Life Patron of Enugu Rangers FC Charlotte North Carolina based property mogul, Benson Ejindu has asked Nigerians to give the Super Eagles support as they go out today to face Croatia promising some financial reward as he has done with the local teams, if they live up to expectation. His last advice is that they should play as a team and avoid unnecessary display of selfish football. He spoke with NDUKA NWOSU in Charlotte North Carolina.
What is your assessment of the quality of players chosen by the coach preparatory of the Super Eagles World Cup outing beginning today in Russia?
Most of the players chosen by Coach Gernot Rohr are already tested foreign players who have proven their mettle at global fiestas. That also tells me this coach is not a risk taker. He wants to get his acts right from the get go. A player of the type he has chosen has been
exposed at different times to all manner of hazards and can stand his ground no matter the consequences. The players have gone beyond being equated with local championships and the hazards of home advantage. Let me give you an example: in the days when Rangers International FC locked horns with Vasco da Gama, Vasco showed incredible strength
fighting Rangers and occasionally brought the club to its knees. But that was as far as it went. Beyond Enugu, Vasco was a different kettle of fish. Thar fighting spirit against Rangers often melted whereas Rangers could play away matches and win with ease.
Therefore the Super Eagles of 2018 going for the World Cup tournament in Russia are rugged and experienced enough to face Croatia, Iceland and Argentina. It is my hope and belief the team will survive the group matches and move on to the knock out stages.
Are you satisfied with the quality of preparation and the teams chosen to play the Super Eagles by Coach Gernot Rohr?
This team looks like one of the best prepared since 1994 when Nigeria first debuted at the World Cup tournament. You heard Mikel Obi the captain doffing his hat on behalf of the team to President Muhammadu Buhari during their visit to Aso Rock before leaving for Russia. On a comparative note the Olympic team that was prepared by Samson Siasia was a disaster from the get go, which was no fault of Coach Siasia who in fact used his own contacts, made his personal efforts and used his resources to see the team get to where it got to before its exit. This team has enjoyed the goodwill and administration of the present NFF and the Federal Government. This is cause for cheer.
Some are already speculating the distortions of the past helped to awaken the fighting spirit of the Super Eagles. This generation of the Eagles they surmise has no rallying point, nothing to wake up its daring spirit and the recent losses do not suggest it can face a formidable team as Croatia. Do you align with this line of thought or believe Rohr’s experimentation at this last minute is good for us?
I think our boys are more prepared in this World Cup tournament. What is happening now by way of exposure was what should have been done for our last squad to the Olympic soccer tournament. Unfortunately this did not happen. Rohr’s squad has played several matches it won and therefore cannot be experimenting with his team. I believe this is a young team and will go places as the years unfold. With a few more tournaments such as the African Cup of Nations, they will be better prepared for a global fiesta as this. However, for Russia 2018, the team, I am optimistic will go farther than the knock out stages. Let us agree with Rohr that nobody should write off his team based on their recent performances.
How would you compare this team with the 1994 Super Eagles squad?
How can you compare a young team like this with a 1994 squad when they have not really been exposed to a major tournament? Some people may feel comfortable with criticisms, with comparisons and passing their verdicts but I refuse to join issues with them. Let’s watch them play and then we can see how they fare.
What is your advice to the team?
They should play as a team not as individuals. Mistakes will be made and this not be a reason to be bogged down either as individuals or as a team. Team spirit not individual display of skill should be the guiding force. It should not be an attempt aimed at scoring goals simply to win applause or shine over and above the others. It is not who scored the goal or goals that should drive the team but the team work that produces the right results based on the coach’s game plan. You have to hustle for ninety minutes. The goal scorer is not necessarily the best in the field, team spirit not individual performance should be the watchword.
I have my own surprise for the Super Eagles. In addition to giving them a moral support I have a little surprise for them based on the performance they put up as the game progresses.
What’s your impression of football or soccer development in the country given our low rating by FIFA?
I don’t think we have moved forward. Move back to the 1970s and 1980s. See how Bendel Insurance came from nowhere to beat Enugu Rangers 3-0. People played football with passion and an air of patriotism and we produced the Best Ogedengbes of the IICC Shooting Stars the Emmanuel Okalas, the Segun Odegbamis and the Christian Chukwus. Today football has been politicised. The referees, generally the match officials and the administration of football in the country have been over-politicised and by extension even at the international level except that in our case there are inherent problems preventing us from moving forward and except we sit up the world is not going to wait for us. That explains why we are lagging far behind. The entire system needs an overhaul in the short and long runs. Corruption also looms large in the system affecting a lot of issues most importantly the officiating where for example the referees officiate badly. All these loopholes must be plugged if we must move forward.
