Ben Ogbeiwi is a Civil Engineer by education and one notable Nigerian who is having a stint with Music even though he had a very good relationship with Sports at the grassroots level. The No-nonsense Music Director at the Project Fame West Africa is also an ardent fan of Manchester United but was not in support of Jose Mourinho’s sack. In this exclusive interview, Uncle Ben as he is popularly known shared memories of his Sporting life with Joseph Odoekwu of Sports Intelligence Magazine. Please read on.
You have been popular in area of Music only is it that you never had anything to do with Sports in life?
O yes I had, in my primary and secondary school then I used to be an athlete and then towards the end of my secondary school, I enjoyed football. I also played for my platoon then when I was doing my National Youth Service in Bauchi. I have never been a fan of any European league, I loved the Nigerian premier league and followed it up but there was no continuity on the part of the Nigerian Sports which made me redirect my love for football to the English Premier League, and now I can tell you authoritatively that I am a fan of European football
You were in love with the Nigerian Premier league then, what exactly made you lose interest?
It is all administrative issues, everyone wants to lead and we find it difficult to agree. There is also the issue of corruption with finances and they were not being open with the records and that is why the league has not been progressive. I really don’t blame all the footballers who decide to seek greener pastures outside the country.
You also said you played football during your National Youth Service years, why did you not play at the NUGA Games during your University years?
In the University then I gave more attention to Judo, considering the fact that I was studying Civil Engineering, it did not afford me enough time then to play football. I only went to watch when I am chanced, but did not play I gave more attention to Judo then because it became necessary to enable me defend myself due to cult activities which was on the rise in Ekpoma, so I concentrated on Judo only.
But which wing were you playing then before Judo won you over?
I was playing from the midfield, to be more precise I was an attacking midfielder
Okay, did you also have an opportunity to represent the school in Judo and maybe win medals?
Like I said earlier, my course (Civil Engineering) did not give me enough time and chance to go public with all these extra curricular activities, it practically restricted me, but I specifically got involved in Judo for self defense purpose and that’s all.
If Civil Engineering never afforded you the opportunity to play football and go public with Judo; did it give you opportunity to be actively involved in Music?
Absolutely it did not for Sport, but Music was a priority and it did not disturb my course of study. Most times engineering lectures usually ended around 5 or 6pm in the evening and by 3pm of same time, those who were playing football would have been on the field. Considering the fact that I lived kilometers away from school, it was practically difficult to abandon lectures and go home to pick kits, finish with school then go to the field to play football. By the time you finish on the field your books are gone, so what’s the point? So I had to forfeit one for the other and like I said, Engineering is not a course you play with; you either learn it or you fail it.
So Sports suffered and Music prevailed?
Of course Sports suffered and Music climbed to the top and as you can see, here we are today but am enjoying sports now with the English premier league
Okay, did you also have an opportunity to represent the school in Judo and maybe win medals?
Like I said earlier, my course (Civil Engineering) did not give me enough time and chance to go public with all these extra curricular activities, but I specifically got involved in Judo for self defense purpose and that’s all.
You have been involved in the project fame as an instructor, if you have the opportunity to become a coach in any Sports today which Sports would you go for?
(Smiles) It is going to be football. Definitely football!!! Man-management is really tedious and a lot of words that you say as a manager is the motivating factor. A few days ago when Manchester City was playing Liverpool, the commentator said: “on the pitch alone, it was an estimate of over £1billon”, that is an amazing figure and that is why coaches are usually sacked because man-management is usually difficult. But if you manage the mind and manage the skill then you can get magic out of any player that is playing for you. If I were going to be a coach in Sports, it is definitely going to be football.
You earlier said you abandoned the Nigerian premier league for Europe, so which is your favourite European club and what is your reason for that choice?
Manchester United!!! And it is not because they have been very consistent it is basically because the furnace which they play and passion is absolutely amazing. I have heard some of my friends abandon their clubs for another because they are the ones who will win the premiership, if you stay true to your club you will believe in your players. A club that stays within the top 20 in the premier league is not doing bad. And of course I am a lover of clean, free-flow and beautiful football and that is why I am also a fan of another team in the Spanish Laliga and there I support Barcelona. They play clean sweet football, not rough tackles with aggravation like Real Madrid. If you want to end your career, you go to the Italian league, if you want to play smooth football you go to Spanish Laliga, and if you want to play gentleman football, you come to the premiership league and that is where we are today.
As a fan of Manchester United, what is your opinion on the sack of Jose Mourinho, do you think management made a right decision?
No!!! I did not support the sack of Mourinho. The players refused to play for Jose Mourinho, and that is the fastest way to sack a coach. The same thing played out when Mourinho was in Chelsea, the players just refused to play, because they did not like the style of the coach. When mutiny comes into football it becomes a problem. The coaches are really aware that they cannot stay there for long and for those who stay there for so long, it is because man-management has been at the forefront. Sir Alex Ferguson did it; Arsene Wenger did it they were all there for more than a decade it was amazing. A lot of coaches don’t go beyond five years, it is because the players just tell themselves, let us gang up against him let us not play, and that is not how it works. Mourinho is a disciplined person, he is very strict, but deal with it, it is man-management. Maybe the way he was handling one or two players was not fair, but when 22 gather against one man, it becomes a problem.
But dont you think if you become a football Coach and talk to players the same way you talk to Musicians at the Project Fame they may not want to play for you just like they did to Jose Mourinho?
They will be better. What I do first is to take the egos out of people so they can focus on only one thing, and that is their talents. When they feel confident and think they don’t require consistence in their talents, they fall on their faces and regret their actions, it becomes too late to fix them and this means we have to start all over again. So it is not about the individual it is about the overall objective and the happiness of the consumers.
Finally Let us look at the AFCON 2019, the Super Eagles of Nigeria are back after missing out on two occasions, what are your expectations?
I am hoping that the Super Eagles will be going straight for the Cup. I am also hoping that man-management will play an important role; and I am hoping that the administrative end of the NFF will stay away from the pitch. It is also imperative we leave quota system out of this, it is the skill that is important, if the skill doesn’t work then we know the players have failed. If the skills are there and you put the administrative issues then the boys will fail. That is how it works. We need to come together as Nigerians and understand these things, we are all administrators, referees, coaches, captains, players because we watch it from the tube, a lot of times we patriotically support this team but we need to resuscitate our national and our league also. At times it ends with us, we at times pull down players because they did not do well, but if they do well let us acknowledge it. We don’t do that in Nigeria, and it is completely unfair. As humans, we need to respect the feelings of others because they are not machines. When they have a fracture on their legs, nobody will join them in the hospital to share in the pains, when they lose the match we become the first to put them down, so we need to put all those in place, so trust me Nigeria will go far.
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