Former Super Eagles captain Sunday Oliseh has opened up on how he emerged the captain of the Nigeria national team ahead of other equally qualified players like Daniel Amokachi in the build-up to the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations Cup tournament co-hosted by Nigeria and Ghana.
In his book, ‘Audacity To Refuse’, Oliseh revealed how he was approached by Bonfrere Jo who had returned to the helm of affairs at the Super Eagles, alongside his assistants, Stephen Keshi, and Amodu Shuaibu, both late now.
Captain Uche Okechukwu fondly referred to as the ‘Gentle Giant’ had just retired from the Super Eagles and Oliseh revealed he was offered the captaincy while the Eagles were camping in Estepona, in the Andalusia region of Spain, near Marbella.
Oliseh wrote: “During the preparations (AFCON 2000), the coaching staff summoned me to the side and told me that they wanted me to become captain of the Super Eagles. I flat-out refused but they insisted that in light of the overwhelming respect I commanded from my teammates, the Nigerian press and populace, and my club status, it was a solution to many leadership problems we were facing at the time.”
Oliseh admitted that Amokachi was also a potential candidate for the captaincy and was also present in the camp base in Spain. “…he (Amokachi) was nursing a serious knee injury which they believed would keep him out of the tournament.
Oliseh further revealed a perceived drop in form also counted against another experienced member of the team, Mutiu Adepoju.
“Jo Bonfrere was not sure if he was even going to take Mutiu Adepoju, my roommate to the tournament. According to Jo Bonfrere, his (Adepoju) performance at the test friendly game that the Super Eagles played prior to my arrival versus the Spanish selection of Catalonia was not convincing for a place in the team.
While Amokachi as predicted was dropped, Adepoju eventually made the final squad. Oliseh said he asked for time to think before accepting the skipper role in the national team.
He wrote: “ I asked them to give me time to think about it. Eventually, I accepted based on the points that Coach Stephen Keshi raised; I led the team anyway in most aspects, be it prayers, transferring of the coaches wishes to players on the pitch during games and training sessions, support of teammates who needed help, and calling players to order on and off the pitch.”
Having taken up all these roles and more already, Oliseh concluded that the only difference becoming the captain would bring is just for him to be officially wearing the armband.
Oliseh led Nigeria to the final of AFCON 2000 but the team narrowly missed out on lifting the trophy as the Super Eagles lost to the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon in a keenly-contested final that was decided via penalty shoot-outs.