AT a five star VIP event at Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, on Friday, July 27, 2012, Johnnie Walker, one of the oldest whiskey brands in the world unveiled its new emotive campaign, Keep Walking Nigeria, and unveiled Samson Siasia, former Super Eagles player and coach, as the first Nigerian Johnnie Walker Giant. The keep walking Nigeria campaign celebrates individuals who achieved their goals despite the odds and seek to inspire the nation to keep walking.
In an exclusive chat with the sweat merchant, he shared his challenges and pains with ENCOMIUM Weekly…
How do you feel being the first Nigerian Johnnie Walker Giant?
I feel great and humbled.
What has been your mantra that has helped you from zero to hero and becoming a Nigerian Johnnie Walker Giant?
In the game of life, there is only one rule, believe in yourself. I grew up in Ajegunle and it was a tough place. I played football on the street and knew I could make something. Before the World Cup qualification, we lost and I lost my position too. I had decided never to give up on myself and passion. I have won some and lost some. One thing I have learnt is when life tosses you the ball, play it, because nothing can stand in the way of a man who believes in himself.
What would you say really went wrong in that crucial match that cost you your job?
Sincerely, I thought we would beat them 4-1, but I was shocked. The problem was also with the technical department of the association. I never knew that winning by 2-1 margin would have guaranteed us a place for qualification. That was why my boys went on to attack, leaving the defense open for equalization. They should have sent a message to me because as a coach and right on the field, I didn’t know what was going on. Sadly, I lost my job.
What lesson have you learnt from that?
I learnt that there are some sacrifices you have to make and be God fearing too.
What are the regrets of losing your job?
I was shocked and missed the glamour of being a coach. Nigerians are passionate about football. After the loss, I was going to the hotel and an old man approached me and said, ‘You are stupid, you are foolish and useless.’ He said it with annoyance and all I could say was I am sorry. It was at this turbulent period I knew that when you fail you lose a lot of friends.
If given the chance will you still coach Nigeria?
Yes, I will. When I come back as a coach, I will do better because I have learnt a lot of things. However, those who sacked me should have left the place.
You were a player and a coach for Nigeria, which would you say was more challenging?
Coaching job is more challenging. As a player, you play on the field and you’re focused on the game but as a coach, it’s more difficult. You concentrate on strategies, the players, the game and a whole lot of things.
Which would you say was your toughest game as a player?
That was the match against Italy at the USA World Cup in 2004. We thought we had wrapped up the game but just ten seconds to regulation time, we lost. The other one though memorable because I scored against them was Argentina. It was quite challenging. However, I am happy that it’s on record that I am the first Nigerian coach to beat the Argentines 4-1.
What can we do to win the World Cup?
That is a miracle. We don’t have the men.
There have been issues of rivalry in the Super Eagles, can you shed light on that?
We have guys from Europe who have lots of intimidating curriculum vitae and cash and when they come home, the home-based would be intimidated and if you are not careful as a coach too, you get intimidated.
If you reincarnate would you still love to come from Ajegunle?
If I didn’t come from Ajegunle, I won’t be celebrated today.
Little is known about your family?
My wife and four children are based in USA where I live. I only decided to come home to contribute my quota to the country’s development.
- This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, July 31, 2012