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Super Eagle Job: We deserve respect, job security as home-based coaches – Shorunmu

Super Eagles goalkeeper coach, Ike Shorunmu, in an interview with CHARLES OGUNDIYA has said traditional teams in the Nigeria Professional Football League like Rangers, Shooting Stars, Enyimba and others should take a cue from what Insurance is doing at the moment. Excerpts:

There was a report that you didn’t show signs of joining the national team and that was why your name was omitted from the team, how true?

I am just being a professional to stand on my feet that with no contract, I don’t want to continue again with the state of things on ground. I never denied the fact that I didn’t say I can’t go back to the team without a valid contract, I don’t have issues with anybody and I am good with the NFF but the major problem here is the contract. Nigeria is my country, if the contract issue is sorted out, of course I will get back to the team.

You mean there was no contract since you people joined the National team?

Yes, that is it. I have been there since last year without getting payment for what I have done for the federation and I have been asking ‘please give us our contract,’ No contract, no payment, no allowances. My brother, how do you want me to survive this as a family person? That’s the only thing. I don’t have a problem with the NFF, that’s the only thing. I responded to the comment they made, I said I am not resuming in camp unless I get the contract issue sorted. We deserve some respect.

The main coach always has a valid contract but there are issues with the home-based, how will you react to this?

I don’t want to make it personal, all I am saying is everything should go round, either with me or those coming after me, I just want the federation to respect that profession. The white man has his own contract, they should respect us too, they must give us contract, if it is one naira, let us know what we are working for; at least we should have something to get our own justice if there is any issue in the future.

Shooting Stars didn’t perform well in the first stanza of the ongoing league season, with the second half starting by weekend, what are your expectations?

One thing about life, when you have a second chance to do something positive, you have to do it right and that’s what is happening with Shooting Stars at the moment; they now have the opportunity to correct the mistakes of the first stanza with the beginning of the second this weekend. They need to make things perfect, I am sure the second stanza will be better than the first one.

What would you say about the performance of Insur-ance, are we seeing the return of the traditional teams?

The success of Insurance should go to the Deputy Governor of the state, Philip Shaibu, we should be thanking him. I think he actually looked back at what the club used to be like in the past, and he decided to take them back to that level and I am happy that the players too are doing their best to make things work by working hard to appreciate his support. I want other traditional clubs to also try to work on their team; the likes of Shooting Stars, Rangers, Enyimba and others and let the tradition return.

Let’s go back to you personally; hat was your development like as a goalkeeper?

It was very interesting; the most important thing was that we had encouragement from brothers to keep doing what made us happy. Unlike today, the players think more of money. Years back, it was more about being known on the street, to be very famous. The difference between the old and current players is all about money.

What is the secret of your goalkeeping successes?

It’s very simple, just dedication to my job, and also, I looked up to our legends then, talk of Peter Rufai, Emmanuel Okala, late Best Ogedegbe, late Wilfred Agbonavbare. I saw the way they were keeping the goal, I saw that it was very interesting, and I started striving just to be like them. That was how I was able to get to the level I attained in the game.

What actually happened between you and your club, Besiktas, leading to the team releasing you from your contract then?

We learn every day; concerning the Besiktas issue, the problem arose with my coach then, Christoph Daum, from Germany, because he was not happy with my engagement with the national team and I told him I was a national team player. Well, as a coach now, I would have played the game more maturely than I did. I would have tried to soft pedal with him then because he was also trying to keep his job at that time. It is a big lesson for me as a coach now.

You missed out of the France ‘98 World Cup narrowly, after was looking forward to be the first choice at the next competition in 1998, but I got injured; initially I felt pained because there was a lot of offers for me and going to the World Cup would have boosted my value, but maybe I was not destined to be part of the team that would represent the nation at France ’98 World Cup. But in 2002, I was able to fulfill the dream of playing at the World Cup.

What would you say was your greatest challenge during your playing days for Super Eagles and who are those who had great influence on your career?

When I joined the team in 1990, I met great goalkeepers like Alloy Agu, late Wilfred Agbonavbare, David Ngodiga and Peter Rufai and I will say that was the greatest challenge I had then. I had to understudy all of them at that time before I was able to breakthrough to become the number one goalkeeper of the Super Eagles. It took me eight to nine years understudying all these great goalkeepers I mentioned; I will say the influence that kept me going was the advice coming from these top goalkeepers, the elders ahead of me, telling me not to relent and also my wife making me to believe that the future is going to be brighter. Thank God that today, with the patience I had then, I was able to achieve a lot and also see a lot both positive and negative.

How would you describe what happened at the 2000 AFCON Final in Lagos after Nigeria lost via penalties to Cameroon?

I will say it was our destiny not to win the AFCON back in 2000 despite playing in Lagos in front of our fans because despite coming back from two goals down, we failed to win it during the extra time. During the shootouts, there were some things that happened and I will say it had been destined that we were not going to win on the day because the goal that Victor Ikpeba scored was a good goal but the referee said no and there was no VAR to consult at that time, so the goal was disallowed.

Having seen it all with the Super Eagles at the apex, any regrets not winning the AFCON as a player?

I think it’s my destiny not to win the AFCON (as a player), because I did represent the Super Eagles at three AFCON Championships. My first experience was at the 1992 AFCON hosted by Senegal, where we lost the semifinal game to our rival, the Black Stars of Ghana. We defeated Cameroon in the third place match to pick the bronze. The 2000 Nations Cup on home soil was the most painful, because we got to the final and couldn’t win against a team which has previously beaten us at the 1984 and 1988 final. I thought we deserved to win, because we played really well and when it got to penalties, we were just too unlucky. The third time wasn’t pleasant; we lost our semifinal game to Senegal, but eventually won bronze again against the host nation, Mali. I would have loved to win the AFCON as a player, but it wasn’t to be and I am grateful to God for all these experiences. Winning it as a coach at the 2013 AFCON in South Africa was even more fulfilling, because no one gave us a chance to win it away from home.

Who was your best teammate in the Super Eagles and why?

My roommate was Finidi George. We usually shared the same room when in camp. In private, we did many funny things together but once in the public, we were both known to be very quiet guys. We always shared love with other players and oftentimes I shared room with him.

Which moments in football made you cry or feel sad?

I will say France 1998. The soccer world knew I owned the Super Eagles No. 1 jersey as I was in the best form of my career but guess what, my France 98 World Cup dream was over before the Mundial started in France after I broke my arm. I recall vividly, it was in a pre-World Cup friendly loss to Germany, and I was immediately rushed to the hospital. I was anxious, meeting the doctor I asked him how severe the injury was. He looked at me and said ‘Ike forget about the World Cup, because I know that’s where your mind is.’ I felt so bad, but afterwards, I took the decision in good faith and moved on with life. I thank God that before I retired from international football, I finally made my debut at the World Cup in Korea/Japan 2002.

What is your advice to others who are looking up to you as a role model and what is your message to your numerous fans?

I will advise the young players to be focused, patient, hardworking and prayerful. They should imbibe the spirit of integrity and they must always make themselves happy. I want to use this opportunity to appreciate my fans from my playing days till date as they continue to recognise me on the street.

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