Nelson Osayi is the proud father of Super Eagles defender Bright Osayi-Samuel. Though based in Turkey, Mr. Osayi has temporarily relocated to Abidjan for the African Cup of Nations to support his son.
In this exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES in Abidjan, Mr. Osayi shares anecdotes and perspectives on a range of topics, from the deep-rooted passion for football within their family to the remarkable journey of his son’s career.
PT: Why are you in Cote d’Ivoire?
Osayi: I’m a Nigerian; I came here to ginger my boys up. They are all our boys, including my son. We are taking the cup back to Nigeria. That’s why I’m here. I’ve been travelling with my son everywhere.
PT: Can you tell us a bit about you? We know you also played some football.
Osayi: I came from a football family, and I played for a team during my time. I played against [Henry] Nwosu and others. I told God that when I have a child, my son will play football as well.
PT: Did your son love to play football or did you have to force or beg him?
Osayi: He [Bright] was born to become a footballer because, right from when he was young, he liked to go with me to the stadium. When I want to go and watch football, he goes with me every time. He has been playing football in small clubs, and he has been doing fine. I had to follow him, ginger him, and encourage him a lot—me and the mother—to where he is now.
PT: How did you feel when your son first wore Nigeria’s colours?
Osayi: Before then, he had no Nigerian passport; the Nigerian government had to send the Nigerian embassy from Istanbul and give him his passport. They did the passport for him in his apartment. We are happy that the Nigerian government saw him. We, the parents, were happy, the sisters were happy, and his friends were also happy. I was happy when he played a friendly match against Portugal, and from behind he caused a penalty. Since then, they have been inviting him to the national team.
PT: When you watch your son play, do you discuss his performance since you were also once a football player?
Osayi: We do that for one hour after every match. Even at his club level. I’m always in the field with my pen and paper. Whenever he gets home, even on our way, we discuss it. Football is our life; we cannot live without football. My life, my family, my ladies, and my wife are all football. Even my wife will tell him where he made a mistake, and, as a footballer, we say that about one hour after every match.
PT: Aside from football, what else keeps you busy?
Osayi: All sports. On my TV, the only channel that is there is sports. In my house, even my wife loves sports. I don’t listen to the news, only sports.
PT: We have Bright now; should Nigeria be expecting to see more Osayis playing for our various national teams?
Osayi: They are still young, so let’s wait and see. It may happen soon, so I don’t want to start saying it now.
PT: What is your take on the growing number of players born in the diaspora coming to play for Nigeria
Osayi: During our time, it was difficult because football was not as it is now, and during our time, our parents didn’t allow us to play football, and we always forced ourselves. This time around, we allow our children.
During our time, nobody encouraged us. They believed football was just for the garage boys, but now we encourage our children, and that’s why it differs from our time. I love it. Do you see how many Nigerians are there? So many kids born by Nigerian fathers and mothers are there, and they are good players.
Some of them don’t want to play for Nigeria because they are afraid of Nigeria. I am Nigerian; I remain Nigerian, and my children are Nigerian. I married a Nigerian lady, so we are all Nigerians. No matter what happens in Nigeria, I’m Nigerian, so when my son said he wanted to play for Nigeria, I said go ahead, and we are here.
PT: How are you looking forward to seeing Nigeria and your son at the next World Cup?
Osayi: Africa has more space now in the World Cup. What will make Nigeria not be in the World Cup? It would be a shame after they have added more space for us in the World Cup, so why would Nigeria not be there?
According to what they are playing now, the boys are determined, so I see no reason they cannot be in the World Cup. It’s already done. With this squad, I know we are already there. Nothing can stop us. If we are not in the World Cup, I think I would stop watching football.
Why not? We have the material. There are still some Nigerians there who play in some clubs. I can mention some boys like Eze and others who are good footballers whose mothers and fathers are Nigerians. They are there; bring them down to Nigeria, and Nigeria will be okay. The World Cup is ours if you bring all those boys down, and these boys we have now, and with the form they are in now and the coach, why not?
PT: Do you think this coach is doing a good job?
Osayi: How do you form a team? You call players from different places, and they play for two days and go back. It’s now that they combine themselves, and that’s why you see them playing well. To get a national team, you have to keep the team together for some time and get a coach. No coach can make a miracle if players come for two days and go back.
You call them from different places, and they come and stay together for two days. The few times that they stayed together, now look at what happened. I don’t think it’s the coach’s problem, but it’s about bringing the boys together so that they will know how they each play.
Look at Osimhen and Lookman. When Osimhen goes, Lookman follows. When you call them today and they play tomorrow, it’s not the fault of the coach. Give him time. Whoever is working today cannot work a miracle. Give him time to groom these players together and let them know themselves. After this tournament, Nigeria will have one of the best squads because now they know themselves very well, and with some new players among them, they are okay.
For me, changing coaches is not the issue; it’s about bringing the players together to know themselves, be together, go out together, and eat together. This team is good.
PT: How do you relax? What are your favourite food, musician, and actor?
Osayi: I don’t think I have a favorite actress, and I don’t think I have a favorite musician. I’m happy there are Nigerians in Europe, and even foreigners play Nigerian music in their stores. I love it. But for me, I don’t have time when they come to Istanbul and start running around. I love the music, I’m proud I’m a Nigerian when they are playing it, and I’m proud when I see white people dancing to it. I love it.
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