I Thought Fashola Would Be A Footballer


Many Nigerian football coaches today are relegated to the background not because they are not good enough, but they are not given the necessary support to succeed in their jobs.

Nigeria has produced coaches who have brought international laurels to this country in the past. One cannot forget the likes of  the  Yemi Tella, who made Nigerians proud by winning FIFA U-17 World Cup  in South Korea 2007 and Fanny Amun, who won the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Japan 1993.

The former Nigerian international and Super Eagles player, Samson Siasia also led Nigeria to the final of FIFA U-20 World Youth Championship in Holland in 1995. Though, he did not win the trophy, he gave Nigerians hope of a bright future. When he Nigeria to the football event of Beijing 2008 Olympics, he returned to Nigeria with a silver medal.

This is to emphasize that Nigerian coaches can perform well if they are given enough support to prepare their teams.

But, despite their achievements at international and continental levels, some of them are still living in abject poverty. Many coaches have lost their lives not to old age, but to hunger and lack of proper treatment.

Coach Sunny Patrick Ewodagbe is not an exception. case. Patrick has spent almost 35 years as a professional coach but has nothing to show for it.  While narrating his experience with PM Sport, he described how the job has made him poorer compared to his counterparts in other professions.

In an emotion laden voice, he said he once played the round leather game before he became a coach in the early 80s. But now he regrets taking that decision. If he were to come to this world again, he would not go for a coaching job.

“I played for a club called Mandillas FC in 1974. I also played for the defunct VIP FC, formerly Obanta FC. Alabi Essien was our Chief Coach, I spent some seasons there.  I also got an offer from Gombe United where I spent two seasons before I quit the game,” said Patrick, who disclosed that a knee injury denied him the opportunity to play for the national team.

After quitting active football, because of his love for the game, Patrick shifted his focus to coaching, which he started with the defunct Nigeria Air Force team. He qualified the club from the Lagos State League to the National League. Later, he moved to Athletico FC in 1978.

After his experience with Nigerian clubsides, he took his coaching career to higher institution in the country. Patrick took Lagos Polytechnic to NIPOGA held in Kaduna, but did not win gold medal of the football event at the Games. He lost to the hosts, Kaduna Polytechnic 1-2 in the final.

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Because of his achievements, he got an offer in Igbobi College in 1981 where he met Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, who was a student of the school. The Edo State- born coach was surprised when Fashola became a lawyer and the governor of Lagos State because he thought Fashola would have become a great football player .

“I won the Principal’s Cup for Igbobi College in 1984 when we defeated Ansar Ur -Deen College 3-1 in the final. I had the opportunity to coach Fashola in 1982 in the Principal’s Cup of that year. We were defeated 0-1 by St. Gregory College of Lagos Island in the semi final. It was a painful experience because we played well, but we lost to a better side,” he said.

Describing Fashola’s performance in the 1982 Lagos Principal’s Cup, the coach of Iwuanyanwu FC of Ifako-Ijaye told P.M. Sport that Fashola was an outstanding player in the match against Ansar Ur-Deen College of Isolo in the quarter final. Fashola scored two goals in that particular game.

“Fashola was a great player when he was in Igbobi College. We defeated Ansar Ur-Deen College 3-1 in the quarter final before we lost our semi final against St. Gregory College. I am surprised though happy today that the same Fashola, who played under me is now a governor of Lagos. To be candid during that time, I thought Fashola would be a great player because he was one of the outstanding players during his set,” he said.

Asked what his relationship with Fashola was during that time.  “Honestly, Fashola was a good midfielder and radical player so to say. He did not like cheating and gave his best when we were playing. I used to shout at him whenever he didn’t play well. But today, he is a governor. I would have been a happy man if he had played for the national team before he joined politics. Nevertheless, I’m happy for him today,” he said.

Unfortunately, despite the achievement Patrick recorded in his coaching career, he languishes in poverty. He lives in one room apartment at Ifako- Ijaiye and his wife always quarrel with him because he is not a successful professional coach.

“I am tired of this job.   I have taught many players that have made it in life but none of them remembers me. I am looking forward  to a day I would meet Governor Fashola and tell him about my story. Currently, I coach Iwuanyanwu FC of Ijaiye. I always train my team at the Teachers Training College, Ifako-Ijaye,” he said.

He would have handled big clubs in Nigeria in the past but  does not have godfathers and this has denied him such opportunity.

“All I need now is to seek the support from governor Fashola because I have heard that the governor has helped some coaches in the past,” said Patrick, who wants Nigerian coaches to be paid good salary during their lifetime.

—Sunday Akintoye

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