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INTERVIEW: 'Watch Out For FC Bayern Youth Cup Products In Super Eagles' 'Country Director, Edeh Talks Up Bundesliga Giants' Project

Published by Complete Sports on Tue, 10 May 2022

For the first time in the history of Anambra State, a grade A football talent hunt program was brought virtually to the their doorsteps. It was the FC Bayern Youth Cup Nigeria 2022 tournament featuring ten teams and a pool of hundred players in attendance. The project jointly sponsored by FC Bayern Munich and VOE Foundation was brought to Anambra by the Aspire Foundation.In this exclusive interview with Completesports.com in Awka, FC Bayern Youth Cup Nigeria Director, Mr. Victor Obinna Edeh, talks about the success story of the tournament.The onetime Enugu Rangers ball boy and Pepsi Academy product also speaks about other issues ranging from the need for coach education in sports development to other opportunities in football and other related issues.Interview by CHIGOZIE CHUKWULETA, in Awka.Excerpts....[caption id="attachment_278494" align="alignnone" width="400"] Edeh, working with Bayern Munich[/caption]Completedsports.com: Just three days of the FC Bayern Youth Cup Nigeria 2022 and you said you already have the number of players needed to attend the main tournament. Are you truly satisfied'Edeh: We are absolutely satisfied. Again we are not really in who becomes champion because it is about development. Otherwise, we will take the winning team and travel. But from our end, it is to pick the right blend of players. Because football sometimes is cruel. Sometimes you do everything right, but it's not your day. So this is a lesson to everyone. It's not just about winning, it is about sustaining and bringing a team together who can work. So we are very very happy to have a strong pool of twenty players. Our first ten players, we feel should be good enough to give ourselves a strong show face.Going by the previous trends, we wouldn't be surprised if any of these boys get into the national teams pools. Or watch out for all these names, there is a chance that one, two or maybe four could become professional footballers in the future.Also Read - EXCLUSIVE: How Super Eagles Should 'Reboot' After Qatar 2022 Failure 'Former FC Bayern Star, W/Cup Winner, PfluglerWe have our second list of boys for two purposes. [This is 7-A-Side football]. We like to keep a team of twenty so that we can go to tournaments and play 11by11 [11-A-Side football] proper football. So we have a team of twenty that will be in camp. We have to have backup players in case there are injuries.Unfortunately, people with Nigerian passport struggle when it comes to visas. So we have to put in application for all twenty players and hope that our best ten get granted all the visas. So that we will have a team to go and participate [at FC Bayern International Youth Cup.This is the fourth edition of the FC Bayern Youth Cup Nigeria. What is your Anambra State as host experience like'The hospitality has been magnificent. This is the first time we are actually having the national tournament with the exact dimensions that we use in Germany. In Lagos and Abuja we played in smaller pitches. Sometimes when the boys get to Germany, it feels like ok, this is different. We've been able to replicate what it would look like in Alliance Arena in Germany. We hope that the boys will be accommodated here again so that they can open up camp, they can train and we start working towards our tournament in October.You had just two full, out of the three three days of the tournament. How was that enough for you to get the best ten from the multitude that participated and what was the format'Firstly, all the teams came here by invitation. Ideally, we would have regional tournaments to select the winning team from the tournaments. Each state or region sends it's team. So that way we start having an idea. It's not just two days. We started having an idea of the capacity of these players before they get to the national finals. We didn't just have two days. We had a training session the first day. With the training session, we had the first feel of the boys, who could shoot, who could pass the ball. We set up different stations, and we were reading.Perhaps for every other person they were looking at what happened on the pitch on the two days. But we started scouting from the minute the kids walked in. The attitude, how they dressed up, how they were polite, how they were helpful, how they communicated as a team, not just footballing ability. Then we broke it down to the drills. The passing drills, the shooting drills, impact of goalkeeper, the leadership qualities. These are the things we looked at. We did not just come for activities on the field of play. There could have been maybe ten really good defenders, but we only need two defenders in our team. So that's how we arrived at our decisions.What is the essence of this competition - the FC Bayern Youth Cup Nigeria'The FC Bayern Youth Cup Nigeria is The Nigerian version of the FC Bayern Youth Cup. The Youth Cup is a tournament that FC Bayern Munich started in 2012 to give 15 and 16 year olds an opportunity to be looked at, to be identified as talented individuals. And in any country that it is hosted, the best ten players come to Germany and they are treated like professional football players. They stay at the first team hotel, they train side by side with the first team of Bayern Munich. They go and watch a game at the Allianz Arena, and to cap the experience, they meet the FC Bayern Munich players and also get to play in the Allianz Arena. So when they go away they already have the feeling of what it is to be a professional footballer at the top level. It is a motivation for them to keep developing and know that we see them as individuals with extraordinary ability and that one day facilities and the stage like this could be theirs.