Former Super Eagles and 3SC goalkeeper, Abiodun Baruwa, wants to be remembered as one of the best goalkeepers that stood in between the sticks for Nigeria. In this interview with The Point’s Uchenna Ajah, the 41-year-old London-based former shot-stopper, popularly known as Omo Alhaja, also speaks on the Super Eagles coach, Sunday Oliseh, the national teams and other football issues. Excerpts…
Let’s talk about the national team of Nigeria. What do you make of the Super Eagles since the appointment of Sunday Oliseh?
I think it is great to give power to ex-internationals. When you look around what is going on all over the world, mostly the bigger countries in Europe, in South America, Central America; most of the people running the day-to-day activities of the game are ex-internationals. I think it is a good thing for the country and a very good step for Nigerian coaches. If you focus and trust in what you are doing, you can get to anywhere you want. So, talking about Oliseh, I know his kind of person, he is a winner, and he just wants to win all the time. I think he will do well with his attitude, if everybody supports him and rallies round him to get the team together.
What should that support be like?
I would start from the supporters. They should just be behind the team no matter the result of the game. Everyone should stay positive before the game, during the game and after the game. The result will not come by snapping your fingers; that is what I’m going to say about the supporters. But the most important aspect of this is the media. They need to be positive and supportive of not only Oliseh but also Nigerian football as a whole. And again, going into the administrative part of the game, the people in the office too must provide him all he needs to succeed as a coach. Everybody should strive to make him a success, because if Oliseh succeeds as a coach; it will be good for African football and the ex-internationals as well.
A lot of people have said that the former Super Eagles coach, Stephen Keshi, made mistakes during his time with the team. What kind of mistakes should Oliseh avoid in the future?
The only thing I would say to that is that he has to be his own man, his own coach. I know he will be because I spent a lot of time with him when we were young. He is a very ambitious guy as well.
The national U-23 side, The Dream Team VI are to participate in the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations in Senegal from November 28 to December 12. The Championship will also serve as the final qualifiers for Africa’s representatives for next year’s Olympic in Rio. What is your advice for coach Samson Siasia and his team?
I was very fortunate to play in the U-23 team as well when I was younger. It is a very sensitive competition mostly for the players because, right after that, you are expected to play for the national team. I was fortunate to play in the All African Games, which is where U-23 started. But the most important thing is that a lot of players will be coming in and out because that is what happens in youth competitions. The U-23 team is the gateway to the Super Eagles and all the coach needs to do is to choose the right player at the right time for the right game. But I’m not going to say too much about that because all the coaches know what they are doing. They are professionals and they played the game as well. So it is going to be good. And I hope they go ahead to qualify for the Rio Olympics.
What would you want them to do differently from what they did at the AAG in Congo Brazzaville?
They should just continue doing what they have been doing from the beginning. I remember we came third in the 1995 All Africa Games in Harare but we went on and qualified for the Atlanta ’96 Olympics against Zimbabwe.
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