Although he failed in his bid to coach the Super Eagles, Maurice Cooreman, the Belgian who has managed more than eight clubs in the Nigerian Premier League, NPL, is still confident that one day, he will call the shots as coach of the senior national team. In this chat with Shot! in Gombe where he has been unveiled as Technical Adviser of Gombe United, the coach spoke on his experiences as coach of Nigerian clubs and his dream to coach the Super Eagles. Excerpts:
You have handled many clubs in Nigeria and now you are with Gombe United. What would you like to achieve here?
You have said I handled so many clubs in Nigeria and it is true. Gombe United is actually my ninth club in this country. I have a lot of experience coaching Nigerian clubs. I handled clubs like Gabros, Nigerdock, Lobi Stars, Ocean Boys, Enyimba, Kaduna United and most recently Warri Wolves. This makes Gombe United my ninth club. With Gombe, I am not under any form of pressure. I am confident Gombe United will do very well in the league and the Federation Cup. If all things go according to plan, I see Gombe playing continental football again.
In specific terms, has any target been set for you by the management of Gombe United?
No! no!! I have no target and I have no pressure. The management of the club and Executive Chairman of Gombe Sports Commission, Malam Farouk Yarma is satisfied with the way we are working. They like what we are doing at the moment. We have played few friendly matches and it is highly encouraging. In few days from now, we are going to know the old players who want to stay with us and then we would begin to negotiate with the new players.
Are you going to overhaul the team by bringing in many new players to replace the old ones?
I don't think I will go about re-building Gombe United when there is no need to do so. If you look at a club like Manchester United, the coach does not bring in so many players. I have met good players on ground here and I will bring in just few so as to have a complete team.
It is an open secret that each time you left a club you coached, it was because of money problems. What is actually the problem?
You know in every club I had a contract but most clubs here don't like keeping to contractual agreement. For instance in Kaduna united I had a contract but they did not pay me. I have done everything and they must pay me. The matter is before the arbitration panel in Abuja. They must pay me. All the clubs that owed me, paid in the end. Ocean Boys paid, NPA paid me, so Kaduna United too must pay. They all paid me when I did the necessary thing with the NPL.
But what have you done here in Gombe United to avoid a repeat of the problems you had elsewhere?.
I have a lot of friends who are coaches and I know everything that is happening. Gombe United is my ninth club and every club is government team. With government clubs, you must have a little problem because the government must release money but here when signing my contract Mr. Farouk said I will have no problem in Gombe United. I believe him because he is a gentleman.
You once applied to coach the Super Eagles but you were not appointed, what happened?
I applied for the Super Eagles job after the sack of Siasia but nobody gave me a chance to come and explain everything because everybody wanted Stephen Keshi. I was not given a chance. Now he has qualified Nigeria for the nations Cup and we hope he will do the nation proud in South Africa.
But are you still interested in coaching the Super Eagles?
In Nigeria you hope every time but I am not getting younger. Every year, the years go by. I have already done 13 years in Nigeria and I am not getting younger. I cannot wait till when Jesus Christ comes. I hope that one day, I will sit on the bench of the Super Eagles.
Apart from the Super Eagles, do you see yourself coaching any of the junior national teams?
During my problems with Kaduna United, everything was arranged for me to handle the Super Falcons but I waited and waited, nothing happened. When I received the offer from Warri Wolves, I moved. In Nigeria, you may wait and wait and then discover that you don't have a job.
Having been around for 13 years, what is your candid assessment of the Nigerian Premier League?
The organization is very poor. Nobody knows when then league would start. It is not like you see in Europe. Here it is a different thing. In Nigeria, we may start in December, we may not start in December. And when the league starts, you play Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. They keep the players under so much pressure and stress. Players are not robot. The big problem we have is the travelling because from Gombe to Aba is not easy to cover by road. I don't understand the way organizers of the Nigerian league here do their things. Like now you need a prophet to say when the league will start, unfortunately we are not prophets. It is only people of the NPL who know when the league will start.
Among the numerous Nigerian clubs you have handled, which of them did you enjoy most?
I enjoyed all the teams where I worked because we played very good football. When I was in Gabros, we played good football all the time. We did not go on relegation. Everybody was happy but the chairman sold fifteen players because it is a private company and he needed money. In all the clubs, I think the most fulfilling experience was in Ocean Boys because Ocean was coming from second division to the first division and we played in the Champions League. I moved to Enyimba, we played the Champions League. I have good memory of all the teams. In Kaduna United, we won the Federation Cup. Now I am here in Gombe. I hope to improve on the fortunes of the club.
What has been the reception for you from the people of Gombe?
From what I have seen so far, Gombe are good people and they like football. I have played against Gombe United before and they like supporting their club so much. I don't think I am going to have any problem. I know that I will enjoy their support especially if we get good results.
Who is your best player among the Nigerian players you have coached?
I have a lot of players that are playing in the national team, Taye Taiwo, Elderson Echijele, Michael Eneramo my player in Lobi, Efe Ambrose was my player in Kaduna United. I have a lot of players but I think the one I can talk about is Taye Taiwo because he was coming from the grassroot. I took him to Nigerdock, I took him to Gabros and I took him to Lobi before he left the country. Now he is a big man and he has forgotten me.
Are you angry that a player you should be proud of has forgotten about you?
No!. I have no regret because I know Nigerian footballers the day there is a lot of money, they forget you. I don't want no one kobo from one player but appreciation. That is for me more important than all the money. Taiwo doesn't even remember my name again because I saw it in one sports newspaper that he said yeah, I started in Nigerdock it was a white coach but I forget his name.