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Etim Esin: Where we went wrong in our football

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*Backs Odegbami on next Super Eagles coach
*Sends words to Akwa Ibom Govt, advises Pinnick
*How I met my Malian wife

Etim Esin
Etim and wife

By Jacob Ajom

To really appreciate Etim Esin one has to go back to the first part of this interview which we published last week( Today we bring you the concluding part of the interview. As usual, it will delight you. Read on

Are you satisfied with the way our football is run?

I don’t think so because of the divide and rule method being applied by the administrators. We have six geo-political zones in this country. Look at these zones and make ex-internationals chairmen in some of these zones. So, can’t I be FA Chairman in Akwa Ibom State? If we want to move forward we have to line up and take over in all spheres of the game. Some will go to the administrative side, some to coaching, others team managers. It is we that played the game.

You have a son and a daughter. Your son plays football

He cuts in … Yeah. My son plays football but I don’t put any pressure on him. My father didn’t put any pressure on me to play the game, why would I? Anytime he wants to play I support him but no pressure. One day he told me football might not bring quick money, he would prefer to play music like Davido and Wizkid, so money would roll in quickly. He keeps asking me, where is all the money you made in football?

Your wife, you married her in Belgium?

No. We met in Paris and when I returned to Nigeria I saw her here and we got hooked.


She is Malian.

So how was she able to cope with the footballer, Etim Esin?

Initially, she did not even know I was a footballer. She didn’t marry me because I was a footballer. It was even the mother that told her I was a footballer.

How far apart were you two that she hardly knew you?

I met her in Paris in 1993. I had a problem in Belgium and I returned to Nigeria and still met her in Nigeria because the father worked in the Embassy, as Malian Consular in Nigeria. It was God’s making. She has been there for me through thick and thin. I appreciate God for giving me a good woman.

In Nigeria, you played for Rovers, Flash Flamengoes, Iwuanyanwu Nationale and Julius Berger. Which of these provided you with the best moments?

Flash Flamengoes and Iwuanyanwu Nationale. It was Iwuanyanwu that gave me a Peugeot 505 that they shot me in. I think I was the highest-paid footballer in the local scene. Indeed, it was Iwuanyanwu.

The Nigerian league was at its peak as there were many good clubs like Abiola Babes, Leventis Unites among others. These were private individuals investing where their passion was. They were not making any money from it, yet they were very passionate about their clubs.

Where did we go wrong in our football development?

When greed crept into our football. When FIFA started this agents thing. Agents will sell players and make handsome money from the deals. Everybody became interested in players’ agency. You find a lawyer switching his interest from law to players management.

What do we expect from Etim Esin in the next one or two years?

Not much. Maybe I will just go back home and put my experience and knowledge to the benefit of the young ones. My state has two football clubs, Dakaada FC and Akwa United. If anybody thinking right is up there, he would wonder why Etim Esin is not part of any of the state-owned clubs. It is sad.

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I was the first professional footballer from Akwa Ibom. I went to Belgium in 1987 and the state was created in ’87 as well. So what does it take for one to gain relevance in his own state?

I have applied severally and it is always one story or the other. I am just tired of the whole thing. I can go back to my state and help grow football. They have two clubs. There’s something I can do for them. I hope they hear from me.

What is your assessment of the Amaju Pinnick-led NFF administration? Are they making any headway?

I don’t like talking politics. Pinnick is a young man who has good intentions for Nigerian football. But when you have the intrigues of politics and the interests of others to satisfy, you lose focus. He should have asked from veterans like Dr Amos Adamu who have passed through that route. It’s a big game and I advise he learns from Adamu. No man is an Island. You have to consult and you have to carry people along.

What Pinnick has done is that he just took a few people, like him honouring only the 1994 Super Eagles. Was that the only group that played for Nigeria? What about the set that played alongside Okwaraji that died, don’t they deserve to be honoured? If Okwaraji did not sacrifice himself for Nigeria, how could Nigeria have qualified for the World Cup? Did Nigerian football start and end with 1994 set? No, there were people who sacrificed so much for Nigerian football; the Odegbamis, Chukwus, Amiesimakas, Owolabis, Lawals, etc.

Pinnick should be more inclusive. He should carry people along. Carrying me along does not mean I have to be in your office every day. Is it not Uyo they come to play every time? Have they for once invited me to come to the stadium to watch the Eagles?

Nigerian clubs are not doing well in the continent, what could be the cause?

How can they do well when our league is not organised, the pitches are bad. Do you have five good pitches in Nigeria? Enyimba has a good pitch. Do one for Pillars, one in Bauchi and one in Lagos, finish. Some teams would be coming to play their matches here in Lagos. Only that way can we get our clubs to play good football. But we need a lot more.

Finally, the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. Do you think the Super Eagles can qualify?

They should. The boys are young and very talented and determined. They will qualify. The likes of Osimhen, Chukwueze, Ndidi will motivate the rest of the team to work hard. We have a bunch of very good young players. Just give them all they require to do well. If South Africa had half the talent we have you would have seen what they could have done.

In 1989, Pele of Brazil predicted that if an African team was to win the World Cup, that country

was Nigeria. Up till this moment, Nigeria has not crossed the second round of the World Cup. What is the problem?

It is because we don’t have a long term plan. We are not building. If we were good planners why not? In 1994 we were the 5th best in the world, today see where we are. Look at England, they won the U17, U20 and gradually, some of these young chaps who won the tournaments are being introduced into the national team. The last World Cup, they got to the semi-final. Age cheating too is a problem. Why would you bring a 23-year-old and say he is U17? Honesty is another thing that has taken a walk in our approach to football development in Nigeria. We are not honest at all.

Just last weekend, Chief Segun Odegbami wrote, calling for an indigenous coach as the next Super Eagles handler. Do you support his view?

I am 100% in support of what he is saying. Look at someone like Emmanuel Amuneke. Was Guardiola not his teammate at Barcelona? Just give him the platform and don’t limit his ability, don’t try to cage him and give him a free hand. Amuneke took Tanzania to the last AFCON. If Amuneke comes out, with his wealth of experience and knowledge of the game, he would not want anybody to dictate for him. Would you give him a free hand like you are giving Rohr? Will they want to select the team for him? No way! It should not be. You are the NFF chairman and I am the coach, you gave me a job, I select my team. If I don’t deliver, I quit. You shouldn’t have any business with my team. Until that aspect is corrected, we are still very far because of interests from interest groups.

If things continue this way our football will not grow. See Brazilians, they would play in Europe then go back home to play retirement football in their domestic clubs like Flamengoes, Santos. Look at South Africa, how many South African players are playing abroad? They have the platform, a very good league with multiple sponsors like Adidas, Puma, Volkswagen, Mercedes, so many other companies. Why can’t we attract sponsorship for our leagues? Look at our clubs in continental competitions, you won’t see names of sponsors on their jerseys, even the TV rights we used to get we lost because of greed. Clubs get virtually nothing. The biggest country in Africa does not have its league on television. This is where cable television makes most of its money. In South Africa, Supersport owns a full-fledged football club, Supersport FC, well-financed and well maintained to international standard. How much is South Africa’s population? And this is where they make their money most. MTN is sponsoring up to the national team. Why can’t MTN sponsor a club in Nigeria?

But the ugly reality is that we are not straightforward. Once we become straightforward, things will begin to look up. I cannot see something white and I call it black. Maybe that is why they say I am stubborn. I am not stubborn but being truthful. That is the way I was brought up.


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