[caption id="attachment_278497" align="alignnone" width="400"] FC Bayern Youth Cup Nigeria champions, FC Hearts.[/caption]Since 2012, what transpired that brought the FC Bayern Youth Cup to Nigeria'We decided that we have to have a project in Africa. We already had existing projects around the world but none in Africa. In 2017, we started the qualifiers for the 2018 edition and in 2018, we had our first set of FC Bayern Youth Cup Nigerian players. It was held in Abuja, 10 players were selected and they went to Germany and they had the experience. We moved it on to the 2019 edition, it was hosted in Lagos and the players we've selected in these years have gone on to make our youth national teams.We have a player who has played at the FIFA World Cup in 2019. We have two more who played at the qualifiers for the U-17 just before the pandemic, and unfortunately, he could not proceed to the World Cup..This FC Bayern Youth Cup started in 2012 in Germany and and in 2017 you came to Nigeria. What transpired between 2012 and 2017 that led to Africa being considered' The original arrangement seemed it was tailored for Europe...I think I was privileged to be working in FC Bayern project in North America and I had attended different versions of it. Being an African, I made a very strong case for the African continent. We had Samuel Kufour who is a legend for the club who is African. In the current setup, we have a Cameroonian, we have a Senegalese who are both players of the first team. We also have players of African descent in the first team, Musiala is Nigerian, Joshua Zirkzee is of Nigerian descent as well. I made a very strong case for an African event, considering how much the African continent has contributed to FC Bayern Munich.Our biggest challenge coming to Africa was finding the right partners because the Youth Cup is a project we do with FC Bayern partners to actualize it. We didn't have any partners in Nigeria to make it happen. We searched around and couldn't find. That was a defining moment and that birthed the VOE Foundation. Before the structure of the foundation and making it formal, we had the giveaways and there was some philanthropy as well, and we supported the education of young children. We focused on sports and education because it is important. We supported it, but with the need to have a local partner that Bayern Munich trusts, so we set up that structure.What are you doing towards getting a commercial sponsor for this project'A. In terms of what we're doing to get a commercial sponsors, I think the commercial brands have to see the value and understand the value before they come on board.In Nigeria'Yes in Nigeria, because across the world, in Thailand for instance, they have regional partners and once these commercial people can see the benefits our brand can bring to their organizations - and there is a lot of benefits - once they see it, coming in to support our little project will no longer be a problem. We are grateful that in this edition, Anambra State Sports Development Commission, the Aspire Foundation have come in to support us. Friends, well wishers and families have been very key to the success of the event. Special mention to the FCT FA Chairman - they have supported us well, the Lagos State FA has supported as well.Looking at the circumstances around talents in Nigeria, what do you think should be done to properly harness them'It is very simple. Make facilities available. The kids want to play. I was fortunate in the 2019/2020 edition - we saw 10,000 kids in Nigeria and we had to select only 10.We went around 15 states in the country. In Jos we saw 8,000 kids in over two days. They want to play but infrastructure is not there. Coach education is not there.I think I should mention one thing we have been doing in the past one yearWe have been delivering free coach education sessions for African coaches every week for the past one year. A lot of Nigerian coaches are on the platform, Ghanaian coaches, Cameroonian coaches too. They log on and have the opportunity to interact with coaches that work for the FC Bayern academy. They see our philosophy, they see what we think about in the game. We have interactive sessions where they come and state their challenges. I would see teams that train, I would see teams that have 20 players and they run their training session with one ball. That is very challenging, because in the proper environment, every kid should have a ball. If you have 20 players, you should have 20 footballs at least, ideally 40.Also Read - EXCLUSIVE: 'Reasons I Brought FC Bayern Youth Cup Nigeria To Awka' 'Dr. Emeka OkekeI know that at the pitches in Lagos, we have 25 teams struggling for slots to train. If we have the right sports facilities, the right infrastructure, the talented players will rise to the top. But to do that, we have to go back to schools.For our youth national teams, suddenly players turn up and they're 17 or 18. What were these people doing when they were 10,11, 12, when they were learning the trade'. Coach education - we have a lot of coaches who don't have the right education to impact that knowledge. These kids get to 18 and they've not been given the information they needed at 10,11, 12. Football or sports education has a curriculum like every other field or endeavor, there are specific things you need to learn at 9,10,11. When they learn it, with time those things become muscle memory. But when we come down here we find 17 year olds who still need to learn the basics so we need to go back and have programs for 10 year olds, 12 year olds, 13 year olds and take them seriously.