I started my football career in streets –Finidi

An ex-international and one of the finest right winger that the Super Eagles of Nigeria ever had and now Technical Adviser of Enyimba FC of Aba, Finidi George in a recent interview with The Voicesports’ TERFA ALAGHGA, said he started his football career playing on the streets just like every other African kid, his best moments in football, regrets and his desire for Enyimba FC of Aba. He also spoke on other matters. Excerpts:

Where did you start playing football?

I started playing football on the sands of Churchill field around the FHA Quarters near Bundu Waterside. From there, I went on to play for Agip FC, which was a youth team.

For how long did you play for the Agip youth team?

I played for the club for some time and from there I was selected to play for the Rivers state team that won Gold medal at the Rivers State Sports Festival.

Where did you go to play after there?

From there, I was signed to play for Sharks FC, of Port Harcourt and then left to play for Calabar Rovers FC and back again to Sharks FC where I finally bid farewell to Nigerian League and flew off to Ajax. I played for Ajax for sometime too and the left for Spain and then to England.

When did you start featuring for the Super Eagles of Nigeria?

I made my debut for  Nigeria in 1991, when I played in the AFCON qualifier against Burkina Faso and in that match, I provided three assist for late Rashidi Yekini and scored once in the 7-1 defeat. I was also in the 1994 squad that won the “94” edition of the AFCON  hosted in Tunisia. I must not forget to tell you that I featured in two World Cups, 1994 and 1998 in the USA and France respectively.

As member of the USA 94 world cup squad, what can you tell of your experience?

I must say it was a great honour to be part of the squad because we were like one big family even though we had our differences. I was young then and trying to stand on my feet so all the pieces of advice that I got from the experienced players in the team were welcoming. In fact, it was a remarkable World Cup for me.

Nigerians still believe that the USA 94 squad of the Super Eagles was the best ever after many years. Do you agree with that?

Yes because, we just have to go back and invest in grassroots football, so that we can unearth the numerous talents that are abound but hidden. Nigeria is naturally gifted with talented players but bringing them to the spotlight has always been very difficult and this has to do with the lack of focus on grassroots football. The schools too helped immensely by discovering talents and that  is why more competitions within the state and national levels should be established. We started playing the game very well back home here before jetting abroad and this helped us settled down easily because when we got there, we were playing regularly for our various clubs but today, it is not so, so the foundation of the game must be very solid. I think the NFF has programmes to take our football to a higher level that will help our football grow.

What would you recall as your greatest moments in football?

My greatest moments were when we qualified for the USA 94 World Cup, when in Ajax, we won the Champions League and when we also won the AFCON in Tunisia.

What is your regret?

My greatest regret was when as a member of the Super Eagles squad, we lost to Italy in the round of 16 at the USA 94 World Cup. I felt so bad because we were almost getting to the Promised Land before we crashed out.

Why did you quit the national team when they needed you most?

As a sportsman, you see things differently when you are getting older so I think I did what was the best for me at that point in time. My setback was that I did not make the 2002 World Cup squad.

What did you delve into after retirement from football?

After retirement from playing active football, I was in the Netherlands for a coaching course after which I went into buying and selling.

As a licensed coach, why have you not coached any of the national teams?

I am not in a hurry because I believe that if something is not for you, there is nothing you can do about it so I can not force anyone to hire me to handle any national team. Although, I am a licenses coach, even if coaching didn’t work for me I won’t bother. I can’t fight for a coaching job.

If you had not gone into playing football, what profession would you have taken to?

That is a difficult question for me because you wouldn’t know. When every child is growing up, he would want to be this and that so it is quite difficult for me to really say or know what I would have wanted to become if I had not been a football player.

What would you say is lacking in the Super Eagles of today, as compared to what you have during your time?

I can’t tell what kind of football we want to play because sometimes when I look at the team, I don’t know if we want to play counter attack or the passing football. Whatever system that we want to play, we must choose the right players and right formation. You don’t just field players because they are in camp. When I was watching the Nations Cup, I couldn’t see any discernible pattern. I could not see the strength in that team where you can say if Ahmed Musa, Chukwueze or any person has the ball something is going to happen. A team must have that culture, game changers. During our time, when the ball got to Emmanuel Aminike, or to Sunday Oliseh, you knew he would link to Rashidi Yekuni and something would happen. Even if Oliseh decided to go to the left or right you knew something would definitely happen but if you are watching the Eagles of today, they are just passing, passing, passing and by chance it could result in a goal. When you are a coach, you must get it right to know who are your key players and you must be able to identify that.

Do you have any of your children that is desiring to play for Nigeria just like you did?

There is one thing that you must not do to your children and that is, to force them into doing something that they do not like.

What were people’s reactions when you were appointed Technical Adviser of Enyimba FC of Aba?

I don’t care what people have been saying about this appointment but all I know is that I have been given free hands to succeed at the club and I’m ready to prove my worth as a coach.

What do you desire for Enyimba FC of Aba?

My desire is to continue to perform well with Enyimba, by breaking every barrier, winning all my matches and succeed with the club.

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