19 SEPTEMBER 2015
Sodje: I saw hell during the match-fixing scandal What has been happening with you since you last played for Portsmouth? I have had a great career and things have been wonderful with me. I have recently got time to spend with my lovely family who have sacrificed so much as I followed up my dream. Since then I had gone ahead to further my education. Can you tell us about the project you are working on? The project I am working on is about players’ welfare. I want them to benefit from my experience. I plan to help players sustain themselves after football; so in a way the project is like life after football for these players, especially those of them playing at home. I will try my best to make sure it works, but it won’t work if these players do not get paid. You understand this risk and still want to pursue this project, how do you plan to get the clubs pay their players? I think the people that run those clubs do not have clues on how to do a professional job. You are managing a club without grassroots development plans, no proper welfare package, no proper insurance package for players. Players are not given proper guides on how to sign contracts. What really upsets me is that the body that’s supposed to look after the players is not doing its job properly. But players unions like APFON and NANF have been fighting for these players I don't know who they are, but I think they are not doing their job very well. The NFF, LMC, APFON, even FIFA are not important if there are no players. The NFF president will have no job without players. The first thing to come to mind should be the players, but these people are just selfish. If these players are not getting paid for six, seven months, because that is what I have confirmed, it means the LMC, NFF are not doing their job, and they should all get sacked. I would prefer to have just two teams in the league rather than have the current 20 that would not pay their players. What we have today in the league is slavery; these local players are enslaved. Let us cancel the league if we cannot have a law that will compel these clubs to pay their players, let us forget about the league and these players will go out there and look for other jobs. The English Premier League that all of us are excited about now is a product of sacrifice by individuals who want to leave a legacy that will last for long. But unfortunately the leaders we have now are not ready to do that.
The president of the NFF now is not supposed to be there, he does not have a clue and is surrounded by bad advisers
Former Super Eagles player, Sam Sodje, who had his national team career cut short by injury tells AJIBADE OLUSESAN in this interview about his plans to help home-based players. The defender who was born in England but came back home at an early age, talks about his famous football-playing family and sundry issues. Excerpts… The president of the NFF now is not supposed to be there, he does not have a clue and is surrounded by bad advisers. Sunday Oliseh took over from Stephen Keshi as Eagles coach; do you think he can do a good job? He is a very good friend of the Sodjes and he was involved in most of our charity games. He is a top manager and a top coach but I was shocked he took the job because of the person in charge of our football, even the system. I think he took it because he loves Nigeria what is left now is to support him. I can vouch for him but I have reservations about the working environment. However, I think he has been talking too much to the press. You can plan to do some things without necessarily announcing them. I was not too impressed when he said he would not invite players not playing in top divisions in Europe; you don’t say stuffs like that, you keep it to yourself and go ahead to
executive it. I have played under top managers and Alan Pardew is one of them. He is one of the greatest managers you can think of; he talks less and achieves much. You keep your plans to yourself; if they work fine, if not no one knows about it. I think he's talking too much. It appears he also compounded it with his statement on the refusal of Mikel Obi to pick his calls. Don’t you agree? I would've done it in a different way if I were him, but maybe that's the way he handles things and I can't blame him for being honest. But you've not settled down and don't want to start having issues with players, but if he wants to handle it that way, it's up to him. A lot has been said about the quality of players that we have now. Many Nigerians are worried that our players are not playing for big clubs in Europe… I don’t think we have the calibre of players that we can call true Super Eagles and I am not trying to be disrespectful to anyone. Why don’t we have players in big clubs anymore? It is because the players are not just there. Who do you think we have that can play in big clubs in Europe? And that is why the national team is not attractive be-
cause it does not parade top players. Many top countries have passed through this dry period. England, Spain, Italy and even Brazil have suffered that bad patch in their football and they were able to bounce back. Hopefully, in the future we will reclaim our glorious days. But these countries had blueprints on how to get out of the mess and they did, don’t you think we need such measures too? You just used the exact words - blue - print! The way forward is to go back to the grassroots. That is key, discover these young players and nurture them. But unfortunately those that we have at the top are too obsessed with the EPL, so much so that they don’t even know what they have to do. They are opportunists who are supporters of foreign clubs but running our football. I was born in London and I played in the Premier League but I am not that obsessed. Instead of chasing after some Premier League players, just focus on developing youngsters and guide them until they get to the top of their careers and the national team will greatly benefit from this. I remember your debut match for the Eagles, Nigeria lost 3-0 to Romania… I was so happy to play for my fatherland, because that time the national team was so attractive. I also had the opportunity of playing for England but there was no question about whether I wanted to represent Nigeria. We lost the match 3-0 but I was still very happy that I played for Nigeria; it was a dream come true for me. You played with some players in the heart of Eagles defence. Who do you consider your best partner? I have a lot of respect for everyone I played alongside in the defence because it is not easy to play for the national team. I played with Joseph Yobo, Daniel Shittu, Obinna Nwaneri and even Rabiu Afolabi. These guys are great. It is just sad that injury prevented me from showcasing my full potential to Nigerians. I have got ability and it was there for everyone to see but I got injured at a wrong time. Many people did not know I played through injury for about five years. Sodje family has become popular in Nigeria: you, Efe and Akpo have done well playing for several clubs in England… My father was a great footballer. Although short he was very good. My mum too was a sprinter; the sports gene is there. And let me tell you, my nephew has just signed a contract with Man City, he is a striker and you should expect more Sodjes in the football circle soon.
How do you describe Efe, the bandana-wearing tough-tackling defender? We are different players. Efe is my hero, to me he is a legend, and he made me who I am. Ability wise, I have got it but Efe works really hard. If I worked as hard as Efe with my ability, I CONTINUED FROM PAGE 31
Saturday, September 19, 2015