Tajudeen Disu, former defence strongman of Abiola Babes and Eagles fame, has thrown his weight behind the aspiration of Chief Segun Odegbami to contest for the office of FIFA President.
In this interview with KAYODE OGUNDARE, Disu who was a part of Nigeria’s first Flying Eagles team to qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Championship at Mexico ’83 also appealed to football fans, the media and the sporting fraternity to close ranks in what will be a historic first attempt by any Nigerian…
Reaction to the news of Odegbami’s candidacy
I must confess I was surprised when I first heard the news but my surprise was in a pleasant way. If not him, who else? If not now, then when? I have known Chief Segun Odegbami all of my adult life and I can tell you I don’t know anyone else who is this passionate about football. He played football to the highest level, captaining the national team and excelling as one of the very best players of his generation.
I’m happy that somebody who’s an icon is contesting for football’s highest office and it is something to be proud of. I’m not sure any other person parades the kind of football credentials that this man has and I believe he will be our best shot yet for that job.
Most of us grew up to meet Odegbami as an established superstar and prayed to play like him. He inspired a whole generation of players with his achievements as a player. He was one of Africa’s best of his time and led Nigeria to glory at the Nations Cup in 1980.
After his playing days, he’s worked as an administrator, promoter, journalist and sports school proprietor. His school is a model for combining education with sports and several graduates have gone on to attend universities on scholarship in the United States. From all of this, you can tell that he doesn’t have a life outside of sports which has been his lifelong passion. He has a clear idea of how football should be run and it will be an honour for Nigeria if one of us gets that coveted FIFA Presidency.
Sepp Blatter has spent 40 years in FIFA, rising to the presidency in 1998 but I am not sure he achieved any notable achievement as a player before joining FIFA, so you can say people like Odegbami are very qualified to contest.
His passion for the game, administrative acumen and intelligence will stand him in good stead for the job.
Media should support the candidacy as a Nigerian project and desist from negative reports that could make his candidacy look bad. It is to Nigeria’s glory if he gets there and we should all work in our own way to make it a reality for Nigeria and Africa.
Support of immediate constituency of ex-Internationals vital
I think it is high time all ex-internationals came together in unity to support this worthy cause from one of us. We all have dreams and aspirations but sometimes we live our dreams by helping others to succeed. There’s nothing to be envious of in what Odegbami is doing. Rather we should all present a united front and put aside all the things that normally divide us.
I won’t be surprised if the fiercest criticism of Odegbami’s bid for the FIFA Presidency comes from his former teammates and members of his first constituency. Already there have been one or two reports on Facebook against him but I’m happy to note that those who support his ambition are in the vast majority.
If President Muhammadu Buhari contested several times before getting to office, then we can draw some similarities with Odegbami’s bid after he had also contested to lead Nigerian football several times. Mind you, he did not realize his ambition to be NFF President not because he lacked the necessary requirements but because of the nature of our destructive politics where we sacrifice merit and elevate mediocrity.
Personally, I will take it upon myself to approach many of our ex-colleagues to rally round this candidacy. I’m happy that the players’ body, APFON, came out categorically to declare support for Odegbami and I think that will show that we are speaking with one voice.
It’s a Nigerian project
Regardless of our political affiliations, we should all come together in our own little ways to make this dream a reality. We should adopt it as a Nigerian project and use the various influences that we have to help actualize this bid. It is not about ethnicity neither is it about religion. Let us put our best foot forward and present our best candidate for the position.
Role of Nigerian Football Federation
I think it is incumbent on the Nigerian Football Federation to publicly declare support for this candidacy because it is in our interest and we could be sending a wrong signal to the whole world if our Federation officials refuse to back one of us, especially one of Odegbami’s pedigree.
His realistic chances
Firstly, the fact that he’s willing to throw his hat into the ring is audacious and commendable. Whatever happens, nobody will accuse Africans of not aspiring for the highest office in football. Having said that, this is as good a time as any for everyone aspiring for that office since the incumbent is not going to be contesting again. So I think he has got as good a chance as any other aspirant for the office.
Advice for Odegbami
Actually it is the other way round, because we are the ones who always go to him for advice but in this case, I will advise that he keeps his eyes on the ball and not get distracted by naysayers. He is experienced enough to know that it is not everybody that will buy into his vision so he should just focus on the task ahead and approach it with all he’s got.