Chief Coach of Nigeria senior women team, the Super Falcons, Edwin Okon says it is an abomination for any coach to sleep with a female player under his care even as he advocated for the total ban on coaches who indulge in such unwholesome acts. In this interview with RICHARD JIDEAKA in Abuja, he also spoke of his dream to win the FIFA women World Cup and coach the Super Eagles one day. Read on…
Coach, you are one of the most decorated gaffer in the Nigerian football at club and national team levels, how did you manage to get here?
It is just God, and a lot of hard work and commitment into whatever I am doing.
Can you give us a glimpse of who you are?
I don’t like discussing my background but I want to keep that until I feel it is ripe. But for now I can only tell you that I am Edwin Okon Edem from Akwa Ibom state I am the chief coach of Nigeria women football double champions, Rivers Angels of Port Harcourt.
How come you chose to be coach of women’s team instead of the much more lucrative male soccer?
I started with a male team some years back in Port Harcourt. I was coaching that youth club in a primary school when the late coach Musa Abdullahi saw me and asked if I had a coaching certificate. I told yes but it was that of sports institute in Saka and he promised to help me to get admission to National institute of Sports (NIS)which he did. After I graduated from NIS, he told me to go back to my team and while still with the boys team, Larry Eze the owner of Larry Angels developed interest in me and asked me to join his female team under the late coach Gabowsky. I found it very difficult to coach a female team at the start and I even threatened to dump the team and go back to my boys team.
But I was stopped from abandoning women football and was invited to join the Garden City Queens by the owner of the team who advised me to exercise patience that things would work out fine. I calmed down and endured the insults and challenges of women soccer. I continued toiling and here I am today.
Do you regret remaining a coach of women’s team today?
I have no regret at all. I am grateful to God first and to the late Musa Abdullahi who advised me to be a full time coach as well as all those who helped me climbed to where I am today. But I still maintain my male team because I like their approach to the game.
Are you comfortable as a coach of a women team financially,or otherwise?
Yes, because over the years I have become used to them. As for the financial comfort, I thank God for His mercies and blessings.
What makes you tick as a coach of female footballers?
It is because I am humble and a disciplinarian. I don’t condone laxity and indiscipline. I can work with anybody, once I discover what you want I give it to you. My players know what I want and what I don’t want and if they comply they won’t have problemS with me. That is the reason why there have been no scandal or crisis in my teams from Under-17, U-20 and the senior till date.
Talking about sex scandal, how have you been able to manage that in all your teams. Many coaches have been sacked and punished on account of this, what is your take?
I don’t give room for such. I don’t look at them as women but men playing football by so doing we operate safely with everyone knowing her boundary. In camp, I don’t allow players near my room and I don’t go to their rooms. if there are things to talk about with any player, it is done in the reception, restaurant or on the pitch. No female player even if she is the queen of the coast dares come into my room. I don’t pity coaches who were punished for getting involved with there female players.
So how would you describe those coaches who do it with impunity?
I think it is a very big abomination for any coach to sleep with women players under their tutelage. It is criminal and deserve severe punishment like outright ban from coaching. It is like selling one’s right as a coach because you won’t be respected if the other players get to know. We are like fathers to them and once you try it with one you kill the whole.
Have you ever been tempted to have a go by any of your players?
Only a willing coach will know when he is being tempted. For me I see them as men and not women, I cannot be tempted by the most beautiful woman on earth. Again, because they know I am a no nonsense coach, they can’t try it.
How would you rate women football development over the past years?
There have been great improvements over the past seven years. What is lacking is sponsors to move it forward. The chairperson of the women League is doing well but we need multi national companies to come and assist with their money to move the game forward. If we can get just get half of what the men get, Nigerians will see the best of female football.
Will you allow you daughter to play football?
Why not? I have given my daughter balls and boots to train with and you won’t believe how good she is now.
How far can the Nigeria Super Falcons go at the World cup in Canada?
People say, we are in a group of death but I don’t share that idea because it will be 11 versus 11 on the field. I trust my team, I trust my girls and I trust myself. With all these, the sky will be the limit. We shall go far in Canada because we trust ourselves.
Be precise, how far can the team go. What is your target?
Winning the cup is my target and I think it is possible.
Do you think women coaches are ripe to take over female national teams in Nigeria?
Only the authorities saddled with managing the game can determine if women are ready. At that level, the woman must be very disciplined and do not indulge in all those crazy things like sagging, over dressing with five or more ear rings and bangles and all those things women do. If there is one who does not involve in all these, she can do it.
How have you been able to tackle Lesbianism in your team, can it be wiped out of women football?
Like I said earlier, in all my teams at club and national level, I have never had such or witnessed any. What we do first is to ensure that the teams Doctors, Physio, Coordinator or Camp Commandant go round the rooms randomly to check them even at odd hours of the night. As a rule, they must keep their doors open.
We advise them against it and even invite Rev. Fathers, Pastors and Bishops to preach to them on the dangers of the lesbian acts.
Noticed that your team prayS a lot and fast before games, do you believe in the efficacy of prayers in football?
Yes, prayers work in football and we don’t joke with it at all. It had been working for us and we can’t stop praying. We invite men of God to come and pray for us most times and God has been faithful to us. All the players and officials whether christianS or muslims pray.
Asisat Oshoala just rejoined the team from Liverpool in England, have you noticed any changes in her game and attitude?
There are changes in her game. She no longer hustles like before but very calculative but still fast and direct. Her attitude has been cool, calm, respectful and business-minded. She is now more professional so to say.
Finally, if you have the opportunity to coach male national teams including the Super Eagles will you take it?
That will be very sweet and I will not hesitate to take it. It remains one of my ambitions. If I can take a female team to the level I have reached, it will be very easy to handle a male team.
Handling women team is a very difficult assignment.
Thank you for talking to Complete Sports.
It is my pleasure to talk with Nigeria’s number sports daily newspaper. You people should help in the development of women football by writing more about us.