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Erico reminisces on early days with record-breaking Egbo as NFF hails Albania’s new champion

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Ndubuisi Egbo (left) became the first African coach to win an European league title when he led KF Tirana of Albania to the country’s 2019/2020 championship… last week.

Unknown to many, Ndubuisi Egbo, who last week became the first African to lead an European club to a league title, would not have risen to his current heights if he was not brought to Lagos in the 1980s by former Super Eagles Assistant Coach, Joe Erico.

Egbo is currently being celebrated for leading Albanian side, KF Tirana to the country’s league title even with three rounds of matches to the end of the 2019/2020 season. The former goalkeeper will lead KF Tirana to the UEFA Champions League next season.

Yesterday, Erico described the former NEPA of Lagos goalkeeper as a good ambassador for Nigerian football, adding that Egbo has proved that given the chance the country’s coaches can hold their own against their European peers.

He said, “Ndubuisi was my goalkeeper. I brought him from Umuahia to NEPA FC in Lagos during one of our scouting sessions. And even when I became the assistant coach with the national team, he was among the five goalkeepers we invited to the national team.

“His experience in Albania is the same as what is happening here. It wasn’t easy for him breaking through the ranks in the club. He was lucky that he worked as an assistant before becoming the head coach, having played for the club as a goalkeeper for a very long time and was almost becoming an Albanian,” he said.

The former international disclosed that he had been following Egbo’s progress in Albania, adding, “Egbo’s feat is remarkable because there are a lot of discriminations over there too.

“There are a lot of other Nigerian coaches in Germany, Finland that I follow and others that are scattered everywhere. It is just that one or two of them must come out like Egbo did and he is now known. But then acceptance hasn’t been easy; it is only here that we accept people easily without looking at their profiles. What is the profile of the ones we have engaged in the past? Nothing. We simply don’t appreciate our own,” he stated.

Erico regrets that Nigerian administrators do not trust the indigenous coaches, saying they prefer foreigners for the big jobs.

“Egbo’s exploit in the Albanian league is a very good omen for the Nigerian coaches. I have so many of them scattered over there. Most of them are players I discovered.

“While they were under me, I made coaching very interesting to them and probably they too took to coaching themselves. And this is the result we are seeing from one of them. It is unfortunate we are in a country where we don’t know what is happening.”

Also thrilled by Egbo’s exploits in Albania is the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), which yesterday sent congratulatory messages to former Super Eagles star.

The NFF through its president, Amaju
Pinnick on Monday sent a message to Egbo: “I congratulate you and wish you only the best. This is also to say that we are very proud of your wonderful achievements.”

In his response, Egbo wrote: “Thank you sir, I appreciate it so much. We thank God for his Grace and goodness. It is not my achievements; it’s our achievements as Nigerians, Africans and the Black race. Glory be to God Almighty. Na God win Sir. Thank you again for the best wishes.”

In a letter dated July 20, 2020, NFF General Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi, also praised Egbo for the feat and expressed the view that the coach has laid down a marker for fellow Nigerian coaches to go out and accomplish brilliantly.

“It was with a huge sense of pride that the NFF and the entire Nigerian Football family learnt of your exemplary achievement as the first-ever Nigerian, Black and African Coach to win a major European League, as you have steered KF Tirana to the Albanian top tier championship with few matches left in the on-going season. In the process, you also became the first African to qualify a team for the UEFA Champions League competition.

“The fact that KF Tirana was unable to win any silverware since the year 2018 until your arrival in December 2019 puts your accomplishment in proper perspective.”

“Certainly, your rare character traits of sobriety, quiet confidence, seamless application and effortless brilliance, so evident in your days with the Senior National Football Team, Super Eagles, steered you and your team to glory. This achievement is no doubt a marker for other Nigerian Coaches, including your fellow ex-internationals, that by working assiduously and diligently in a noble way, they can indeed go out there and break the proverbial glass ceiling.”


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