NFA Denied Rangers Winning Africa Cup Of Champions In 1975 – Chukwu | Independent Newspapers Limited
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NFA Denied Rangers Winning Africa Cup Of Champions In 1975 – Chukwu

Posted: Apr 23, 2016 at 3:54 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Chairman Christian Chukwu is a household name in Nigerian football. He captained the then Green Eagles into winning the country’s first Africa Cup of Nations trophy in 1980. He was on the bench when the team won its second edition of the trophy in 1994 and also qualified for its maiden World Cup in 1994. In this interview with Steve Oma-Ofozor, Chukwu denied some of the unfounded tribal allegations made against him and some colleagues. He accused of responsible for the failure of Rangers winning the Africa Cup of Champions in 1975; Excerpts

What is your take on the ongoing crisis at the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF)?
-There is need for all the warring factions to come together and discuss on how to move Nigerian football forward. It is not a personal issue; Nigerian football is for all of us and together we can solve the problem. Personally, I am not happy at the way things are going, because if there is crisis at the NFF it means a serious problem for Nigerian football.

What is your take on the hiring of a foreign coach for Nigeria?
Foreign or local coach is the not the problem of Nigerian football. Whoever the NFF want to appoint, so be it; whether white or black. All we need is somebody who can turn Nigerian football around with the abundant talents we have at the local and foreign leagues.

Now, let’s go down memory lane. In 1981, you were recalled to help Nigeria qualify for the 1982 World Cup; but you were said to have caused the Nigeria 0-2 defeat by Algeria in Lagos. Some say it was the tribalism among the Ibo and Yoruba players; that you are not happy when Best Ogedengbe is in goal if not Emmanuel Okala. How would you react to this?
It was unfortunate that we lost that game. But, there was no disharmony among us; we were a very united team. The Ibo players, Yoruba and other tribes were in good relationship. After all, it was Ogedengbe that was in goal when we won the Nations Cup and I was the captain. If we were not united, could we have won the trophy?

Can you forgive Godwin Odiye (Nigeria score Nigeria) for making you as well as the entire nation miss a golden chance to be in the 1978 World Cup in Argentina?
Godwin Odiye did not do anything wrong to me or Nigerians that would demand forgiveness. The incident was that he wanted to head away the ball from the goal, but unfortunately it was inside the goal. It was a mistake that could have been made by anybody. One could as well ask why we couldn’t score. So, it was a collective responsibility not Odiye’s fault.

How would you describe the Super (Green) Eagles of your time when you were the Captain and now?
There is no basis for comparison at all. In my time, we were playing amateur football; all of us were at home playing together in the league. So, there was a very strong understanding among all the players. About three, four, five players or more could come from one team and it was a thing of joy for the player and his club to hear one is being invited to represent the country. When there is national assignment, you don’t need to write a letter and begin to follow all those protocols for the release of the players. That is not the case today; the players are professionals, property of the clubs. They honour invitations when they are allowed by the club. Hence, some players come to camp at the last minute to prepare for a crucial match. They don’t even have time to train and blend properly. Some foreign clubs may not even release the players because the player is their property.

Why are you called “Chairman?”
It was the late commentator, Ernest Okonkwo, who gave me the name. That was how he gave all of us in the Green Eagles then names. For example, he gave Segun Odegbami (mathematical), Alloysus Atuegbu (block buster). In fact, he looks at your performance and your attitude and gives you a name. But, till date mine remained a household name and I love it.

Which is your best and bad moment so far in football as a coach and as a player?
My best moment as a player was winning the Nations Cup for Nigeria in 1980 and the Africa Club Cup Winners for Rangers. As a coach, it was winning the Nations Cup for Nigeria in 1994 and qualifying Nigeria for its first ever World Cup in USA’94 and also the maiden edition of the U-17 World Cup, China’85. But, the bad moments are failing to qualify for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina; Africa boycotting the 1976 Olympics in Canada because of Apartheid South Africa when Nigeria had qualified for the football event and Rangers losing to Hafia of Guinea in the African Clubs Champions Cup in 1975 owing to unnecessary politics. NFA did not allow Rangers to play the final in Enugu, they said it must be Lagos. In the first leg, Hafia defeated Rangers 1-0 in the second leg in Lagos it was Rangers 1-2 Hafia in Lagos.