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Felix Owolabi aka Owoblow

Owoblow picks Eagles’ Coach By Emeka Obasi

 

For someone who lifted the African Nations Cup, Dr. Felix Owolabi Akinloye (Owoblow), found it so easy to outline the qualities expected of the incoming manager of the Super Eagles as the national team prepares for crucial World Cup qualifiers.

Owolabi said: “I think this issue of Eagles having either an indigenous or foreign coach should not cause this great country sleepless nights. Whatever the NFF decides, the talents are already there.”

He hit the nail on the head. “All we need is someone very intelligent, knowledgeable about the game, who has seen it all as a player, at  local, national and international levels. He must be that personality who is higher and above the players.”

The utility star has a 1980 African Nations Cup gold hanging on his neck. He also won the first Abiola CAF Cup with Shooting Stars in 1992. And that came fourteen years after his first continental medal at the Ghana 1978 African Nations Cup.

In Owolabi’s words, “to manage the Super Eagles, the coach must have integrity such that the players will respect him. His CV should be enough to speak for him. And there should be an understanding that such a person will respect the local league which is the future and destiny of our football.”

The veteran who passed through expatriate and indigenous coaches, thinks a perfect combination will work.

“A mixture of both with a perfect understanding, will give us results. After all, the three times we won the African Nations Cup, we had two whites, Otto Gloria and Clemens Westerhof and our own dear Stephen Keshi. You can only get the best if you go for the best,” he said.

Gloria, from Brazil led the Eagles to their first victory at home in 1980. Dutchman, Westerhof, took the team to the podium at Tunisia 1994. Keshi who captained the squad in 1994 won as a coach at South Africa 2013.

Owolabi was groomed in the North as a teacher but went into active football, from Kaduna Rocks, to Raccah Rovers, Kano. At the end of the  1977 season, he moved down South to join Shooting Stars of Ibadan.

Owoblow, as fans call him, is celebrating with Enugu Rangers Veterans who got a lift recently, from Anambra State governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo. At the end of the month, each of them is supposed to smile home with 100,000 naira allowance.

“It is a laudable idea, worthy of emulation by other state governors. I rejoice with all my colleagues, who by God’s grace, are beneficiaries. I also implore governor Soludo to look into the grievances of those players living abroad who were left out.”

“These Rangers Veterans stood firm and sacrificed a lot for Ndigbo. Rewarding them at this time will help heal a lot of old wounds in and out of the field of play,” he said.

While Rangers Veterans meet regularly as a body, both at home and abroad, the same cannot be said of their Shooting Stars colleagues. About a decade ago, Chief Segun Odegbami was Guest Speaker at a Rangers function in the US.

“We have a platform as means of communication,” Owolabi said of his old Shooting Stars mates, “but now we are not as strong.

“However, a few of us, like Big Segun Odegbami, Idowu Otubusin, Coach Amusa Adisa, Zion Ogunfehinmi, Rasaki Fadare, Dauda Adepoju have always tried to be the rallying point, when occasion demands. Unfortunately, no South – West governor has done as much as Soludo,” he noted.

Owolabi still connects with old Rangers pals. “I am a communicator so I do relate with some of us, even at national level. Emma Okala is my paddy paddy. We communicate often.”

Goalkeeper Okala and Owolabi share something in common. They never won the CAF Champions League after doing so well and getting to the finals. In 1975, Okala’s Rangers lost to Hafia. It was Owolabi’s turn in 1984 when Shooting fell to Zamalek.

Remarkably, Rangers lost to the Guineans, home and away, in the 1975 finals. Shooting Stars were beaten, home and away, by the Egyptian champions in 1984. Okala was pulled out against Mehalla, in Egypt, in the 1975 semis. Owolabi bagged an unfair yellow card against Zamalek in Cairo which ruled him out of the Lagos leg. And that was the 1984 Championships leading scorer, with five goals.

Okala won the African Winners Cup in 1977. The goalie got African Nations Cup bronze in 1978, before gold came in 1980. Owolabi was a CAF Cup champion in 1992. He won African Nations Cup bronze in 1978. Two years later, in 1980, it was gold.

Okala was in Montreal for the 1976 Olympic Games. Unfortunately, there was an African boycott. The Green Eagles did not kick a ball. Owolabi graced the Moscow 1980 Olympics. The Eagles who came, thanks to another boycott, did not win a game.

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