Manager of the Year Award winner, Dominic Iorfa declares…
By EMMA NJOKU
Without a certificate in coaching, ex-international, Dominic Iorfa, confounded football followers in Nigeria by guiding a modest Lobi Stars’ team to the third place in the Nigeria Premier League in the immediate past season after the Makurdi side finished as runner-up in this year’s Federation Cup; missing both trophies only by the whiskers.
For his astonishing feat, the former Super Eagles’ supersonic forward was recently rewarded with the award of the Manager of the Year in the domestic league. “I’m extremely happy for the award of the Manager of the Year in the Nigeria Premier League. I feel highly encouraged with the honour. I may not have a coaching certificate, but I acquired a lot of technical and tactical experiences during my playing days having played under some of the finest coaches in the world,” the former Queens Park Rangers of England revealed to Saturday Sunsports in an exclusive chat.
“It is the experience I gathered over the years that I apply now as coach of Lobi Stars. Coaching certificate does not necessarily translate to tactical efficiency. Football is a practical thing. It is not a paperwork,” he stressed. Iorfa, who is also fluent in English despite his limited education, further revealed that watching and listening to people, as well as reading newspapers and magazines, has helped him a lot to improve in his communication skill.
“I did not attend higher education. I learnt to speak English by watching and listening to people and by reading newspapers and magazines. Nigerians should desist from making jest of footballers that find it difficult to communicate in English Language because it is not their mother tongue,” he said. “Everybody knows that most footballers all over the world hardly go to school. It is wrong to compare Nigerian footballers with English footballers like David Beckham and Wayne Rooney when it comes to speaking English Language.
Beckham and Rooney can speak English fluently because it is their mother tongue. Or does Lionel Messi speak English? He instead speaks his mother tongue, which is Spanish, just as I can speak Tiv Language fluently because that is my mother tongue. “I believe that every Nigerian player can as well, speak his native language fluently if he is permitted to grant interviews in his mother tongue.
We must learn to respect our players for what they can do on the field of play rather than on how much of English Language they can speak,” the former board member of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) said. Iorfa spoke on a wide range of issues bordering on his football career and his obsession with the round leather game.
Advice to upcoming players I am what I am today because I believed in myself and remained focused all through my playing career. I have also trusted God in all that I do. Therefore, my candid advice to upcoming footballers is that they should believe in God and remain focused in their career. The reason most Nigerian footballers fail to make it today is because everybody is in a hurry to travel abroad to make big money even when they are not ripe for foreign deal.
Breaking grounds Apart from the like of Justin and John Fashanu, John Chidozie and Efan Ekoku that were born in England, I was the first thoroughbred Nigerian footballer to play in England. I played for Queens Park Rangers in the then English Division 1 League. I played for Royal Antwerp of Belgium. I was also the first Nigerian to play in Turkey.
There, I played for Galatasaray FC. In like manner, I was the first Nigerian to play in China. But I actually started my football career in the Nigerian League, where I played for notable clubs like BCC Lions of Gboko and Abiola Babes of Abeokuta. Terror to defenders and goalkeepers A lot of people criticised my style of play. Some said that I was not a footballer; that I could only run. But the truth is that I was a terror to defenders and nightmare to goalkeepers. That was why I was the target of the photographers’ lenses at match venues and my action photographs always graced the cover of the sports pages. No doubt, my greatest asset was my speed.
I was also very strong and clinical in front of goal and I scored crucial goals during my playing days. Benefits from football Football made me what I am today and I am very grateful to the Almighty God for that. Without sounding immodest, I think my life has been a success story. From a humble beginning, I rose to stardom. I have enjoyed fame and fortune, courtesy of the round leather game. Today, I am not only comfortable, but also a fulfilled man. And I shall remain grateful to God and kind to humanity for as long as I live.
Let me also say that my passion for football is not time-bound. Football is my life. I love the game with all my heart and soul and I shall remain a football person for as long as I live. Lobi Stars in the coming season At Lobi Stars, we intend to consolidate on the gains of the immediate past season. Our target is to become more competitive in the coming season. We have a team that can challenge for titles both in the domestic scene and on the continent where we shall be campaigning in the CAF Confederation Cup next year.