I dropped players whose agents tried to bribe me – Bosso

Head coach of the Flying Eagles Ladan Bosso talks about how agents tried to bribe him, his Super Eagles’ dream and plans for the U-20 World Cup, in this interview with ANTHONY NLEBEM

After winning the WAFU U-20, there were expectations for the team to win an eighth African title in Egypt last month but they ended up in third place. Is it an achievement you are proud of?

I am surprised that we were unable to play in the final, but then going by what we went through, the documentation of the players was one of the reasons we did not reach our actual target. But the most important thing and the target was for us to qualify for the World Cup and we achieved that and the team is still work in progress.

The Egyptian goalkeepers coach at the U-20 AFCON in Egypt accused the Nigeria and some other African countries of using over-age players. What’s your reply to his allegation?

I am a national team coach, but I am not their (players) father. We can only work with the evidence that is made available to us and whosoever has contrary facts should bring evidence. If you look at the team that I took to WAFU U-20, we came back home and there were facts about a certain group of players on age discrepancies, about seven players, and we had to let them off. Although we were not too sure of this, but behind every rumour there is an element of truth, and for the sake of Nigeria, we had to let these players leave the team.

How were you able to pick your players and how sure are you of their true ages?

If a player comes and we discover that he has two passports and the passport he brought to us has nothing referring us to the previous passport and there are facts that the player has gone for different trials with different passports, I tell him to go back and bring their previous passport. Sometimes, I give them deadlines and if they fail to do that, I send them back.

After the submission of the 24-man team to travel for the U-20 AFCON in Egypt as well as Morocco for the training tour, three players were affected by documentation problems as regards their ages, two players failed medical tests and we had to drop all these players. And that was the reason I invited Ahmed Abdulahhi, the only overseas-based player that joined us at the match venue, that was against my wish. But then there was nothing I could do because if you invite any player from the NPFL, you have to start from square one. Ahmed was an integral part of the team in Niger when we won the WAFU B U-20 and that was why I was confident that he had no issues with his documentation; that is why I apologised to Nigerians because I said no player based abroad will meet the team at the competition venue, but because of the issue of documentation, I had to look for him immediately. Most of the players, particularly the ones from the NPFL, could not justify themselves. Those that played below standard and my expectations were mostly the players from the NPFL.

Before the tournament, there were accusations of agents bribing you with millions of naira to include their players in your squad. How true is this allegation?

I want anybody to come out and say his player made my team because he paid me money. People wanted to indulge us with money to use their players, but we sacked their players to avoid national embarrassment. So, the issue of bribery is not true, as a national team coach and in charge of the U-20 national team, I want to see myself in the Super Eagles on merit and the only way I can see myself coaching the Super Eagles is to do well with this team, so, that me and the players can be promoted. These are the kind of things that I am looking forward to and that is my target.

This is your third stint in charge of the U-20 team. Why have you not progressed to the U-23, CHAN Eagles or Super Eagles? Are you not worried about this?


I am not too worried about it, I believe that God’s time is the best. I recommended Salisu Yusuf for the Super Eagles job, because when former Nigeria Football Federation president, Amaju Pinnick, first came in in 2014, I was the first person he called to manage the Super Eagles, but then I had already signed my contract with Abia Warriors. I had to inform him that I had a contract with another team and told him Salisu could equally do it. Salisu and Ben Iroha were my assistants when I was coaching the U-20 side in 2008/09.

Ahead of the World Cup, a lot of people have criticised the team. Are you thinking of bringing in new players or stick with your old players?

No doubt about that, we have seen what happened in Egypt, and we know the problem of our team. But I want to assure Nigerians that there won’t be any automatic shirt for anybody. The players that went to Egypt will have to fight for their jerseys. We knew where we ran short of expectations and we are beaming our searchlight on those areas and players that played below expectations. Most of the players that went to Egypt all played and everyone has seen them play, we went there with 21 players and everybody played. We started badly against Senegal, but picked up and we won our last two group matches against Mozambique and Tunisia. The Flying Eagles of today is still work in progress ahead of the World Cup. The more matches we play, the better the team becomes.

Ahead of the 2009 U-20 World Cup in Egypt, you were sacked, after qualifying Nigeria for the World Cup, and Samson Siasia brought in to replace you. That team got to the second round of the competition. Do you think if you managed the team at the World Cup, you would have done better?

That was the greatest mistake that Nigeria or the people in charge of football made at that time. I know the people that worked against me for Siasia to take over the team from me. Most of these people are out of the system now, but Bosso is still relevant in the system. That was the team that I qualified for the World Cup against all odds, it was a team that during the qualifying series, Sudan was the last team we played. We defeated them 5-0 at home, I travelled to Sudan with only 12 players with myself and the team doctor and we qualified. But for me to return and the team was collected from me and given to somebody else, you don’t expect me to be happy about it and nobody will be happy about it either. But that is life for you, a coaching job is about sacking and hiring, so we should all be ready for it.

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