As the patron of the veteran Rangers International and the current Rangers FC, you have been organising events that are turning out to be very popular in America. How consistent are you on this at least in recent times?
Of course I am. By way of update, it will interest you to know that the next re-union will be coming up in September 2019 in Boston and the familiar faces like Christian Chukwu, Emmanuel Okala and my friend Francis Monidafe of Bendel Insurance will be at the Boston Re-union.
How did your interest in Rangers FC begin?
We all grew up knowing Rangers FC. In the 1970s and 1980s. Every child in my generation grew up loving Rangers FC. In our days these club represented our equivalents of the foreign clubs European clubs we so much admire today. I also realised back here that most of these soccer legends had issues taking care of themselves especially their health
long after their active years playing football. So part of my own way of giving back to society is what I have been doing, helping to respond to the welfare of these players by inviting them over here to mark series of activities through a re-union and running a check on their health in partnership with some very successful former Rangers FC players who live and do work or do business here in the US.
Partnership with the national team is also an ideal platform that would help to improve the lot of our players just as on an individual level some of the players like Segun Odegbami who is my good friend. I would love to partner with; I would love to partner with the
national team to ensure the best of welfare package for the players while the veterans remain relevant for the period they are around. Some of our players have suffered financial humiliation and neglect and this must not be allowed to continue.
Of course I remain the Patron of Rangers FC home and abroad.
During your visit to the country in 2016 you paid a courtesy call to Governor Ugwuanyi. Was football one of the issues discussed?
We discussed football and the welfare of our players with emphasis on Enugu Rangers FC. This was happening at the time the morale of Rangers FC players was at its low. They needed some motivation, a fulfillment of promises, someone to re-awaken their sagging morale. That was what I did, I promised them the incentives they should expect and delivered once the team became vibrant again, standing on both legs. It is all about honoring a pledge. Our leaders must learn to deliver a pledge once it is made. I was physically present to motivate them and for every match they won it came with some millions plus N50, 000.00 for every individual goal scored. The boys and the team as a whole were fired into action and I got what I needed. I am glad the current Super Eagles through Captain Mikel Obi thanked President Buhari for delivering on promise in terms of welfare. I am also glad that former Super Eagles Technical Adviser Bonfrere Jo has been given the house he was promise for doing a good job for the country. This is the ideal I have been preaching about and practicing.
You are a Nollywood actor. Can you also talk about that and how you combine all this with your being an active businessman operating in Charlotte North Carolina?
Nigeria is a blessed country, blessed in virtually every department man can ask from God. Starting from football, the best soccer players come from the US but we are lacking in the area of discovery. We are very talented but many of us are yet to be noticed. Today Nollywood comes after Bollywood which ranks first followed by Nollywood of growth and output not revenue generation where Hollywood remains the king. Nigeria’s film industry, is the second-largest in the world in terms of volume. Some 2,500 films are produced annually, well ahead of Hollywood and second only to India’s Bollywood. I have featured in
about seven films with such known actors and actresses as a Nollywood director. I made my investment in him and sometimes when I am here. Mercy Johnson, Yul Edochie, Regine Daniel, Ebele Okaro, Queen Nwokoye, K Daniel, Rachael Okonkwo alia Nkoli Nwakpuda. I am also supportive of the director Onyenze, Richard Amobi also called Onyenze.
The industry is growing here in the US.
Can you again unwind your American experience?
Whatever apparent success that has so far smiled at me has happened over time. Thank God for my little Taj Mahal but as the saying goes, Rome was not built in a day. I came here as a student and went in January 1984 at the peak of winter and had a brief stint academically in New York before proceeding to North Carolina. By way of work experience I started as a dish washer, graduated to a cook and later pizza delivery staff. I graduated with an honors degree in Accounting from Shaw University in 1987, after only three years with a Masters degree also in Accounting from Strayer University in Charlotte, North Carolina. I am a licensed real estate broker with second business in Homecare. My family has been very supportive of me my mother, brothers and sisters, my beloved wife, a physician known as Yu Yu and my four lovely kids.k