[caption id="attachment_278029" align="alignnone" width="400"] Hans Pflugler with 10 standout Nigerian youngsters selected from the FC Bayern Youth Cup Nigeria 2022[/caption]I don't think any professional teams in the NNL and the NPFL should be allowed to operate if they don't have a U-10, U-13, a U-15 and U-17 and have consistent tournaments to engage them. Our national players should come from that pool. If you're good at 10, we should develop you so that when you're 17 it becomes muscle memory.We should know the best 10 year olds, the best 15 year olds across the different geopolitical zones. Twice a year, bring them together so that we know the best 10 year olds in the country. By the time they are 17 or 18, you know what it is. We have to transition well. Our national team should have a pool of U-17's, and in two years we should see how they're developing and we don't find 5% of the previous team and it is supposed to be succesional.If you look at the last tournament, we had here, the last FIFA tournament in 2009, the Swiss team beat the Nigerian team in the final. You can have a look and see how many of the Swiss teams transitioned and made it there. I believe Neymar was in Nigeria, you can look at the German team, you can look at the amount of players that transitioned from U-17 to the national team. So we need to have that succession from 10 all the way up, that is how we will become champions. We don't win the World Cup by turning up at the qualifiers and trying to win it. The Olympic champions are made from all the efforts they put in from 10, not the effort that is done three months before the competition.What would be your advice to that kid that strives to prosper in football in the midst of poor conditions and circumstances'It is very challenging. You come to the U-17 tournament around the world and the kids are already at their clubs. So when they come, they don't have to win the tournament. Once they're done, they go back to their clubs.The Nigerian and the African boys go back and they are not developing. They're trying to find their way out of the country and then there are no visas. My biggest advice for anyone who loves sport - I have been here. I have multiple engineering degrees, I have a masters in advanced materials engineering. I specialize in material for sports equipment, there are a lot of roles in sport.I know there is football, there's coaching, there's photography, journalism, marketing and the rest. We have to build that sports ecosystem for those guys. We need to start looking at the different aspects of sports that we can engage in.The chances of being professionals even for the players in the best systems is lesser than 5%. So when you come from a system that is not ideal, it drops it to less than 1% and when you add the politicking, it's almost impossible for sporting merits to come into play. So for everyone, my advice would be to play the game for the love of the game not because you want to be a professional footballer, not because you want to make a career or travel abroad.Play the game because you love the game. I know when I am 70 I will still put on my boots and I will still play, so that will be my advice. Play for the love of the game. The best players in the world all play because they love the game. When you become a professional, it becomes like work, it become hectic, it's tiring, you put your body on the line and if you don't love the game, you will never have a long career as a professional player.Nigeria sacked German coach, Gernot Rohr, and the Super Eagles struggled and couldn't qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. what do you think about the Super Eagles' current situation' What would be your advice as the NFF look for a new coach'I know I had my coaching education in England, and in 2014 the English FA was speaking about the 2022 World Cup. They were trying to have a team capable of getting to the semi-finals of the 2022 World Cup. They weren't speaking about the 2014 World Cup neither were they speaking about that of 2018.Unfortunately, what has happened has happened. We didn't lose to Ghana, we lost on away goal's rule. It's the law of the game. On another day in Europe, the away goal rule has been eliminated so maybe this is something FIFA will consider in future events.Thankfully, the next World Cup we have to prepare for is the expanded one. We've learned that there are no pushovers in African football. So hopefully, with more slots, we will be going to the World Cup. We've missed two World Cups since we started and not just Nigeria aside, because I have been around the world and we are the best dressed at the last World Cup, and everyone is looking forward to see the flamboyant Nigerians. Unfortunately, the world has been robbed of that, but sporting merit comes first. On this case we are not successful. We have to go back, and whoever gets the job has to plan and prepare for 2026, mainly 2030, and set realistic targets.