Former Green Eagles defender, Bright Omokaro speaks to Complete Sports SAB OSUJI in this exclusive interview. Omokaro speaks on his personal life, drinking habit, across sex relationship and more. He submits that Stephen Keshi should accept NFF’s Super Eagles coaching job irrespective of the clauses attached. Mr 10-10 also has confidence in the Flying Eagles and Golden Eaglets as they prepare for the FIFA Junior World Cup championships this year.
Bright Omokaro its nice meeting you after a long while even though we speak often on telephone.
Bright Omokaro: Its a pleasure being with you my brother.
Mr 10-10, you still look so young and fresh despite retiring from active football many years ago. Tell me, what really has kept you going?
Actually, football is the only thing I know best how to do. As you you see me, I’m restless, I like doing things (by) myself, even up to the level of having to wash my own clothes. Except, of course, those ones that require being taken to the dry cleaner. I work around my compounds even though the tenants are there. In doing all of this, one burns out calories. These are the secrets of my fresh and youthful looks, if I must say.
What about having to take some drinks to cool off like every other ex-international or just average Nigerian would do? How about that?
It has been a long time I stopped drinking. During my playing days, yes, I do,sometimes (then) they call us drunks. But now, no, except sometimes when I’ll take just a little right in my house and it has to be wine. But in those days, we drank beer but this time around, no, unless wine.
So what really motivated your decision to take a leave off alcoholic intake?
I believe one is growing. One is not getting younger so I need to watch my intakes. As one is growing in age it’s important he watches his intakes and curb those that will constitute health hazard for him. Besides, if you watch the economic problems in the country you notice that young people are developing hypertension and all of that. So it is important you watch what you eat.
Okay, but footballers or do I say retired footballers indulge so much in across sex relationships…
(Cuts in) Yes, that’s true, it happens more often.
What about you as a person?
I wouldn’t say no but with caution and restraint. It’s an occasional thing because like it’s often said that too much of any thing is bad. If you drink water too much, its bad, if you eat food too much it is also not good. Mine is moderate. I keep saying I don’t womanize, in those days when we were playing, even when you don’t want, girls will lure you in (into it). So I’m extremely very careful.
The issue on the front burner of Nigeria football at the moment is Stephen Keshi and his expected Super Eagles contract extension. He was your contemporary in the national team so what’s your take on this?
When Keshi came on board, he came with the zeal to redeem Nigeria football. He went about doing that doing without bias. But along the line he appeared to lose focus. Of course at that time what happened was not his fault because he was without a contract then. But where I had a bit of blame on him is that yes, your contract has expired but then this is your country.
Continue with the job, give it your best shot and ensure you qualified the team for the Nations Cup. Then you can turn back to Nigerians and tell them this is the work you asked me to do and I’ve done it, I’ve delivered but they have not signed my contract. But of course, its still unprofessional for those in authority not to renew his contract at the right time or at worst inform him of his contract terms. But in all of these, we as a nation, lost the Nations Cup ticket yet we are giants of Africa.
NFF has said they are interested in working with him again. They have given him contract renewal proposal which is yet to be signed by both parties. Yet there are still discordant tunes playing out. As things stand, Omokaro, would you want Keshi to take the offer and continue as Super Eagles boss or should he take a walk?
Keshi should stay, the process of a new deal has started, he should wait and see it through. No matter what happens this is his country, the legacies he will have here are such that he won’t get elsewhere. We know there is money involved, there are environmental changes but I still believe Nigeria is the best country all over the world. If you function very well as supposed to, things will move very well. So I prefer him staying on against going to hire an expatriate coach because the foreign coach will not give you his best despite the huge money that will be spent on him. If you look at records, how many of the foreign coaches brought into this country played football to the highest level? How many of them have taken us to our desired level at the world stage? Even the (Clemense) Westerhof we talk about so much was not an accomplished player in his days. At the moment, he’s a hotelier. We should know how to appreciate our own coaches here. When Keshi came on, he was doing very well until the crisis came up. We’ve all played for this country. Look, a whole lot of us are suffering in the street.
