Super Eagles General Coordinator Patrick Pascal recently got a three-bedroom flat gift from the Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwoolu for being a member of the Dream Team that won a gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, USA. He told AJIBADE OLUSESAN in this interview that the gestures would propel younger generations to work harder for the success of the country. Excerpt…..
The Super Eagles won their last two African Cup of Nations qualifiers against Benin Republic and Lesotho and those victories reinforced the confidence of Nigerians in the team, what does that mean to the squad?
Winning the two matches meant so much to the team; the result of this is what we would get when they want to do the draws for the competition. We are likely going to be seeded and that means that we are likely going to avoid most top African teams early in the tournament. Winning home and away has helped the confidence level of the team; most of our players are very young and are willing to do their best for the country.
The strength of this team is in the attack; with the likes of Victor Osimhen, Paul Onuachu and Kelechi Iheanacho, some people believe we can hold our own against any side. Do you share that optimism too?
Like I said, we have very young players in the team; about 50 percent of them will play for another decade for Nigeria and all of them are playing every week for their clubs. I can tell you that the future of Nigerian football is very bright. We have reasons to be happy about what is happening to our national team; you can see what is going on in a country like Cameroon, it is like their football has been going down, they have old players who are doing nothing.
You played in the defence during your time, what is your fair assessment of the current defenders?
In football, if you concede goals that is when people can start to complain; we played two games and we didn’t concede any goal, that tells you that these defenders are doing well. As a coach, you set up 10 players to attack and then everybody defends too but you can’t say our defenders haven’t done their job well because we can see that they are not conceding so many goals.
You were given a three-bedroom flat by the Lagos state governor for being a member of the gold-wining Dream Team to the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta 1996, you must be very surprised by the gift?
Honestly, I am short of words. When we came back from Atlanta 1996, some of our colleagues were given landed properties in Lekki but I didn’t get. A plot of land in Lekki now is about N100million. I had lost hope that I would get anything again but after so many years, I am extremely happy that the Governor remembered me and handed over a 3-bedroom flat to me. I am the luckiest person on earth at the moment! The governor has done well for me, I will never forget him for the rest of my life. Indeed, this kind gesture would inspire young Nigerians that their labour for the country will not go in vain
Does it mean you didn’t have idea you would be given this gift when you were coming to Lagos?
I had been following it up since the time my colleagues got and I didn’t get; I did a letter to the Special Adviser in Lagos a long time ago that I didn’t get anything since 1996 like some of my colleagues but nothing happened and I had even forgotten about it before this happened. I am happy. Other players who got land at that time, most of them have sold their properties so long time ago and when some of them heard the Governor gave me this house they were shocked but again why would you sell your own property? Somebody like Abiodun Baruwa still has his landed property and you can imagine how much it would have appreciated now.
What does is mean to be part of such a good Atlanta 1996 squad?
It was such a great thing, lifetime achievement that one will never forget. Because that’s why you are calling me an MON, if I didn’t go to that tournament you wouldn’t be calling me with that national title. That’s the kind of thing that will make you happy, that when you come out and your neighbors can see that you have done something great for the country and everywhere you enter the memory is still fresh, so I am very happy. For you to interview me today it is because of that Atlanta 1996. So we know we have tried for the country and now we are at the administrative level, still serving our fatherland and with the support of people, we are doing our job well.
Are you disappointed that two years after the Atlanta triumph injury did not allow you feature at France 1998 having played many qualifiers?
I am not bothered anymore because we are doing well now at the administrative level. People who went to USA 1994, what has happened to many of them in terms of achievement after football? Some of us that didn’t attend any World Cup we thank God for what He has done for us, I am the first ex- international to be the coordinator of the national team. In terms of administration line, I started as Team Manager of Wikki Tourists and then became the vice chairman of the club and later Special Adviser on sport to two governors in my state, Bauchi. I was also a chairman of a board. I worked with those governors for 16 years. So World Cup has passed away for me but I am still in this business and even the players that went to the Mundial where are they oday? I do not have any regrets that I did not attend any World Cup as a player. I thank God today that throughout my football career, there was nothing like serious injury. So it is not enough for you to go to the World Cup, what is also important is life after football .