Former Super Eagles Star and 3SC Football Club, Ibadan’s Team Manager, Dimeji Lawal, has explained why it is more difficult to be a team manager than a player. He spoke with LANRE OLABISI about his experiences and view on how football is being run in Nigeria as well as how poor officiating almost made him quit his job as Manager. Excerpt:
You are an ex- footballer and now you are into football management, how would you compare the two experiences?
They are two different things, when you are playing active football you are depending on yourself and your ability for the result, but as a team manager you are depending on other people to give you results. There are tactics you deploy to bring out the best in players.
What does it take to be a good manager?
There are many things you have to put into consideration, but number one thing is your environment. Every environment has its own peculiarity, for instance, when you talk of Shooting Stars Football Club, you want to talk of Manchester United in England and that makes me laugh because they are two different teams from different environments. For example, football in Nigeria is always must win, or let me say do or die while in Europe they see it as a game. In football, you win some, while you lose some.
Now, let us talk about your experience as a football manager, when would you say is your happiest day so far?
My happiest day as a football manager was in the year 2015/2016 when Shooting Stars got promoted to the premier league. It went down through hard work, dedication and discipline, we actually took over the job when the team was playing the NNL and we got the team back to the top flight.
Your saddest day?
Sad day will always come because sometimes you will feel that is the end of everything but no, when you sleep and wake up the following day you will still find out there is still hope. However, one of my toughest days was when Shooting Stars was relegated again.
Was there any moment you felt like you wanted to quit?
Yes, several times, especially the year 3SC was relegated- because we were cheated out of the premier league. I found out that most of the things in Nigerian football are based on money, not your ability or commitment towards your job or how perfect your team is. There are some people somewhere determining results of games in Nigeria. Some weeks ago, we went to play a game in Enugu and I had determined that if we lost the match, I was going to resign but we eventually won the game.
We trained people and built them for the project and we knew we were going to come out victorious in that game, because we had focus and the commitment of the team was high. So, we started the game and we were leading from the 67th minute of the game till extra time and a controversial penalty was awarded to level the score line and I told my people I was not going to continue like this. However, my boys picked the ball and scored another goal in that same minute and that changed my decision. Maybe God still wants me to continue, that was why we got that winning goal.
If you had resigned, don’t you feel your decision could jeopardize the team’s chances?
That is a very good question, but you know it is only the living that manages a team, you can’t be a manager if you are dead; and maybe one of us would have dropped dead if we had not won the match.