By Florence Amagiya
Godwin Izilein led the Super Falcons to South Africa in 2004, where the girls won the tournament with a score of 18-2. Although the Super Falcons have a reputation of making the nation proud everywhere they go; the team led by Coach Izilein is the best till date.
Izilein discovered the likes of Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Edema Fulude and Monday Degbontan to mention a few. Today, he is 76 years old and in this chat, he talks about Nigerian football, the Super Falcons and a more.
It’s been in the news that the Super Falcons are not paid their dues, what is your take on it?
It is a norm already in Nigeria. It is not just the Super Falcons but the Super Eagles also. I am a coach, l led the Falcons to South Africa in 2004 and they were not paid until they took drastic actions and l am yet to be paid till date.
Can you tell us what happened with the Falcons in 2004?
The girls and l were scheduled to travel to South Africa for the tournament, but the girls said that they were not travelling because they hadn’t been paid previously. I had to persuade them because l had spoken to the Secretary who promised that they were going to be paid. So off we went to Johannesburg for the tournament. And you won’t believe, but the girls played so well that they are the best till date. No other set of girls have played like the set that went to South Africa in 2004. It was 18 goals to 2 that year!
So what happened after the game?
The girls waited for their pay, but it was not coming and they had already stayed more than a week in their hotels. So they decided to remain in South Africa indefinitely; l had to start begging them and running from one Secretary to another Government official to pay the girls but the pay did not come. The girls refused to leave their hotels until l was able to speak to the Nigerian Ambassador who paid them and they left for Nigeria.
They promised that they would pay me when we get to Nigeria but till date, l haven’t been paid. These girls wanted to stay back in South Africa because returning home was futile for them as there was nothing to fall back on at home.
A few weeks ago in the news , the President of NFF, Amaju Pinnick in a statement promised $1000 each to the Super Falcons if they can bring the cup home, what is your take on it?
Well, it is a good thing he made that promise as it made the players play better and it is also a good thing if they can keep their promises. Why make promises when you cannot keep them? How can you keep this particular promise when a backlog of debts has not been paid? Like l said, l am yet to be paid from 2004 and nobody is saying anything about it.
In your opinion as a coach who has worked with a national team and led them abroa; what do you think would happen if they do not get paid as and when due?
Who can work continually without being paid? So if a worker doesn’t get paid when he or she ought to be paid; there is a tendency that he or she wouldn’t give his or her best when given the opportunity.
We most times complain that our players do not give their best when they are playing for the nation but that they play well in their individual clubs. This is so because they are not appreciated or compensated after they have been promised, and they wouldn’t want to get injured knowing full well that football is not pensionable.
You are on your own after spending all the years playing; hence if you haven’t saved or invested then you are going to be hungry in your old age. Look at the likes of Rashidi Yekini and the others. They died as paupers yet they served this nation at the international stage.