where you press the computer and in less than 2 or 3 seconds you will not need to strive your brain to start operating why, because the things are there already and the understanding that you used for that competition is on that computer. Sometimes you hear that some computers are slow to react why some react under a function of second, why, because the megabyte or whatever that is higher and one is 3,000, one is 300, one is 400, one is just about 10, you understand.

So all these things are brought into football. Football now has gotten into the level of information technology and these things must be taught. For about five years now we have been activating this all over. When I was in Europe I was shown by an Argentine professor. When he came and we had to see everything and under his studies we learnt so many things and we were able to adjudge his secrets and in turn we had to preach it to people. There is the elementary, there is the modern, the advance and the highest level of it. So all these things must be taught to our coaches from the grassroot to the end, because most of these things must start from the grassroot till intermediate and the highest of the competitive level.

So we run 20 laps to go 40 laps to go even 5 or 10 kilometres, they are part of sports generally because even in boxing, and the rest, they go the distance.  But there are specifics for football and the reason for this must be taught because when you know the reason why you are doing the thing, and what it is meant for, then it becomes a lot easier for you to go at a speed that is inconsistent with demand of your opponent, why, because you know the reason. After teaching this, you will have to impose this information on your opponent’s own formation, I have tried it. My team will win 7-1, 8-1, 9-0, 4-0. If you are too strong, we will score close to about 5, or 3 in the first half, and in the second half we say, we look for just one goal and the moment we get the goal, the goal would continue to increase. Why, because we have information that we are imposing on the situation.  This I can guarantee if we learn the concepts. So all the states and the governors must open their hearts and accept each time I come to them to speak to them on what I want. It does not cost so much, it is, just, giving me the level ground for them to see that if I am wrong by every other thing that I am teaching, then they must never again believe in whatever I say in Nigeria and all over Africa.

Don’t you fear that in Nigeria, when people see that they won’t benefit directly from an idea like this, they will do everything to kill the idea?
I am a product of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) because I would not have gotten to this stage I am today if they had not given me the leverage to get here. If the office (of the NFF) must be sustained and maintained, it must be by achievement not so. If you bring a very good thing to the NFF, I can confidently tell you they cannot turn it down. I met them, from the President, Sani Lulu to (Chief Taiwo) Ogunjobi and the secretary general (Bolaji) Ojo-Oba and spoke to them.

I am like a son to them. When you have anything  discovered, a lot of people will criticise it until it starts to work. This project is not going to be done by only me, it must be powered by the NFF and I swear to God, that they will ever be grateful to the initiative, believe me, and they will thank me for it because it is not something that you drive only, you will set it rolling. In psychology, there is what you call automation. When you want to get to a point, you set something rolling here that will trigger you up to that point and at every stage that you analyse, that you argue about it, you see it going perfectly until it gets to the end, which is your expectation. I tell you, Nigeria is in for a new beginning as from this year.

Monday Odiaka said in an interview that he once had a terrible experience when he was turned back at a stadium because they couldn’t recognise him. Have you ever experienced such before?

Yes. I was not only turned back but I was even flogged. You see the problem we have here is that we don’t hero worship here. We tend to forget those who brought honour to this country easily. It is not supposed to be so, we should have a change of heart and honour those who serve this country well.
Odiaka  even suggested that like soldiers who are paid pension for serving the country, footballers and sports men in general, should be accorded the same when they retire.

I don’t think so my brother. Even the soldiers, are they paying them. You hear of so many of them who complain that they are not paid. It is not only footballers who get neglected, it is every facet of our national life.

I can see you have three children, two girls and a boy. Is any of them into sports and will you encourage them?

My son is already kicking the ball but it is like he will be a goalkeeper because he likes catching the ball. Whenever he is playing, he will always ask that the ball be thrown to him and he catches. I can’t stop him if he wishes to take to football.

You said your family live abroad and you’re always travelling.  Don’t they miss you?

Of course they miss me. It should be the other way round, because I miss them most. It is not easy but the job takes me away.


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