EGUAVOEN SPEAKS ON U-23 ASSIGNMENT
National Under-23 Coach, Augustine Eguavoen is certainly not a happy man, especially after the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) played a fast one on him by picking his trusted friend, Ike Shorunmu, as the new Super Eagles' goalkeepers trainer to help tinker the senior national team with its new manager, Samson Siasia.
Though Eguavoen has been comfortable working at the senior level with the like of Coach Christian Chukwu, who he succeed, he finished his term before the appointment of German Berti Vogts and later, Lars Lagerback, the former Eagles' handler has confessed that work at the Under-23 level would certainly not be a bed of roses for him.
Left to pick his own backroom staff by the Technical Committee of the NFF headed by Barrister Chris Green, the Edo State-born coach has settled for Alloy Agu, Ben Iroha and Stanley Eguma for reasons he said would be in the best interest of the team. He told Sunday Sunsports that having worked with young players at the Under-17 level to Finland, it would not be an easy sail to assemble a squad that could go all the way to give Nigerians the kind of football they would want to see.
'The Under-23 job is one that is very Herculean given the fact that the players in that cadre are virtually those that will form the next Super Eagles' team. So much is expected from the team. But I can tell you that though the challenges are there, they are surmountable. We are aware of the task; even to get the players from around the federation is a lot of work, but the men I am going to work with are experienced hands.'
Eguavoen said it would be out of place if Nigerians would not see the Under-23 team in action at the next All Africa Games in Mozambique. 'Being at the All Africa Games in Mozambique will excite Nigerians. We also know that the qualifiers for the 2012 Olympics is there for us to achieve. We can't afford not to be part of it. At the Beijing Olympics, the Nigerian team got silver under Coach Samson Siasia. I think the new team we will assemble will do better; we should be aiming for the gold medal.
I believe that our performance at Atlanta '96, where Nigeria won gold can be repeated,' he stressed.
The member of the 1994 Nigerian national team that won the Africa Nations Cup for the first time outside the shores of Nigeria, as well as a member of the team to Nigeria's first World Cup finals in USA '94, noted that he's ready to go the extra mile to ensure that he builds a solid team that would make the desired impact at all competitions the team would enter for.
Eguavoen, who stated further that preparations for the team would go a long way in determining the face of the team, called on the NFF to give his crew all the necessary support for them to make headway in their assignment. 'I want the NFF to give me and my crew the support that we desire in building a new team. The job is not just for me, but it is for all of us and as such, we will need the NFF to look through our programmes and give us all the necessary assistance we might need.
It is our wish to present a team that will gladden the hearts of Nigerians, but we cannot do it alone. We will need our coaches to go round the country and pick the right talents and that won't be a day's job.'
Eguavoen, who began his football career at ACB, Lagos, made some impressive performances, which gained him a move to Gent in Belgium in 1986. He went on to play for K.V. Kortrijk, CD Ourense, Sacramento Scorpions and Torpedo of Moscow before ending his playing career in Malta with Sliema Wanderers.
Eguavoen began his coaching career in Malta with Sliema Wanderers when he was given the job in the 2000/01 football season, and he guided the club to a second place finish that season. As Super Eagles' caretaker coach in June 2005, Eguavoen had in his coaching staff Samson Siasia, Daniel Amokachi and Ike Shorunmu.