*Says someone else took his father’s credit for the Atlanta ’96 gold
BY OJIEVA EHIOSUN
As Nigerian football fans await the final release of the Super Eagles list for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, former Nigerian International, Baldwin Bazuaye, has affirmed that players like Vincent Enyeama, Osaze Odemwingie, Emmanuel Emenike, Mikel Obi and Ikechukwu Uche will be Keshi’s biggest assets at the competition.
In this interview with Sunday Vanguard sports, the former Lobi Stars FC of Markudi assistant manager and ex- Head coach of the troubled Insurance of Benin, advises Stephen Keshi to be professional in the selection of players for the Mundial, adding that those calling on him to dump experienced players from the list do not mean well for him. Excerpts:
Coach we have less than two months to FIFA World Cup in Brazil, are you comfortable with Super Eagles readiness for the competition?
I would say ‘Yes and No,’ yes in the sense that we have very competent players that can make Nigeria smile at the Mundial if well selected, and if the coaches are allowed to do their job professionally. I say this without any bias. Coaching is the most difficult job to do, especially in this part of the world. It is Hire and Fire. We seat on gun powder ready to explode any time any moment. This is our fifth time at the FIFA World Cup and we did not go to Ghana to pick players, those that have made Nigeria proud at football competitions at the CAF and FIFA levels are from this country. We have never lacked players, but the problem is getting the right ones. Nigeria parades an array of stars in most part of Europe doing very well in their various clubs. So if the players are given shirts according to merit, Nigeria will be the revelation at the World Cup. Nigerians are ready to support the team if only things are done right.
I’m also very confident in this present crop of Super Eagles players because they are very young, energetic and play top flight football in Europe. They are capable of making things happen. In our days as players, we did not get such backing from the Federal Government, let alone being paid in dollars, so the players have every thing going for them. The only angle I want the NFF to improve on is in the area of friendly games. We have not had enough International Grade A friendly matches to get the boys fully ready for the show.
Again the other aspect is the issue of rumor making the round that the NFF might go ahead to get some one else to head the team. Nigeria coaches have all it takes to coach any National side in the world. The present Eagles technical crew headed by Stephen Okechukwu Keshi has it all, they have proved to us that they can do it looking at their track records in the past two years. So the NFF should jettison that idea and give them the best support ever.
As a football manager, how would you rate Alhaji Aminu Maigari, the NFF president so far?
Without mincing words, the Head of the NFF Alhaji Aminu Maigari, has done favorably well in turning our football around, though they were some crisis at the beginning but thank God they were able to manage it well.
And today every football follower in the country is happy with the development going on in our football. I’m particularly happy with the recruitment of ex- Nigerian stars into the Board of the FA. This is the kind of things we want that can help move the game forward in Nigeria. I also want to use this opportunity to appeal to them to also consider some us who are still very young and have some thing to offer to Nigerian Football.
Why have you tipped Vincent Enyeama, Osaze Odemwingie, Emmanuel Emenike, Mikel Obi, and Ike Uche as players to watch out for at the world cup? Like I said earlier, Nigeria is a country blessed with football talents across the length and breadth of this nation and the problem we have always had is selection. So if the coaches can, for the love of the game, put sentiment aside and pick the best, Nigeria will go far in Brazil. Just take a critical look of the players I mentioned to you now, they are players that have been tested and trusted in their fields, so you do not need a second Prophet Moses to tell you that they need to be on your World Cup list. Look at Vincent Enyeama, a goalkeeper of high repute, full of experience, skill and all that it takes to wear the national team jersey No I. He was at the South Africa 2010 World Cup, Nigerians saw his exploit. With Enyeama in the post, I’m very confident that Eagles will go far.
Now talk about Peter Osaze Odemwingie, despite having some rough time with his career last season, I make bold to say that among the current crop of present day Super Eagles strikers, Osaze Odemwingie is one of the best if not the best. He is intelligent, committed, devoted and highly a business-like player. Very tactical on the ball and above all, with a high level of experience that any coach needs from a player.
Emmanuel Emenike is another striker that has paid his dues, who I know will do very well with the combination of his team-mates especially when it comes to scoring goals. Keshi must be very careful in his selection so as not to make mistakes that may ruin the team. Also for the interest of the game and the country, it is time we put the past behind us, no matter what must have transpired between the out-of-favour players and the technical crew, there is chance for forgiveness. All over the world, players are extremely difficult people to manage and again you do not judge players by the kind of things they say or do, but by what they can do for you as a coach to win your games in times of difficulties. I have no doubt about the capability of our players, they have what it takes to make us proud at the World Cup.
Your father, Willy Bazuaye won the 1996 Olympic Gold medal for Nigeria, what are you doing as a young coach to surpass your father’s records ?
I thank God that my father was able to reach that level of achievement in football as a coach. Not so many people remember him today because this is a country where people forget so easily. My father did his best despite the fact that somebody was there taking the credit, Nigerians know the person that made that dream possible. Today Pa Willy is down but thank God that his children and few other people like Governor Fashola of Lagos state remembered him on his sick bed. Back to your question, I’m really doing my best to surpass my father’s track records in coaching business. I’ve not really had that opportunity to prove myself at the national level. I have worked as assistant manager in various Glo Premier League clubs and also headed Insurance FC of Benin, but I really want to coach any of the junior national team side. I have what it takes to handle any junior national side. Some of us must be given an opportunity to prove ourselves. I’m praying and waiting for my time, I know one day it will come to pass and my dream of working with the NFF will be achieved.
I understand that Edo state government has not paid you people for the past five years while you were in Insurance as manager, is it true?
I have spent half of my years working for Insurance. I played for them, I captained the team, I have served the team with all that is in me as a coach, and as I speak with you now, I’m still very much ready to work for my state. Yes they are indebted to many of us not only me and I’m sure that one day they will be touched to pay us our money. We worked for Insurance on empty stomach. I also have no regret working for my state.
Does that name Bazuaye give you any edge over your contemporaries on this job?
Yes the name Willy Bazuaye is well respected outside the shores of this state, you know that a prophet has no honour in his place. I’m very proud to have come from this family of Willy Bazuaye. Those that know the worth of my father always respect me each time they see me. My father has contributed his own part to the growth of Nigerian football, it is up to me to do my own part too.