Despite his huge successes on and off the pitch, Mutiu Adepoju ranks high among humble achievers who have played for the Super Eagles. The Headmaster tells PREMIUM TIMES why he is slow at embracing a coaching role even though he is qualified for one.
Adepoju also speaks on his role as LaLiga ambassador in Nigeria and how he is using that to help football development in the country.
The former Super Eagles star also speaks on other varying football-related issues.
PT: Many of your teeming fans have been wondering why you choose to keep a low profile despite your wealth of expertise and experience as a sports administrator. Why are you not embracing a career in coaching like other ex-internationals?
Adepoju: (Laughs) There are times when one just needs to bottle in. The fact is that I’m an ambassador of LaLiga and I’m enjoying my job in that capacity. I don’t have any problems with any position or something. As for the NFF, I was part of the technical committee in 2018 and I don’t think the technical committee is still functioning now. I’m trying to do my thing and really enjoying being LaLiga ambassador for now. I have a UEFA Pro licence as well as a certificate in sports administration which puts me in a good position to take up any position in the nearest future.
PT: You just mentioned UEFA Pro licence, do you plan to embrace coaching in the nearest future?
Adepoju: I’ve not given it a thought because I did not have the opportunity probably because of what I’m doing now, but why not if the opportunity comes up.
PT: For the sake of clarity, how has Laliga partnership with Nigeria football impacted the lives of footballers in the league and grassroots?
Adepoju: Yes it has impacted a lot. A lot has happened since 2016 when LaLiga partnered with Nigeria Premier League and I can assure you a lot of good things will still happen. For example, in 2016, some players in the league traveled to Spain where they played friendly matches with Valencia, Atletico Madrid for better exposure. Besides, some NPFL club owners and managers were in Spain for seminars on how the game is run and how to manage facilities. Also, a business model of LaLiga was also given to them. Besides, top LaLiga coaches were invited here to give seminars to our U-15 coaches and organise U-15 tournaments too. As at last year, two of NPFL U-15 players traveled to Spain, Malaga to be precise for training and all that. I believe things are working and LaLiga is really doing a lot to move football in Nigeria.
PT: Still on Spanish LaLiga, how would you rate the overall performance of Nigerian players in that league? Would you say Chukwueze, Etebo Ramon, Omeruo and Awaziem lived up to expectations in the just concluded season?
Adepoju: Yeah, I’m very excited about what they’re doing. Chukwueze, Etebo, Azeez, Omeruo, and Awaziem all did so well, it was just unfortunate that Leganes failed to escape relegation. The players did their best and I’m equally proud of them too. I’m looking forward to seeing more Nigerian players in Laliga.
PT: Talking about Super Eagles, some schools of thought feels the emergence of talented youngsters has to do with much hard work from Rohr’s scouts. Cynics believe it would have been another way around with indigenous coaches in charge. Where do you stand on this?
Adepoju: I think it’s not about having a foreign coach around, but some indigenous coaches love to do things right too. They can do all that too. It is not the foreign coach who discover players, of course, the players are there but it is up to you to give them an opportunity. Once the right thing is done, you can scout and discover players from any league. Just like what Rohr is doing with Nigeria now; he has a pool of players to pick from and that is good for the country. Nigeria is witnessing a generational increase of talents in Super Eagles and many more are still going to emerge and that is good for Nigerian football. The only problem we have now is to make the league viable, attractive, and strong enough to produce talents needed by Rohr. Once we put the right machinery in place and run the league like professionals do, foreign clubs will come for our players.
PT: You’re known as Headmaster simply because of the way you scored most of your goals, but Nigerian players hardly do that these days. Would you say the problem is from coaches, players, or is it a generational problem?
Adepoju: Well, I don’t know but I think it depends on the development of the player; what they are taught and what they train with go a long way to shape their talents. It is different if something becomes your talents naturally but if it’s what you have to learn, then you need to train hard to develop it. You still need to develop your talents anyway, but it all depends on how you train and what the coach is able to impart to you during the developmental stage of your game. I think it has to do with the way we develop our players in this part of the world.
PT: Osimhen is now a Napoli player, what are your candid advice for the ex-Lille striker?
Adepoju: It is a good move for him because I see it as a step higher for his career. All I can just tell him is to keep working hard to justify the huge amount Napoli spent to sign him on. He should score more goals and show the stuff he is made up of. I’m just happy for him.
PT: Chukwueze has also been linked with a move away from Laliga. Would you advise him to remain in Spain and patiently develop his game before making any money-spinning move away from Villareal?
Adepoju: I think that will depend on what he really wants as a person. Why not if a big club from Laliga comes calling and if it has to do with a move away from Spain, he should be allowed to make that decision. I just wish the young man all the best in his pursuit of greatness.
PT: Do you agree with some schools of thought who believe Lionel Messi is square pegs in Barca’s round hole given the way he influenced appointment of managers?
Adepoju: I won’t say Messi is the problem with Barcelona, rather I feel they’re going through an era whereby new players are brought into the team and its takes time to adapt. It is a problem of understanding, ego, and transition. Real Madrid once faced similar problems too at a point in time. The departure of Xavi and Iniesta has left a huge vacuum in Barca’s midfield that incoming players find difficult to fit in. Don’t forget there will be ego and dressing room problems too. All of these put together could be some of the reasons for Barca’s decline.
PT: Can you give us an inside picture of what is happening as far as Shooting Stars Sporting Club (3SC) of Ibadan is concerned?
Adepoju: Well, I won’t be able to give you details of what is happening at the club for now. I left the club since 2012 and since then, I really don’t have much info on the club because I’m no longer an insider. But I can confidently tell you based on what I was told that the government have been doing everything possible to support the club. I mean the club is not having any financial problems. The only problem has to do with the suspended league in December due to Covid-19. In fact, the club was leading their group table in the NNL before the lockdown, probably they would have gained promotion to NPFL. It is quite unfortunate that the league has been canceled due to the outbreak. The club has been enjoying the support of the government, I hope things continue in that direction.
PT: Thank you for your time.
It’s my pleasure.