Sport  |  Football  

Nigeria has everything required to win World Cup except discipline, says Kalu

By John Akubo, Abuja |   16 July 2019   |   3:02 am  

Nigeria’s players celebrate their win during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) quarter final football match between Nigeria and South Africa at Cairo international stadium on July 9, 2019. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

Orji Uzor Kalu was credited with aiding Enyimba of Aba to back-to-back victories in the CAF Champions League in 2003 and 2004 when he was governor of Abia State.

The former governor, who prides himself as a lover of the youths, also masterminded the Aba team’s renaissance from a relegation-threatened side to national champions from 2000 to 2007. Now a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the youthful lawmaker is saddened that Nigeria, with all its human resources, has not been able to join the elite nations of international sports, particularly football.

Kalu believes that Nigeria has the men and material to win the FIFA World Cup if it got its act together.
He told The Guardian at the weekend: “I will keep saying that we have the men and material to have the World Cup. It is just that we are lack discipline. 

“If I were running the Super Eagles, I will jettison superstar players.

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“Remember, when we were managing Enyimba, the team had no face. It was the team of Nigeria. We can only progress when we play as Nigeria.

“When we come as communities of our own, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Edo, Urhobo Efik, we do not make progress.

“Enyimba had no favourite player… If you were not playing well, we bench you. The coaches also have to be in the right frame of mind. They don’t have to be burdened with unpaid salaries or threat to their jobs. That is the only way they can give their best.”

Kalu recalled the criticism he had with his interventions in Enyimba, saying some of the condemnation was borne out of ignorance.

“Recall those boys in DSTV and Radio Nigeria, who called me all kinds of names and queried why I should leave my executive VIP seat to sit on the bench directing affairs of Enyimba? These are part of the discipline.

“Recall also that when we played USMA of Algeria, we had either to play the match or lose it because we had no floodlight in the stadium. But I appealed to Chief Ugochukwu Onyeama at NDDC to do a special project for us at the stadium in partnership with the Abia State government.

“That was how we put the floodlight in Aba Stadium. Enyimba and USMA of Algeria, we had only 10 minutes before darkness. That is, if that match had been zero, the Algerian team would have taken the three points. 

“Lucky Igbinedion, James Ibori, and Bukola Saraki, who were all governors at the time, were all at the stadium with me. I left them at the VIP stand and went down to the bench.

“Lucky Igbinedion always tells people that I hold Enyimba’s juju.”

Kalu recalled the disagreements he had with Coach Kadiri Ikhana, who was Enyimba’s technical adviser in 2003.

“I once told him to change a player, but he refused. I saw what he was not seeing in the match, so I told him as the owner of the club, he must do what I asked him to do.

“He said he would not do it. So, I called the second coach (because a coach must sign for change of a player), who agreed to sign the form.

“I changed Ndidi Anumnu for Onyekachi Okonkwo, who forced the Algerians to commit a penalty with two minutes to go. Okonkwo put that ball straight into the USMA net and that was the end of the Match.

“So you see the coach did not see that our midfield was porous and that Ndidi was tired and was not doing anything any longer. I had to change him with another super midfielder, who was like Jay-Jay Okocha… that was Onyekachi Okonkwo and he did exactly what I wanted him to do. So these are the issues.

“You journalists called me names, saying I did not allow the coach to do his job by interfering. But I was interfering and getting results. Today is the first day I am saying this publicly. It is my confession.”

He believes Nigeria can rise above the mediocre if people involved in the process were disciplined.

“Discipline is about everything. I believe sincerely that if we have the discipline we can go back to sports. I am the pillar of sports, a title was given to me by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) years back.”

Responding to a poser whether he has lost interest in sports, he said,

“I have not lost interest in sports. You know I was chairman of Judo federation and that was when judo went up. 

“We went to the world championships and brought back gold, but since I left judo all that has gone.”

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