I am in a daze.
The reactions from yesterday have been coming fast and furious.
They have been mostly accusations: I left out some worthy captains’ names from my list, e.g. Sunday Oliseh, Jerry Azinge, Nwankwo Kanu etc; I did not select respondents that would have enough knowledge of all the captains through the decades; what about this captain, about that captain?
Although my humble effort was well appreciated all around, I was bombarded from all sides with new contributions.
So, all day yesterday I compiled a new list of respondents as I promoted. I plucked several names from the ‘ancient of days’, some football stakeholders that have seen everything in Nigerian football from ‘a salve to a star’, and have seen ‘the lagoon as well as the sea’ and can tell the difference, and personally experienced most, or all, of the listed Captains from 1960 to date.
I added to those names two others of special interest – Daniel Amokachi and Godwin Dudu-Orumen.
Dudu Orumen because his knowledge of Nigerian football is encyclopedic. Being my friend of several decades, he had wondered aloud yesterday how I left him out of the first set of respondents.
And Daniel Amokachi, because of his recent assertion that Mikel Obi is the Best Player in Nigeria’s football history by virtue of the number of international trophies he won with his European clubs and country (even though the statistics do not add up).
‘The Bull’ is a respected voice, so, does it follow that Mikel may also be his choice of best Captain ever?
So, I called up and asked all 9 new respondents to add their voices to the conversation that is stirring tremendous interest and taking people’s minds away from the Coronavirus crisis, if only for a short period, and name their choice of greatest Captain of the national team since 1960.
This demography is of the football people proper – coaches/ex-international players, all 9 of them.
Their choices are revealing, interesting and surprising.
Chief Adegboye Onigbinde – national coach.
Fabian Duru. Considering circumstances of the early days in Nigerian football, his performances on the field were exceptional. He was rugged and disciplined. His control of his mates on the field was firm and a delight to watch. As a pioneer Captain, he deserves it.
Sebastian Broderick – national coach/ ex-international player
Godwin Achebe. He was a complete athlete. Excellent sprinter over 100 and 200metres, mature leader, on and off the field. A complete gentleman, disciplined and very patriotic. Loved and served Nigeria well for a long time as captain, before and after the Civil war.
Ismaila Mabo – national coach/ex-international player
Christian Chukwu. Sentiments aside, he was a true leader of men going to a ‘war’, great ability to control his mates, and a very lucky man. His time as Captain started a chain of successes in football at both club and national levels. He led both very well.
Francis Moniedafe – ex-international (USA)
Christian Chukwu. ‘Chairman’ led the Eagles to greater heights with his calmness and composure, on and off the field. He was a true leader, his demeanor, particularly outside the field, was kingly.
Paul Okoku – ex-international (USA)
Stephen Keshi. A born leader who possessed and displayed the attributes of a great leader, a role model, intelligent. Commanded respect both on and off the field. Tolerant and patient. He stood out from the crowd. Uniquely admirable. Accepted criticism with mental toughness.
Emmanuel Okala – ex-international
Christian Chukwu. Difficult to choose between Godwin Achebe, who was an exemplary Captain too that his team mates would want to play and die for, and Christian Chukwu, with whom he shared the greatest period of their mutual football careers. Chukwu has the slight edge as a leader, on and off the field. They both led by example. Chukwu was so influential as captain that in one friendly match in Germany, Okala insisted that if Chukwu did not play, he would not, also. The team was never complete without the great ‘Chairman’.
Amusa Adisa – national coach/ex-international player
Christian Chukwu. He commanded great respect. He led from the ‘front’. A history making captain for club and country. He impacted both like no other Captain before or after him.
Godwin Dudu-Orumen – administrator
Sam Opone. He edges Chukwu by a hair’s breath. Always created peace in a squad that had exceptionally gifted young talents mostly drawn from Academicals. He led by example, was very popular with the players, friendly with everybody. Led the team as a unit to the Olympic Games. No crisis during his reign. Great leader.
Daniel Amokachi – national coach/ex-international.
Stephen Keshi by miles. Joined Keshi at 17 years of age. Keshi did everything for the team and beyond. He carried his players on his shoulder on and off the field, made players feel special. Contributed to the lives of many of his team mates everywhere and every time. His contributions are unmatched.