This Day (Lagos)

30 September 2012

Nigeria: Oliseh - '94 World Cup Loss to Italy a Blessing

Photo: This Day
Ex-Super Eagles captain and Olympic champion Sunday Oliseh

Ex-Super Eagles captain and Olympic champion Sunday Oliseh has said that Nigeria's painful loss to Italy at the USA '94 World Cup should be seen as a blessing in disguise. Oliseh said this during the week at the Soccerex Seminar Lagos which ended on Friday after two successful days of networking and cross-pollination of ideas between football administrators, former internationals, sports marketers and other lovers of the game.

According to Oliseh who said he saw the glass as half full rather than half empty, there was no way Nigeria could have won the Olympic men's football gold medal at the Atlanta '96 Games without the previous experience of losing the second round game against the Azzurri when victory seemed assured with only a few minutes to go.

"Those of us who played at the World Cup two years earlier -p layers like myself, Jayjay (Okocha), Uche Okechukwu, Daniel Amokachi, Emanuel Amunike and others - kept believing that a match was not over until the final whistle had gone because of the way we lost to Italy.

"This was responsible for our victories in the semi finals and final against Brazil and Argentina when we had to come from behind to win in both matches," he said.

Oliseh bared his mind on a number of issues, including the misconception of late striker, Rashidi Yekini who he insisted was not a complex character but rather "misunderstood". "Rashidi wasn't too good at expressing himself so he resorted to not talking much. It was the same reaction he had when he felt betrayed; he kept quiet."

Oliseh is still in awe of Yekini's prowess. "Many people call me pass master till today but the truth is if Yekini didn't finish those chances, nobody would remember me that way. So I would say Yekini actually made me. I've played with so many strikers including Allesandro del Piero but Yekini is the best striker I've ever played with," Oliseh who had a glittering career with Juventus, Ajax Amsterdam, Borussia Dortmund among other teams said.

Apart from Oliseh, the Soccerex Seminar Lagos had other notable ex-internationals as speakers including World and European champion, Christian Karembeu of France, Pierre van Hooijdonk of the Netherlands, Sammy Kuffour of Ghana and Cameroonian goalie, Joseph Antoine Bell.

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