NFF have proposed a new contract for Keshi. It stipulates he must work hand in hand with the Technical and Development Committee, the Technical Study group and all of that. Many see these as trap so he could be easily gotten rid of having been once sacked and foisted on them by the Presidency. What’s your take on this?
As far as I’m concerned, if you are given a job to do, there are bound to be conditions attached to it. He can’t come in and start doing well and they say they want to sack him.
That’s the basic truth. If he thinks he can take the team to another level, then he can go ahead and take it. I don’t believe those conditions or clauses are too stringent or too draconian because if I’m given a job in any office, let’s put football aside now, they must tell me how go about it based on how things are done in that office. So I don’t see anything wrong in those clauses and of course irrespective of whatever manipulations, what matters most is focus on your job and with focus he will go places.
Emmanuel Amuneke is doing well with the U-17 Golden Eaglets, at least having qualified for the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Manu Garba is also doing well with the U-20 Flying Eagles. Same also for Samson Siasia with the U-23 Olympic team, Dream Team V1. Tell me, is this an emerging new face of Nigeria football?
Of course yes. And I’m happy for them. I clap for them any time, any day. These are people who played the game well and now they are managing it. This is how it is supposed to be, round peg in round hole. Elsewhere ex players are accorded more respect and regard than here. But I’m happy the trend is changing now.
Let’s come to that nickname 10-10. 27 years after acquiring that name tag how do you look back to the incident that fetched you that name?
When I look back, happiness fills my heart because whenever I play I hate to lose. Its like Mike Tyson, he hates to lose any fight so he puts everything to ensure he wins. Yes at that time there was no money but when I walk on the streets, my brother, the way people respect me, the way they applaud me gives me joy, I’m satisfied. It was God’s doing and I keep thanking Him for that.
Ever since that incident, have you ever come into contact with that Algerian player, Rabbar Madjar?
No, I’ve not but any time I get in (Algeria) that’s what I’ll do first.
What was your intention going hard on him in that match, to injure him or was it just that you didn’t want to lose the game?
There was no intention to injure him. First I didn’t want us to lose and secondly we’re already playing one man down. So the only way I felt I could salvage the image of this country and help my team was to go hard on him. I knew they had exhausted their substitutions at that point.
You played for 3SC and now you are a coach with the club. How do you see your appointment and the Premier League challenges ahead?
First I have to thank the Oyo State Commissioner for Sports and the General Manager of 3SC for finding me worthy to be part of the club’s coaching crew. I believe they know my quality hence my being here today. However, I must say we have a very big task ahead of us, I know that very well. This is a club I played for and then I made an impact and coming back now as a coach I have to distinguish myself because I see myself as an Ibadan man. I have my family here and I also have landed property here so I’m an Ibadan man so I have to do my best to ensure that consistency and success come to the team. We may have started on a poor note but surely things will be okay.
Flying Eagles won the African Youth Championship, AYC in Senegal, do you see them doing well at the U-20 World Cup in New Zealand?
Yes, they were wonderful in the AYC, you saw how they defeated host team Senegal in two games including the final. It shows they have character and are cohesive. If they take that to the World Cup, I believe they will do much better given adequate preparation.
Even with Brazil in their group?
It’s all about hard work, focus and commitment. I know coach Manu Garba and Nduka Ugbade are not new to this type of championship so I believe they will fare very well against Brazil.
What about the Golden Eaglets and the Chile 2015 FIFA U-17 World Championship?
This country has great talents especially at the youth level. That the Eaglets did not win the African Championship trophy in Niger does not take anything away from them. With good preparation I believe they will do well. What matters in any competition is preparation, once you prepare well, then success will follow.
Thank you coach for sparing some moments for us
Thank you my brother.