…Says I should not be punished for Falcons protest
…Local coaches should not be relegated
Godwin Izilein, having served in various coaching capacities with the Golden Eagles and Super Falcons is eminently qualified to comment on sporting issues and in this interview with JOHN EGBOKHAN, the AWCON winner opens up on the injustice he is facing and why Edo State should forget the idea of hosting to win the National Sports Festival.
I saw you at the Annual General Meeting of the Nigeria Football Federation in Benin City. What was your mission there?
Ans: I went there not as an invited personality, I do not want to be seen as an interloper but because some of my friends were there and I felt that I should make out time to come and see few friends like Bitrus Bewerang. I saw them, They were busy and we later met the following day.
What are you presently doing in Edo State.
Briefly, I was with the female team for one season. I am out of that place now, I am a consultant to about four youth teams. It’s not the money that really matters but my interest in the game is genuine and unfailing. I am still strong enough to impact my knowledge to them and they are very happy to have me around them.
And then again, I am interested in supporting the team that will be competing in the forthcoming National Sports Festival, Edo 2022 in Benin City. We have the female team that will participate in the competition and I have told them what we should do to get prepared for the festival and not just to win but to do well.
Do you really think that Edo can do well at the forthcoming National Sports Festival or are we hosting to win the Games starting in March?
I am not going for that. I think we should host to participate fully, get the best out of the athletes, not only to represent Edo State but to represent the nation. That is the essence of the National Sports Festival. It is not about hosting to win. That is a ruse. I do not believe in it.
Hosting to win is not the essence of the National Sports Festival. To win at all cost without adequate preparations leads to teams doing a lot of untoward things.
But again, the state is working hard to make sure that our participation is a remarkable one. That is exactly what I see them doing. Godwin Dudu Orumen is around working hard, the Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu is fully involved, the State Governor, Godwin Obaseki is equally very interested in it, so we would not have cause to say there is no money for us to prepare the athletes of Edo State. I think the athletes are working hard and tenaciously too, to ensure success for the state at the festival.
Having previously coached the Golden Eaglets and the Super Falcons, which you tinkered to success at the African Women’s Nations Cup in South Africa many years ago, it is safe to say that you recorded successes with these teams but these days, such successes are difficult to come by, leading me to probe what your thoughts are on these teams at the World Cups, where they crashed out in the second round. Or do you think Nigerians are overbearing in their expectations from these teams?
I think seriously that if we want to be fair to everybody, we start from the NFF, the management, they were burdened with crisis from the first day they got elected. They were not able to properly manage these teams, even though they did their best but it was always going to be difficult because of the many court cases and battles they had to contend with.
Sending the team out to go and play is one thing but managing them is another matter entirely. Because of the crisis they had at hand, trying to defend themselves from those spurious and frivolous fraud and scam cases, it was not unexpected that the teams later suffered. They were not able to give the utmost attention to them even though they gave the teams all they needed but those negative vibes affected the teams.
So you are absolving the NFF of any fault in the teams poor performances?
Yes. I cannot blame them because a head that is not settled would definitely not have the power or ability to tend for the various members of its body. A lot of interested parties were unfairly blaming the NFF for a problem, which was not a fault of theirs. They meant well for the teams and that was why they gave them the best of preparations but what was missing was the guidance, monitoring and follow-up, which were impossible to achieve under the hostile environment they operated in. A lot of critics went after the NFF for what was not their fault. They were too hard on them. It was most unfair. They are still attacking them, which is really unnecessary.
And you feel that now that the court has thrown out the corruption case against NFF, its President, Amaju Pinnick and the other accused top executives, that these attacks should stop, having been given a clean bill of health by a competent court of legal jurisdiction?
But some persons the other day came out with another frivolous accusation against the NFF. They said that they are a group of lawyers. I don’t know what their true motive is because since the court has given a verdict and the federal government has withdrawn the case against the NFF officers, then I think the matter is over and should be rested and never raised again. This is so that we can forge ahead and and not have a repeat of what happened not too long ago which ended affecting our teams performances at international competitions. Like I pointed out earlier, you can’t have crisis without paying the price one way or the other.
I heard that you were being owed your Nations Cup allowances from South Africa since 2004. Have you been paid by the NFF?
If I think of it, I would not want to forgive these present officials of NFF, particularly President, Amaju Pinnick. Amaju came to Benin about a year ago to announce to the government that they were owing me and that they would pay. But as I am talking to you now, no kobo has been given me. They promised but nothing has been done. I have been making passionate entreaties for them to pay but nothing has happened.
They paid my girls and other members of the team but refused to pay me. I don’t know why they have not paid me. I was the one who stopped the crisis in South Africa from escalating beyond the point it got to. I was the one who prevailed on the girls not to go further than what they did at the tournament.
Pinnick came here and gave his speech and there was a standing ovation for him but government is yet to pay me my $12, 000. But I am telling you as my younger brother that I believe they are saving the money for me .
I will get the money by the grace of God because I worked for it, I sweated for it. I did my best for the nation and won the Cup for the country and see no reason why I should be punished for something I know nothing about.
As someone who has been at the helm of two national teams and tinkered them to glorious heights, what do you think should be done to get our teams back on winning ways?
We should create six-geopolitical sports zones in order to properly identify, groom and nurture athletes into stars, who would now be selected into the national teams. We should involve everybody and tap into the wealth of experience of coaches and athletes who are based abroad for national development.
So you are not against hiring of foreigners to manage our teams like the Super Falcons?
Not at all, especially if the nation feels they can afford them to manage our teams to glory. But they should do this without relegating the indigenous coaches to the background or making our own coaches to feel unwanted and insufficient. I am one of those people who believe that if we put the indigenous coaches alongside the foreigners to work together that we can achieve greatness for our national teams. There would be transfer of knowledge from both parties and the players would be the biggest beneficiaries on the long run. That is the way to go and I hope our administrators would stick with this model of coaching arrangement.