After his heroics at the 1996 Olympic Games where Nigeria emerged as the first black country to win the gold medal in Olympic football, Dosu Joseph signed with then Serie A club Reggiana. Unfortunately, he never got to make an impact in Italy and was forced to hang his boots at a young age of 23, due to his career-ending automobile accident.
Twenty-four years later another Nigerian, Victor Osimhen has signed for another Italian club and Dosu is sure the striker will be a hit in Italy.
Dosu who over the years runs a football academy Westerlo also shares his expertise on some issues around goalkeeping and goalkeepers in Nigeria national team.
PT: You successfully steered Westerlo football academy into becoming one of Nigeria’s best football club to have produced top stars. How’s Westerlo fairing now
DOSU: Westerlo was formed in 2002 and since then we’ve been existing and giving God the glory. Up till now, we are where we expect to be; producing players for the league and national team as well as European clubs. Everything that has happened is all to the glory of God and not to the glory of man.
PT: You must be disappointed that Emmanuel Emenike could not settle down to life at Westerlo (a Belgian Football Club which Dosu’s Academy is affiliated to).
DOSU: Yes, I was informed by Westerlo before they signed him. I know Emenike very well as a good player who can score goals and help the club achieve great things but unfortunately, it doesn’t work out. It’s like marriage, anything can happen but if it doesn’t happen you just make sure both of you leave in peace. Of course, if it doesn’t work out at Westerlo it can work out elsewhere. Like I said earlier, he is a disciplined player but it was just unfortunate he couldn’t stay at Westerlo.
PT: Osimhen is on the verge of signing for Napoli. What are the pitfalls Osimhen must avoid to join the long lists of Nigerian players who succeeded in Italy?
DOSU: Osimhen has seen the ups and downs of football. He struggled when he started and learned a lot because he started as a youth player. He has been to many clubs and knows what it means to be a professional but he is enjoying it now in France. With his performance scoring goals week in week out for his club, he is now moving to Italy where Nigerians will be opportune to watch him on TV. Osimhen will surely leave a good legacy in Italy. I just pray he continues scoring goals.
PT: The goalkeeping department has continued to send tongues wagging since the last World Cup in Russia and AFCON 2019. Would you say Nigeria is going through a dearth of goalkeepers?
DOSU: I believe Nigeria has never lacked good goalkeepers. We can go back to yesteryears and I still remember Rigogo, Okala brothers, Best Ogedengbe, Fregene, Ike Shorunmu, Alloy Agu, Agbonevare and so on. After Ike came Enyeama and Enyeama ruled Africa, not just Nigeria. He was Nigeria’s best goalkeeper for 14 years and he did so well for his club before he retired. After he left, from nowhere came Ikeme, then we have Akpeyi, Uzoho, Ezenwa Okoye and Dele Alampasu; that guy has been looking forward to that opportunity but he hasn’t got it. We’ve also invited a guy from Germany. There are lots of good goalkeepers but our goalkeepers need our encouragement. Once we’re patient with them, we will get the best from them. Look at the question you asked now that we lack goalkeeper, my brother na lie. Even in the league we still have good players.
PT: Do you agree with a school of thought who feel Alampasu’s choice of League has been his biggest undoing?
DOSU: I don’t and at the same time yes. Aside from other goalkeepers that have been invited apart from Ikeme. We know the division Okoye was in Germany. Uzoho was not number 1 when he was invited to the national team but was in the second division in Spain before he left for another club. It’s all about the opportunity but once you’re good you’re good to go. Give them an opportunity and if he is not good we can let him go. You can begin to consider the strength of their during Shorunmu and Rufai and Dosu Joseph era but not in this dispensation because there was stiff competition back then. We’ve seen lots of our players at lower division being given the opportunity to play. Even home-based players too can perform too If given the opportunity. We’ve seen lots of home-based players break into the Super Eagles before club came around to scout them. Life is all about opportunity not just in football but in everything we do.
PT: Talking about Super Eagles, how far do you think the team can go when AFCON 2022 qualifiers eventually kick-off next year?
DOSU: There is nothing like how far anymore, we’ve seen how far they went at the last Nations Cup where they emerged third. This time they have the experience and what it means to qualify and win. They’re young boys and the last Nations Cup was just like an experiment for them; they went, deliver and couldn’t get to the final but returned with the bronze, but now, It’s either the trophy or nothing. The experience is there already and we have watched them week in week out at their respective clubs. This time around it’s all about the Nations Cup.
PT: Who actually inspired your career choice of becoming a goalkeeper?
DOSU: My brother was a goalkeeper and I used to watch him with Alloy Agu because we grew up in the same area. I used to be their ball boy. I grew up in the hands of Joe Erico and he did prophesy that one day I would be in goal for Nigeria. The rest is history now.
PT: Do you think Super Eagles gaffer Gernot Rohr was right when he said the league is not producing quality players?
DOSU: Well it depends on what you want; we’ve had Late Amodu Shaibu and Keshi in their tenure as Super Eagles manager. We’ve seen the quality of home-based players they invite. Even when Oliseh was there if 20 professional are coming at least five home-based will be invited. On the day of the match, we will see like four dressed. It’s all about what you want. We can’t really blame Rohr because most of the time, the league has suffered in all those three years he’s been at the helms of affairs. It’s either the league is on hold when Super Eagles are playing or the league is on suspension when the lists of invited players are released or the league has finished when the national team wants to play. That is why we keep on seeing Ezenwa alone being invited by Rohr. But if the league is well organised as it used to be years back, we will see a lot of home-based players in the national team. I started as a homegrown and was invited to the national team. Finidi and Taribo West are good examples. We all started at home, got invited to the national team and from there we went to Europe. Our league should be on TV. Good sponsors should come so that we can watch our league at the comfort of our homes like we watch the Europeans. Then Nigerians will be able to tell if truly our home-based players are good enough to play for the national team.
PT: How’s your relationship with Oliseh now?
DOSU: He remains my brother, my friend, call him anything, he is somebody I love. (Paused) We started from nowhere; from youth, we kept on growing with that self-belief. He went to Europe and tried as much as he can to ensure I came over the following year but it didn’t work out. At the end of the day, he ensured that I had a contract with Reggianna. Irrespective of what anybody says about him, we all live in a world where we have our different opinions to life but he remains my friend. Nigeria should take it easy. He has helped this country. He has made lots of sacrifice for this country. Even though he came to work for the national team but it didn’t work out, he remains our brother. His name cannot be forgotten when the history of this country is mentioned. I remember the winning goal against Spain at the World Cup, that goal was for Nigeria. Let’s just love him.
Tunde Eludini is a graduate of the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, Nigeria where he studied International Relations. He is a Senior Correspondent coordinating the sports section for PREMIUM TIMES. Twitter: @tundeyeludini