By Duro Ikhazuagbe
Former Green Eagles right-back, Sylvanus Okpala, remains one of the men behind Stephen Keshi’s success at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa.
As an ex-international who also played professional football in Portugal, Okpala fondly called ‘QuickSilver’ brought his experience to bear on the team. His stint with Enugu Rangers ensured that Okpala was versatile with the mentality of the home-based players and how to effectively utilize them at the big stage like the 2013 AFCON.
According to Keshi: “Myself and Okpala grew up together and we were pioneers of the Flying Eagles. He knows how to psyche up players too and at a moment like this, this is an important aspect to look into.”
Daniel Amokachi has remained a recurring decimal in the senior national team. Since winning the 1994 AFCON with the Eagles and adding an Olympic gold medal to his collection two years later in Atlanta, USA, Amokachi came into Nigeria’s coaching job way back in 2006 with Christian Chukwu in-charge. He was also with Berti Vogts, Austin Eguavoen and Samson Siasia. His stint in Europe with Club Brugge (in Belgium) and later Everton in the Premiership must have also prepared him for the role he is playing in the team at the moment.
Amokachi’s sojourn with Nassarawa United in the Nigeria Premier League also remains a big plus for the Benue State born ex-international.
Since joining the Super Eagles camp way back in 2005 under Christian Chukwu’s watch, Ike Shorunmu has also remained one of the stabilizing factors in the team. He remained in-charge of the goal keepers and did a massive job ensuring that Vincent Enyeama, Austin Ejide and Chigozie Agbim were in perfect shape.
After taking over the goal keeper trainer role from another ex-international, Alloy Agu, during his second coming, Shorunmu should be credited with the success of Enyeama.
The former Stationery Stores safe-hands also counted on his experience in the Swiss league for what he has impacted to the team.
This Togolese journeyman with Stephen Keshi is what Bonfrere Jo was to Clemens Westerhof. He was with Keshi in Togo and Mali. Even when the Nigeria Football Federation was not too comfortable with a foreign assistant for Keshi, the Eagles’ head coach offered to pick up Houandinou’s bills.
Insiders in the Super Eagles’ camp say the Togolese is worth every kobo he is earning from Keshi. Even Keshi’s assistants have come to realize the work rate of Houandinou and have become comfortable with the value he is adding to their job.