Super Eagles coach Sunday Oliseh spoke with reporters in Abuja ahead of his first match in charge of the team. As he prepares to face Tanzania in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Saturday, Oliseh opened up about his coaching philosophy, the withdrawal of Vincent Enyeama and the threat Tanzania pose, among other issues.
Completesportsnigeria.com’s RICHARD JIDEAKA was there…
WHAT IS YOUR REACTION ON THE ABSENCE OF VINCENT ENYEAMA IN CAMP?
Like I promised you from the outset, it is going to be clarity always. We are not hiding anything here. The player in question asked to be withdrawn. He withdrew himself from the team. For the reasons whatever I don’t know, I think you have to ask him personally. He has to explain what the reasons were. But what I can take from his late withdrawal is that he has put me in a tight situation because I must confess the task before us is a very difficult one. His absence puts an extra burden on us.
WHAT IS YOUR STARTING 11 LIKE CONSIDERING THE FACT THAT THE FOREIGN-BASED PLAYERS HAVE HAD HARDLY ENOUGH SESSIONS WITH YOU AND ARE THEY READY TO PLAY FOR YOU?
The players are not here to play for me; they are here to play for you. To play for Nigeria. It is not Sunday Oliseh’s team, it is the Super Eagles of Nigeria. And you must understand that all of the players I have assembled are playing for their clubs. I have seen their attitude, they are ready, they are hungry to play and personally, I think they have a point to prove for themselves. Most of them have been neglected in the past for one reason or the other. I am not interested in that. I have seen their quality and I believe they deserve a chance to serve Nigeria themselves and make their family proud.
IT IS YOUR FIRST MATCH, WHAT IS THE FEELING LIKE? ARE YOU UNDER PRESSURE?
The only time in my life that I was really ever under pressure was in 1994 when we played our first World Cup game against Bulgaria. I was so tense with 20 minutes into the game against Bulgaria. Ever since then, I think, we have learnt to handle it. Pressure is what you bring on yourself and the reality is, there are three things that can happen in a game: we can win, draw or lose. Like I told you, we are building; we are getting to know each other. We are not looking at losing.
I want to see my team play well and whatever the result is, we take it like that. The objective is to qualify. If we win on Saturday, it does not qualify us anyway. If we win, me and my players will move and prepare for next game.
HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW OF TANZANIA?
We are not bothered about goals difference. We have only played one game. We have many games left.
We have watched their video clips and we know about them. We know they have a team that is new like us. They have a new coach like us and they are very physical. So we know what to expect in Tanzania.
WHAT IS YOUR STYLE AND PHILOSOPHY FOR THE GAME AGAINST TANZANIA.
It is difficult to tell this without revealing my game plan against Tanzania. My philosophy is based on the team being the star and not the individual players being the star. We want each player in the team to do their jobs and then the team is doing well. And it is not that one player is exceptional. But if in the next few months, God blesses us with a Messi or Ronaldo, then the philosophy will change then we have to build our team around that man. At this moment, we don’t have that kind of player, so we stick to what we have.
YOU WERE A DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER IN YOUR DAYS, ARE YOU GOING TO FASHION YOUR TEAM’S MIDFIELD SAME WAY?
We have done what we plan theoritically and practically with the players in midfield and we want to see them play and see how it goes. We have about four of them that we are studying and one of them is home-based. I think when I played my first game as a player; I did not know I could manage. I did well and I started picking up and from there I was directed to stay back when others started moving forward. My players that I have seen so far, I am begining to see that understanding and are enjoying their game. If they do it wellon Saturday, that will be great.
WHAT ARE YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE AND WHAT IS YOUR IMPRESSION OF THE HOME BASED PLAYERS YOU INVITED?
The first day I trained with the home-based with my assistants, I said “I get work here o. And then we sat down with them and did analysis of them in training and two days after we noticed a change. They are actually young and you can see they are moving together and when we played our last training game last week, I saw a lot of improvements.
Because of this I had to retain six instead of four. What we asked them to do they did it and if they cannot do it at the level of national team that is something else. But I am optimistic they can. The most difficult thing we have is shortage of time and coaching Nigeria was always going to be difficult. The job itself is made out to be difficult. Every person in my country can analyse football. I am expecting criticism. I see and hear things everywhere but they also know we are working for Nigeria.
WHAT IS JOEL OBI’S SITUATION?
Joel Obi is injured and that is why he withdrew. He is the kind of player that is not common. He is good and intelligent but injury prone. Whatever the reason for that I don’t know his medical record. When he is fit and is playing, I will invite him again. Do I miss him? I cannot miss someone I have not worked with.