[caption id="attachment_278493" align="alignnone" width="400"] Edeh with Gernot Rohr during FC Bayern Munich academy event[/caption]In our history we have gotten up to group stage thee times, so is there a realistic way that in the next three World Cups, that we can hit the quarter-finals. Have we been successful at youth level' Let's not get ahead of ourselves and try to win the World Cup. Can we consistently be a country that gets to the second round' If we are in the top 16 in the world, we would be ranked 16. I don't know other than the time we were ranked 5th, I don't know our highest ranking again. The ranking doesn't lie, it is based on statistical data.Let's not wait for the World Cup, let's play high grade friendlies, let's get into the top 20 teams in the world. If we are in the top 20 teams, there is a chance you'll get to the second round. Senegal is the top ranked team in Africa, they're in the top 20 so it is expected that they should be in the second round. The ranking helps you to get to the finals. When you are ranked in the 30s or 40s, you are going to go against the top ranked teams.Also Read: Anambra Sports Commission Woos FC Bayern To Establish Academy In AwkaSo if you want to avoid the Germans, the Brazilians, you should get ranked higher so you avoid them in the first round. And once it's knockout football with what happened to us here against Ghana - once it's a knockout football over 90 minutes - anything can happen. We did it in Atlanta. Once you get out of the group as a top ranked team, then anything can happen. Croatia got to the final and we've seen beautiful stories of teams who did not have that plan, so you put yourself in that position so that luck can shine on you.Nigerian football followers, fans, supporters and managers do not have that patience for long time plan. How best can this be handled'If you want things to change, you have to change the things you do. If you are going to hire a coach and fire a coach, we're going to restart the project every single time. So, till we have our sports policy identified as a national pool that enshrines progression, that focuses on improving our ranking for all the age grade teams, not just the Super Eagles. We have the national teams from the U-17, the U-20s male and female. We have to have a national home for them, where they come out, where the coaches are given all the support because some games are won off the bench. We have to have a national pool. You don't invite any shining new player just because he scored three goals in the last two games. You have to have that core of your team who are going to be there for five to six years and build the team around them.From 13 to 15 you know that this is the core. There is room for exceptional players to join, but playing for the national team should be a thing of honor and pride. We should have that core and core supplement. We don't want three friendly games in a year with different pool of players. So we need to know who our players are.France won the World Cup without Ginola and Cantona, two of the top 10, 20 players in the world in their age. They didn't make the team. France won the World Cup without Benzema.What was your experience like as a ball boy for Enugu Rangers Interntional'My experience of being a ball boy for Rangers international of enugu was my first direct contact with professional football and footballers. I interacted with players from Shooting Stars, Iwuanyanwu Nationale and Gabros International who represented the country against the likes of zamalek in continental cups.I felt I was part of the team and an important one because when the team needed the ball back in play, the players depended on my ability to retrieve the ball quickly. As a Pepsi football academy player, the experience as a ball boy helped me see how professionals trained and I went away copying them.Tell us a little more about yourself...I am just a Nigerian kid who loves football and who wanted to play football. I played everywhere. l played in the church league, l played on the streets. l was a ball boy for Rangers international and fortunately for me, I got the opportunity to work at the football federation during my national youth service. And from there l moved over for my Master's Degree, education is the key.Once l moved over to England, l got opportunity to get proper coach education. I got access to teams and l was seen by the international project that Bayern was doing in North America. l worked at Sheffield Wednesday ladies. l was the coach for the U-18 ladies. I worked at Sheffield United Community Foundation.So what we do in VOE Foundation mirrors what the professional football community foundation is doing - just helping the local community, supporting education and sports. Education is key. I am currently getting my Doctorate in sports policy because I think, maybe we might need this help and someday, we can become helpful.The post INTERVIEW: Watch Out For FC Bayern Youth Cup Products In Super Eagles Country Director, Edeh Talks Up Bundesliga Giants Project appeared first on Complete Sports.
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