FORMER national team and Reggiana of Italy goalkeeper, Dosu Joseph, tells Ajibade Olusesan tales of the glorious moments of his career and the car accident that reduced him to the crutches.
How did you start playing football?
Football to me is life. I started playing football since my primary school days. Like every other kid in the street, I started kicking cans, oranges and so on. It became serious when I got to secondary school. I attended famous Igbobi College Lagos. My school was one of the best in football then and I represented the school. My first youth team was All Stars Football Club at Iwaya (in Lagos) and from there I joined Nigerlock Football Club in Agege where we won everything we were supposed to win in Ikeja Divisional Football League. Then from there I moved to Julius Berger where I became important part of the club and I am happy I helped them win the FA Cup before I left.
You burst into limelight following your performance at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in USA. You were the only home-based player in the squad despite your being largely unknown, how were you able to win first team shirt?
I was not the number one before the competition but my determination and confidence put me through. When you have a coach who believes in you as a player you don't have any problem and in this case we had a technical adviser who is a foreigner. Bonfrere Jo looked at all of us in training and said "Dosu you are going to be my number one." Maybe if he were a Nigerian it might have been too difficult for him to take the decision because other goalkeepers were great too. When you mentioned Emmanuel Babayaro and Baruwa Abiodun, they were great goalkeepers in their own right, but Bonfere said I was going to be his number one.
Many would say your victory against Brazil was the most difficult match for the Dream Team in the competition?
The most difficult game for me was the first game against Hungary because nobody expected to see Dosu Joseph in goal. And when the team list was read out to us before the game, I said God what will Nigerians say about me being in goal ahead of other goalkeepers they were used to. So I told myself what I had do is to prove myself here, and luckily for me we won the match.
Talking about Brazil you were on the verge of losing to them again in the semi final. In the first half they were two goals up and in the second half you came back to score three goals to win the match what did the coach tell you in the dressing room?
We were nagging at each other blaming one another for the situation we found ourselves after the first half because we never expected them to have scored as much as three goals against us. But Bonfrere told us to stop blaming one another but concentrate on winning the match. He told us that if we go into the second half and we don't allow them to score against us we would win the match. He then decided to change his tactics bringing in Wilson Oruma for Mobi Oparaku and we now have just three defenders. He told us to keep attacking and it paid off.
And Argentina in the final?
What can you say, after beating Brazil we were confident that we could beat Argentina too but- luckily for them they scored first, we struggled to equalise, they scored again and we equalised that too. When we scored the second goal we grew in confidence and it was not long before we scored the winning goal. It was a very good experience for us the players. Personally, I could not describe the feeling, winning Olympic gold medal for the country in my first major outing.It was unbelievable.
While you were savouring your success in USA and your move to Reggina of Italy, the most unfortunate incident happened which abruptly brought your career to an end. Can you recall how it happened?
It happened along Ikorodu road. I was travelling in the night to see my family after our Nations Cup qualifier against Kenya. I don't know how it happened, my car just veered off the road and before I could say anything the car had tumbled. I sustained serious injury from the crash. It was so horrible but I thank God that I am still alive today. Many have suffered the same fate but they are not alive to tell their stories.
Would you say you are happy with the support you got during the trying moment especially from the then Nigeria Football Association?
What can I say? Like my mum used to tell me, 'you are not brought to this world to become a liability to people'. I am not a liability to anybody. If the NFA then said we wanted to treat you, all well and good but as at the time I needed them they were not there. But I have to thank the then Lagos State governor, Colonel Buba Marwa who took me to Israel for my operation. Marwa tried for me, but for NFA they did not do anything and have not done anything up till now. I don't have anything against anybody because I have been doing well ever since.
But the Sports Ministry promised to pay you $30,000 to support your treatment, have you collected the money?
The issue has become past in my life and I don't even want to dabble into it any more, I think I have moved on from that one.
Does that supposed to mean you have been paid?
I did not say I have been paid or not. Like I said, it is one issue I don't want to talk about again, let us leave that one please.
You moved to Reggiana and you were unable to establish yourself. Any regret?
Life itself is about ups and downs. Fine I had my accident when my career was about to shine but what can I do? I just moved to Reggiana and I had hope I was on my way to becoming one of the best goalkeepers in the world and the incident happened but there is nothing I can do about it.
What is your impression about the performance of the Super Eagles so far?
I think they have started well. They started with Sierra Leone then Ethiopia and Kenya. They have scored about nine goals so far. Siasia (Super Eagles coach) is rebuilding and I think it is a gradual process; three games, three victories. For me, they have done well.
Talking about Osaze Odemwingie, the West Brom striker has criticised Siasia. How do you expect the coach to handle the so-called big boys in the team?
It is like father and son fighting; the teeth and tongue do fight once in a while and they will settle. The most important thing is that the player has come out to say he was sorry and Siasia has left it buried, which is the best thing to do. In a new team like this if there is conflict and you fail to resolve it on time it brings more troubles. When the dailies were writing the story I think Siasia and Osaze kept mum. The player apologised publicly, Siasia said we are like a family, we would keep on working together that is good and commendable.
You held sway in the middle of the stick for the national team. What is your impression about Vincent Enyeama?
Enyeama has done very well since taking over from Ike Shorunmu. He has never made anybody regret that Nigeria has no goalkeeper anymore. Since he has come to the limelight he has been nominated as one of the best in Africa. At the Nations Cup he has done his best; at the World Cup he has done his best too except when there is injury. And when you talk about goalkeepers we seem to have them in abundance because we have Dele Aiyenugba and some other guys in the local league who are looking forward to big opportunities too. For either Enyeama or Aiyenugba is capable to man the goal post for Nigeria.
Nigeria is currently trailing Guinea in Group A of the Nations Cup, do you think we can make it to the competition?
It is one step after the other. Under this new team, the first game was against Ethiopia in Abuja, which they won. The second game will be against Ethiopia again in Addis Ababa, which is also a must-win. After that we will host Guinea here, which is an opportunity for us to beat them hands down and move to the top of the group.
Nigeria will face Argentina in June, as somebody who have played against the South American country before do you see Nigeria beating them?
Yes they have great players and I can tell you we have great players too. What we need to do is to come and play like a team. People shout Messi's name, I tell you anytime he plays against the Europeans he is marvellous to watch, but when he comes to facing African teams he always finds it difficult because no African player would want Messi to mesmerize him. So Nigeria will want to prove to Argentina this time around and say we are African giants, we can beat you.