January 28, 2023

I don’t need to chase Iheanacho, he ought to look for me —Danladi Nasidi

November 29, 2016
Iheanacho as an U-13 player under Nasidi, receiving the MVP award from NFF official, Ahmed Fresh, in 2010.

Danladi Nasidi has come a long way in developing football talents for Nigeria. The coach of the national U-13 and U-15 teams has handled teams from the age grades and taken them to youth tournaments. Nasidi, a former assistant coach of the Super Falcons, tells WALE EMOSU some of his experiences and disappointments so far.

 

What has been happening to the national U-13 and U-15 football teams in recent times?

Nothing has been happening because since 2014, there have been no more U-13 and U-15 teams, the mother body, the NFF, are saying there is no money to camp the boys.

 

And what has that cost Nigeria?

It has affected the national U-17 team because by 2008 when we started the U-13 [project] – it took off during the era of Alhaji Sani Lulu [as the NFF president] – every holiday, we would go into camp. There was continuity then and during that period, we travelled round the whole north on playing tours. In 2010, the same U-13 team  went to London for an invitational tournament. The tournament was called the Premiership Tournament, which we won. When we came back, because of continuity, we said the players should move into the U-15. Now as U-15, we moved to Lokoja  in 2012, 2013,  preparing for Mexico, but before then, when we were in London, Manchester City came to me, wanting to buy the whole players.

 

They wanted to buy the whole players?

Yes, because they [Manchester City officials] were always coming to watch our matches.

 

Did you sell the players to them?

That’s not my responsibility, it’s the NFF’s responsibility, but they were not sold. I continued with the team, that is where [Kelechi] Iheanacho, Ifeanyi Apam, Ali Aliyu, Chidera Ezeh and co emerged. In 2010 we were in Lokoja preparing for a tournament in Mexico, again Manchester City [officials] came to buy the whole team, because all the players in the departments were good.

 

When Manchester City officials came to Lokoja, did the NFF sell them this time?

No. At that time Manu [Garba] was in camp preparing for the [2013 U-17] World Cup and some of his boys failed the MRI test and they turned to my U-15 team, from which I gave them 15 players. All of them passed and that is the bunch of players he took to the World Cup which he won.

 

So how long have you known Iheanacho?

Since 2008.

 

And what can you say about him as a player?

Throughout the time he was with me, he was my highest goal scorer, but I want the coaches to understand that Iheanacho can’t be a striker, but a supporting striker whereby he will have a free role to shoot because shooting is his weapon. When you give him free role, you see the best of him, he goes to the left, to the centre, and moves freely.

 

So do you still talk to him, as a father, as a coach; do you still advise him?

Communication between us has been very difficult because I have been trying to get his phone number, but I have not been able to get it. His agent promised to give me his number, but he has not given me. I don’t want to go camp when he is in Nigeria, because people may think I am begging , so I have to protect my personality. Why should I go and look for him in camp? I can’t be a slave to my syllabus, rather the syllabus should be a slave to me because I am the one working on it. If he thinks I am important to him in life, he will think of me. He has been coming to Nigeria but for one day, he has not called me.

 

Apart from Iheanacho, can you mention some other prominent players that have passed through you?

Taiwo Awoniyi, Chidera Ezeh, John Lazarus, Udoh Akpan.

 

By not being in camp now, it means the U-13 and U-15 teams have not been going for any competition?

No.

 

Which competition were they supposed to have attended in recent times?

They U-13 was supposed to go to England for an invitational tournament this year, then the U-15 team was supposed to go to Algeria and defend its trophy it won in Botswana, but the U-15 tournament has been postponed till next year.

 

And you are hopeful Nigeria will participate?

Yes, if there is money and if the NFF agrees to participate.

 

Nasidi (right) with Lateef Omidiji
Nasidi (right) with Lateef Omidiji

Have you made any effort to get across to the NFF?

Yes, I have my oga, Siji Lagunju, a technical director in the NFF and he is in charge of youth development.

 

What did you discuss with him?              

I asked him what he has been doing as Nigeria has not been participating in U-13 and U-15 tournaments. He said they have kept telling him there is no money and there is nothing he can do. And I told him to let us keep our hands crossed. But the question is, can we remain without grass-roots football that Nigeria is known for? So I am only appealing to the NFF to revive these U-13, U-15 teams, because they are the bedrock of even the Super Eagles.

In my diary I have over 2,000 players, but they are ageing out and that makes me to go round from state to state. Quote me that I thank Ifeanyi Ubah. He made me to go and see his academy in Nnewi, Anambra State and believe you me, there are boys. It is a place one has to work because his academy is well planned, well arranged. If you see the stadium, oh my God. Now he is increasing the stadium to 60, 000 capacity.

 

Are you aware that Lateef Omidiji, the boy you went to check out in USA in 2014 has been invited to camp by the US?

I am, but that doesn’t move me, whenever I need him definitely I will get him. That is why, again, I am saying to the NFF, we are losing talent to other countries. When the teams are revived we will get him. I travelled to the US and I brought him to Nigeria, no matter what the US does whenever I need him, I will still bring him back because he is Nigeria’s property.

 

Have you spoken to him since his invitation by the US?

Almost every week, I speak to him and the parents.

 

What are they saying?

They are assuring me, the only thing is that there is no programme that will bring the boy to Nigeria for now. It is not only Lateef, Sophia, his sister too is there.

 

The Super Falcons are defending their title in Cameroon, what advice do you have for them?

They should take it easy, they should not be overconfident. Florence [Omagbemi] was my captain, Perpetua Nkwocha was my highest goalscorer and Ann Chiejine was my first choice goalkeeper; they have something upstairs and I know what they went through with us. If they settle down, they will defend the cup.  I have confidence in the coaches.

 

The Super Eagles, under Gernot Rohr, have been doing very well, what do you think is responsible?

Because he is mixing the young,  adults and the old, whereby you have a complete team. In making a team, you must have these categories. There are certain areas where the youths will work, look at Iheanacho, the strength and other things. The adults will now give them the support, while the experienced players will cover up from behind and I am happy he is looking for [Vincent] Enyeama, who is experienced. You can see he [Gernot] has vision.

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