In our three-part series of exclusive interview with one of the U23 Coaches at Wolverhampton Wanderers of the English League Championship, Seyi Olofinjana, CALVIN ONWUKA brings the conversation alive in this first part. Let us know what you think in the comment session.
Seyi Olofinjana is very comfortable in his current role as one of the U23 Coaches at Wolverhampton Wanderers of the English League Championship – the same club as the current Super Eagles No 1 Carl Ikeme. However in the little over an hour he afforded aclsports.com at the Jack Hayward training complex, he was very concerned about how football is still run in Nigeria.
“Why is it that there is no permanent site in which the national teams are camped? Why is it that today we are in Calabar or Uyo or another time in Abuja? Why are we still doing this at this point in time?” The weariness mixed with exasperation is very clear in his voice and demeanour as he spoke. Olofinjana was known as a defensive midfielder during his spell with the Super Eagles but it really was not his natural position.
“When I arrived the Super Eagles team the first time I had (JJ) Okocha, Kanu (Nwankwo), (Wilson) Oruma and a few others ahead of me in that attacking midfield role. Coach (Christian) Chukwu saw something in me he liked and asked me to try out the holding role”. Even though it was not a role you had played before? “Yes. I would have played in goal to play for Nigeria. It was an absolute honour to be invited to the team to start with, so if to play the holding role will give me the chance to start then not a problem at all” he says, face lighting up with the memories of his time with the Super Eagles.
“I cried when the National Anthem was being played before my debut game. It is very hard to explain to anyone how important it is or how privileged we players feel when we put on that shirt to represent Nigeria”. Everyone? “Well, we know there are some who act very docile at their clubs but return to the national team and act like Gods but they get away with it with the connivance of the coaches and administrators”.
Yes, the administrators. “I think when I played I was too docile and did not say some of the things I wanted to say or felt and I think it counted against me in the long run. I am in touch with what goes on back home, I speak to many people and I know we still are well short when it comes to getting things right. People think results are only gotten on the pitch, wrong.” Olofinjana points at the vast Complex and says “Look at this place, it took people with planning to build it. They make sure that the footballers at all levels are comfortable so that they can focus on the job of winning matches”.
As one who has multiple degrees from Universities across the world and currently studying for a Masters in Sports Directorship, Olofinjana is huge on education – both formal and informal. “How many of those in the administration of Nigerian football have formal training in the roles they are performing? How many are ready to use these roles to change and affect Nigerian football positively? From what I hear and observe, not many. Football has changed. Have we – as a country – changed with it? I don’t think so. That is why South Africa can walk comfortably to Nigeria and beat the Super Eagles”.
Olofinjana has advice for players based in Africa looking for deals in Europe, he also has for African players currently in Europe hoping to further their careers. Compulsive reading and viewing and all will appear later this week.