Edith Agoye played for Shooting Stars in their glory years and scored a goal in their 1995 FA Cup final match against Katsina United at the National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos. He left to play abroad for about five years but rejoined the Oluyole Warriors as a coach in 2013 before they were relegated in 2017.
He stayed on and learned the ropes under Franklin Howard, Fatai Amoo and Gbenga Ogunbote and has now led the team back to the top tier. He speaks with PREMIUM TIMES about the obsession of Shooting Stars to reclaim its position in the Nigerian top tier; the missing basics, and Nigeria’s Flying Eagles that ‘wobbled and fumbled’ at the 1995 U-20 African Championship hosted by Nigeria.
PT: For how long now have you been back at Shooting Stars?
Agoye: I joined Shooting Stars’ coaching crew in 2013 as an assistant to Franklin Howard and the team won promotion to the NPFL. After that, I was transferred to the feeder team, but I was promoted back to the team in June 2016. I was the assistant coach to Gbenga Ogunbote in the NPFL.
The next season, I was the head coach while Coach Fatai Amoo was the technical adviser – that was in the 2016/17 season that we got relegated. At the end of that season, I was confirmed as the substantive head coach – that was November 2017, and I have been in that position since.
PT: What was the biggest motivation for 3SC this season?
Agoye: First and foremost, the biggest motivation is the [Oyo State] governor. Since the governor came on board, he has done everything humanly possible to make sure we are comfortable so as to triumph on the field of play against any team. That is number one.
You know they say, ‘to whom much is given, much is expected’. He has done so much for us; as a club, as individuals, and we wanted to give back to him in a way of showing appreciation.
Secondly, when you are trying too hard to succeed at a task and you failed at the last hurdle the first time, you failed at the last hurdle the second time and the third time, something happened that was beyond your control – definitely, it becomes more than ambition. It becomes like an obsession. So, for this season, qualifying 3SC for the Premier League was much more than an ambition, it was like an obsession. It was like something that had to happen at all costs. We had no margin for error; we had no margin for excuses and we went for it from the beginning and we are very grateful that at the end of the season; we were able to grab it. But I must reiterate that the factor of the governor played a very big role in our qualifying for the NPFL.
PT: How much are you looking forward to playing at the refurbished Lekan Salami Stadium?
Agoye: We have been away for a year due to the renovation and refurbishment of the stadium. Everybody knows this stadium is our fortress, which is our home ground. Playing at the Lekan Salami Stadium is a sort of reassurance for us. Although I have to say that we were well welcomed in Ijebu-Ode as it was like home away from home, there is no way you will be as comfortable in a foreign space as you are on your own home ground.
Secondly, due to the fact that the stadium has been refurbished, and it looks like a world-class stadium, that is an extra motivation for us to perform whenever we play in the stadium. There is also the fact that we will be playing in the presence of our numerous fans, that is also something we are looking forward to.
PT: What is the major difference between the NNL and the NPFL?
Agoye: I coached for at least 18 months in the NPFL before 3SC was relegated and I have coached in the NNL for the last four years. I think like every second division in any part of the world, the division is a very difficult place to play. It is always very difficult because they give everything.
PT: What is the difference between the Shooting Stars you played for and the one you now coach?
Agoye: First and foremost, there is a big difference between an individual as a player and the same individual as a coach. Secondly, we have to understand that we are talking about generations. I played for Shooting Stars like 25 years ago and the generation of players at that time were quite different in every aspect of the game to the generation of players we have today. When we played, the quality of players was high, we had top-quality players in terms of technique, tactics, and physical aspects of the game. We had players who combined all these attributes. But what we find now is either a player is technically good but is not strong physically or he lacks tactical awareness. You also find ones who are physically strong but technically deficient. So, there is an important aspect of the game that is always missing in today’s players.
Then, when we played, you had all these qualities in one individual and you had three or four players in every position, who were good enough to play at any given time. Now, you find it difficult to find a real top-quality player. I think that is the major difference between the players of now and those of then.
PT: How can we train players to have all these qualities in Nigeria?
Agoye: The first thing to do is look at the problems that players nowadays are facing. Players today lack that basic training and that is always a problem for any individual, whatever profession you are in. Most of them lack basic understanding of football. This is missing in them. In Europe, you have club sides that have academies; you have football schools where football is taught right from the tender age of three, four and five.
What we find in Nigeria most of the time is players teach themselves the game, most probably on the streets. Unfortunately, most of the spaces that were available in the streets in the past are no longer available. You find primary and secondary schools without spaces, so you find out that young Nigerians are not exposed to quality football education. What they are exposed to is whatever they can get on the streets as individuals. They develop themselves on their own. They are not being taken through these basics at the fundamental period of their lives. They are not being tutored by a true professional coach. By the time they are grown, you find out they are lacking a lot of things. You see a lot of attributes missing in them and that is a very big problem.
First and foremost, let’s go back to the grassroots; let’s put a structure down and get well-trained coaches who can teach the players. These are the things that need to be done.
PT: Where did you play your best football?
Agoye: I will say Esperance of Tunisia. Because this is a club where the level is very high, much higher than what we have in most African countries, although not as good as in some European countries. But it is very close to some European leagues, like that of Belgium, Switzerland, and Austria. Esperance was also a team that played almost every year in the CAF Champions League. During my time there, we had about eight national team players of Tunisia who were regulars for their country. The level was very very high. It was a fantastic period for
PT: Why did the Nigerian 1995 U-20 team which you played in ‘wobble and fumble’?
Agoye: Actually, the most important thing is the pressure of being the host that year and there was too much pressure. The expectation was very high due to the fact that the U-17 team won the 1993 World Cup under Coach Fanny Amun and most of the players who played in 1993 were in the 1995 U-20 team. The expectation was that the team would overrun every opponent.
Secondly, the pressure of hosting the tournament was too much on us, the expectation to deliver; the expectation to perform. But the most important one – in any tournament, it is always important for you to win the first game. But in our team in 1995, the first half we were losing 3-0 but fortunately in the second half, we rallied back and drew 3-3, but there was something broken already.
We lost total confidence in ourselves; we lost belief and the reaction from Nigerians was very negative. It was extremely difficult, and that affected the psyche and belief of the players, one which we never recovered from. Also, we believed that as (designated) World Cup host; we had already qualified for the World Cup. That took a lot from us also. If you consider all these factors happening at the same time, it was too much for the players to cope with because most of us were not that exposed to deal with all these pressures.
Editor’s Note: Nigeria came third in that CAF U-20 Youth Championship, but as designated hosts, automatically qualified for the World Cup. Unfortunately, an outbreak of Meningitis in Nigeria led to FIFA moving the World Cup to Qatar and the Flying Eagles lost their automatic qualification. The two finalists in the CAF championship, Cameroon and Burundi, represented Africa.
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