Jonathan Akpoborie has described the late Joe Erico, who died in Lagos on Wednesday, as a coach ahead of his time.
Akpoborie won the inaugural FIFA U-17 World championship in 1985 and played under Erico at Julius Berger in the national league in 1985.
Akpoborie , a vehement critic of the coaching system of local teams and the national teams, in an interview with Premium Times, Thursday, however, revealed that Erico’s coaching methods and philosophy were the foundations that laid a successful professional football career for him.
“What I gained from Joe Erico-I believe everybody that left did not get the same thing,” Akpoborie opened up on U-17 national team mates who left Julius Berger when Erico was appointed.
Some of the players who left Julius Berger then were Binebi Numa and Hilary Adichi, who left for Flash Flamingoes of Benin.
“The training was career-defining,” Akpoborie revealed.
“We were in pre-season at that time. It prepared me for my professional journey. I had never seen anything like that before. He kept telling us, ‘that look, wherever you are going, you will always remember me-you will thank me.’
“And every pre-season I had in my professional career [1987-2002], I always remembered Coach Erico.”
What made Coach Erico different
“The trend of playing from the back was one of his principles, way back in 1985. It was rare for the Julius Berger FC goalkeeper to kick long. We had to progress the ball from defence to midfield and then into forward areas,” Akpoborie revealed.
“This was exactly Erico’s version,” Akpoborie added.
Coach Erico gained the sobriquet, ‘Jogo-Bonito’ because of this brand of football while they nicknamed Julius Berger the Lagos Brazilians.
Another defining characteristic was the ability to keep his emotions away from his professional decisions. “He could separate his personal issues from every other thing. My background, my principles-he shaped it.
“Whilst he might quarrel with you outside the pitch the next thing, he is talking to you on the field as if nothing happened. And after the training, he will remind you he is still not happy with you. A lot of Nigerian coaches cannot separate their personal issues on and off the field. These were the qualities that set him apart,” Akpoborie added.
Erico kept goal for the Nigeria national team between 1968-1976.
He was also a part of the Green Eagles that won Nigeria’s first medal at the Africa Cup of Nations Cup tournament in 1976.
Also, he was a part of the coaching team that helped take Nigeria to the final of the 2000 AFCON and, along with Shaibu Amodu and Stephen Keshi, qualified Nigeria for the 2002 AFCON and the FIFA World Cup.
Incidentally, both Amodu and Keshi have equally passed away. In fact, Amodu’s death came three days after that of Keshi in June, 2016
At the time of his passing, Erico was 72.
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