ANY COACH NOT SACKED BEFORE IS NO COACH -EMORDI
To say that Okey Emordi has seen it all both as a footballer and as a coach is simply stating the obvious. As a player, he won trophies with Enugu Rangers International, popularly known as the Flying Antelope. And as a coach, apart from winning all that is there to win in the domestic football scene with Enyimba, he has also won the prestigious CAF Champions League trophy in 2004 to bag the exalted award of the Africa Coach of the Year.
Only last Sunday, the Anambra State-born tactician failed in his bid to win the CAF Champions League trophy for the second time with the Aba People's Elephant, as the team fall to Wydad of Morocco.
Enyimba needed to turn the table against the Moroccan side with a 2-0 win and qualify for the final of the competition this year, having lost 1-0 in the first leg of the semi-final played in Casablanca. Two weeks earlier, the Aba side had lost the Federation Cup title to its rival neighbour, Heartland FC of Owerri.
Before the Federation Cup final, Enyimba had gone 11 games unbeaten. Ironically, The Sunday's 2-2 goal line with Wydad of Morocco was the fifth game by the Aba side without a win. In fact, the team lost four straight games beginning with the Federation Cup final against Heartland. Following the string of unimpressive results, the climax of which was the last Sunday's CAF Champions League exit, there are insinuations that Emordi, who holds the record of the only coach to have stayed more than a season at Enyimba may be fired.
In this interview, the Enyimba gaffer rued the Sunday's CAF Champions League crash, describing it as unfortunate. But he's not in any way scared about losing his job.
'Any coach that has not been sacked before is not a coach,' he replied emphatically when Saturday Sunsports reminded him about a possible sack for the strings of failures at Enyimba in the recent times.
He went on: 'I'm a professional, whatever comes, I'll take it. It's a simple issue as far as I'm concerned. Any person that has not experienced the bad side would not know where he's going. It's only when you experience bad times that you look around. If sacked today, I will have no regrets.
'The job is about hiring and firing. In Nigeria, we keep firing the indigenous coaches and hiring foreign ones, but who has ever hired expatriate administrators or match officials. It's only the coaches that bear the brunt. Coaching is my profession, so sack would not discourage me from doing my job.'
Emordi spoke extensively on Enyimba's failed CAF Champions League dream, the quality of players in the current squad compared to the 2003-2005 era, the immediate challenges and the way forward among other things. Excerpts!
'It's very unfortunate we found ourselves in this situation. Our aspiration was to go beyond the semi-final of the CAF Champions League and to be precise, win the trophy that we last won in 2004. I must, however, applaud the boys because it could have been worse right from the first leg in Morocco. Unfortunately, we lost 1-0 in Morocco just at the tail end of the match.'
'We prepared ourselves for the return leg so well, as we thought, with the hope that we were going to scale the hurdle, at least, by beating them 2-0. In the first half, it was very difficult for us because we did not step up our game. In the second half, however, the boys stepped up their game, but it was late. We could not score any goal and it's really unfortunate that it ended in a barren draw. Our aspiration was to win, but we couldn't. If we had put up the level of effort we displayed in the second half right from the beginning, probably it would have been a different ball game. But that did not happen. After we spoke to the players in the dressing room during the half time, they stepped up their game'.
'I never saw our exit from the CAF Champions League coming. We trained very well and the boys responded well and we thought we could have won the match. The boys were very optimistic of victory even in the second half of the match everybody believed that we were going to win the match. To me, it was as if the season had ended for all of us. The CAF Champions League appeared to be the only thing keeping all of us together. I never thought that we were going to crash out at that stage. Despite the fact that we lost the Federation Cup final and two other matches, we were still very optimistic that we were going to win the CAF Champions League'.
'The players tried their best. Those who started tried their best. Those who came in later did their best. You saw improvement in the second half. Everybody has the right to say whatever he wants, especially when a game ends like this. A good player may have a bad day because of one psychological problem or the other. But as a coach, when you know your player, you can give him as much time as possible on the pitch, believing that he could still deliver. But while he fails to do so, you have to take it. When we found out that Kalu Uche could not continue with the match, we had to pull him out. Kalu Uche was not the only player that failed to play his best. In football, we learn everyday. From what happened today, we must have learnt what to do if we find ourselves in the same situation, we found ourselves today in the future. We would have to look at what we have and what we don't have and know how to go about it'.
Previous Champions League compared to this year's
'The game differs as time goes on. For instance, between 2003 and 2005, the quality of players in Enyimba was not what we have today. I'm not saying that we don't have quality players today but we no longer have players such as Vincent Enyeama, Dele Aiyenugba, Yusuf Mohammed, Obinna Nwaneri, Ugah Okpara and so on. Those were more matured players than the crop of players we have today. We still have good players today but the difference is that they lack the degree of determination exhibited by the 2003-2005 squads. I give you an example, in the second half of the match (against Wydad of Morocco), the boys said they were going to win the match. They had the intention to win the match, but the game did not go the way all of us thought. We're not going to crucify anybody. We're learning everyday. If you don't fail, how do you correct yourself? The boys tried their best but the mother luck was against us. As I said, what has happened has happened. What we need to do is to look at how we started, how far we have come, x-ray everything and come up with a better plan for the future'.
Can Enyimba play in continent next year?
'It depends on the state of mind of the boys. If you ask me, I believe that all hope is not lost. We can still finish second or third on the log of the Nigeria Premier League this season. And that could give us a ticket to the continent. But the mindset of the boys is another thing. We did not start very well in the domestic league. The CAF Champions League appeared to be our only hope because of how far we had gone. That's why I said it looks to me that the season has come to an end for us'.
'I think what would happen for us is to go back and x-tray what we have done throughout the season, most especially in the CAF Champions League and know how to go about it in the future. Personally, I'm not happy. But we have to take it the way it came. As a Christian, whether it's good or bad, one must give thanks to Almighty God. At least, we did not record any injury or death'.
'I still believe that we have to make amends with the local league. That's the only solution that I look forward to. But it's a collective bargain. Most especially as it concerns the players, that's why I said we shall keep on counseling to see how we can psyche up for the boys for the challenge. It's going to be very difficult but let's see how it goes. I cannot run away because of the present situation.
What if sacked?
I'm a professional. Whatever comes, I take it the way it comes. I'm a full-fledged man and I believe some others are equally so. It's a give and take situation. It's a simple issue as far as I'm concerned. Any person who has not experienced the bad side would not know where he's going. It's only when you experience bad time that you look around. If sacked today, I would have no regret. Any coach that has not been sacked is not a coach. The job is about hiring and firing. In Nigeria, we keep firing the indigenous coaches and hiring foreign coaches but who has hired expatriate administrators or match officials. Only coaches bear the brunt. Coaching is my profession, so sack would not discourage me from doing my job.'