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HOW EAGLES CAN TAME SALAH, BEAT PHARAOHS IN AFCON OPENER – SEMITOJE

NFF should be blamed for Osimhen, others’ no-show

Isaac Semitoje was part of the Nigerian squad that reached the final of the 1990 edition of the African Cup of Nations in Algeria and in in this interview with OJIEVA EHIOSUN, the former defender described Victor Osimhen’s absence from the Super Eagles’ AFCON squad as worrisome and devastating. He also spoke on a number of issues affecting the growth of Nigerian football and the way forward. Excerpts…

Super Eagles interim coach, Austin Eguavoen, will lead the team to the 33rd edition of the Nations Cup taking place in Cameroon; do you think Nigeria are ready for this competition following the exit of the erstwhile manager Gernot Rohr and the poor build-up to the tournament?

I am happy for my brother, former colleague and friend Austin Eguavoen. When I heard that he had been made the interim manager that would lead the Super Eagles to the Nations Cup, I was happy. For me, Eguavoen has seen it all in this game of football; so, there is nothing new in this appointment. He has all it takes to coach any senior national team in the world. As a brother, I’m praying for him to succeed. We all started from this country, we know how things are done, the FA in Nigeria can never be predicted; they are the problems of our football. Clemens Westerhof succeeded as a national team coach because of his doggedness; he had direct contact with the presidency without any middle man. Westerhof is the only foreign manager that has coached the national team without issues; those other ones that came after him were in Nigeria to have a share of the national cake.

Rohr was dropped for poor performance, as an ex-player, do you think sacking him was the right thing to do with just a few weeks to AFCON?

In fact, he is the worst manager in the history of the Super Eagles. Nigeria wasted time in sacking him. Rohr, depended on already made players; he was not here to build our football rather he was here to gather those already made players to win matches. He is not a coach; he killed our local league players. If as a coach, you cannot scout for local league players then such a coach is nothing but a disaster. Sacking him is the best thing that has happened to our football.

What is your view on Victor Osimhen not being part of the Nations Cup squad?

It is very painful and devastating for the Super Eagles without Victor Osimhen; that guy is one of Nigeria’s best players right now on the international scene. Nigeria need that player upfront, he is a fantastic striker and I think his teammates will miss him a great deal. Again, no club has the right to stop a player from representing his country.

I read online while I was in Denmark that there were disagreements between Napoli and the Nigeria Football Federation over the fitness level of Osimhen; but it is the doctor and the player that can say he is fit or not. To me, the NFF should have pushed the matter to FIFA. As a player who rose from this soil, he owes his country an obligation; Napoli has no right to stop him from playing for his country. The FA should be blamed for Osimhen’s absence. I pray we do well. But the truth is that the Eagles will miss Osimhen greatly in Cameroon.

Nigeria will do battle against seven-time champions Egypt on Tuesday in Garoua in their first game, do you tip Eagles for victory?

Despite the fact that Mohamed Salah is the current leading goal scorer in the English Premier League, the Super Eagles have what it takes to checkmate him and render him useless on the pitch. If you take a critical look at the 25-man list of Carlos Queiroz, the head coach of Egypt team, 88% of the players are local based boys. The players have been on the scene for a long time, they understand African football, they have played together for a long period, but that is not to say that the Eagles cannot cage them. It is going to be a tough game but I trust our players, they will play their hearts out to make things happen. Egypt are not a threat to us, the Eagles have the capacity to rule Africa again. For Eagles, they need tactical discipline against Egypt for them to put up a scintillating performance so that they can grab a win against the Pharaohs.

 

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