Remo stars coach, Daniel Ogunmodede, in this interview with JOHHNY EDWARD AND ABIODUN ADEWALE, talks about how he had his football career cut short by an ailment, his sojourn into coaching and how Mourinho, Pep and Klopp inspired his coaching philosophy.
Congratulations on your team’s qualification for the CAF Champions League. How do you feel about the achievement?
I feel elated. This is not all, because our target at the beginning of the season was to win the league, but we fell short. But you know sometimes when you aim for the sky, you fall on the roof. Nevertheless, we are elated. In fact, it didn’t even surprise us because it has been a long-term project for us. We have been on this for almost a decade now and we know for sure that things like this will come our way because it is what we have been working consistently for. We are just happy that we got the dividends of hard work, consistency, perseverance and diligence. This is my biggest record.
What were the challenges during the season?
There were so many ups and downs on the job. I failed so many times but I kept persevering, knowing that the result would come at some point. I can say it’s paying off after some years now as we have followed our direction consistently with hard work.
Where did you think Remo Stars fell short in the title race?
At some point in the season, we had three points deducted but we didn’t let it get to us. We made those things our strength knowing that things were going to fall in place. At the same time, we had our shortcomings too, as we were unable to take our chances during the Nigerian Professional Football League playoffs in Lagos.
Did you think Remo’s title dreams were dashed after that explosive 2-2 draw with Rivers United during the playoffs?
I have avoided talking about that moment because of the interpretation of some of the things I would say. But for sure, it happens in football, one minute you are there and before the next minute, something has changed. People say we are over-celebrated, but football is about emotions. We scored what could be the best goal of the Super 6 to take the lead at that time, at the death of the game and you expect us not to jubilate? At the end of the day, it is football, we have learnt our lessons and moved on.
Your philosophy ‘Ijaball’ is becoming popular in Nigerian football. Tell us how you came about the ideology?.
‘Ijaball’ is a proactive possession style of football. I derived the mentality from the many years of experience I have had with different coaches I worked with. I have worked with some of the best coaches in the country. I learnt from them and mixed it with my ideology and at the end it resulted to ‘Ijaball’. At the international level too, I read a lot about Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola and added some of their football philosophy to it as well. In Mourinho, I picked his style of discipline, interpreting games from Klopp and of course how Pep brings variation to his team. You can’t give what you don’t have. I have had the opportunity to be trained abroad to work with a club in Europe and the president of the club has invested a lot in my coaching education, so all I can do is to come and put them into action and overtime, I’ve always said our weakness in the country is coaching education. I had my philosophy before I travelled, I try to build on it, I work on it every day and education has been very helpful.
You have been in the league for a while now, what are the changes you expect?
Of course, I would like to see beautiful football in the NPFL. Our federation should concentrate on bringing coaching education closer to indigenous coaches and for sure we will see the results in our football. Secondly, I would like to see improved security in match venues and that will help the officiating officials to carry out their duties efficiently. What the referees did last season was credible, the league body did a lot of work and we will like to see more. The referees did their part last season, it is commendable. I must say that there were lots of improvements compared to what we used to see.
It has been five years since an NPFL team played in the group stage of the CAF Champions League. Does Remo has what it takes to reach that stage?
The NPFL is a different competition from the CAF Champions League. I can tell you we have a team for next season’s NPFL but we need to beef up the team ahead of the Champions League. We are bringing in new players and when they come, we will begin to strategise for the Champions League. It is not going to be easy, but I believe with good preparations and committed players we will not disappoint.
How did you become a coach?
I used to be a footballer back then but I didn’t play to the top level because injury impeded my progress. It was actually an appendix operation that dashed my hopes of playing football. The doctor advised that I shouldn’t be involved in rigorous activities, including football. He even said I was going to die if I played football and that made me scared at that time. At a time, my parents saw that I needed to chase my dream through coaching. My dad actually wanted me to be a medical doctor. I went through school and I have two degrees. I have a degree in Physiology from the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso. I have another one in Human Kinetics from the University of Ilorin. So, what I did was just play little football in school while I also started working with the school coaches with the understanding that not everyone would make it playing football. I followed my dream of becoming a coach by gathering boys in my community. So, one day the late chairman of Crown FC, Baba Olayinka, saw my team when we played them in a pre-season game and he said he loved my team and offered me a scholarship to the National Institute of Sport to get a coaching certificate. Unfortunately, he died before I graduated from the NIS, but he had even made provisions for me to be incorporated into the team. So, I first did something like an internship with them and that was how the journey started.
You spent a year with the coaching crew of Portuguese club Feirense. What was the experience like?
That experience with Feirense forms the best moments of my coaching career so far because it shaped who I am, and what I want to be going forward. I will never forget the experience.
One would have thought you would stay back and grow through the ranks there. Why did you opt to return to Remo?
I can’t ‘japa’. I am a Nigerian and I want the best for my country. I’m very eager to contribute my quota to the development of the game in my country.
Would you want to coach the Super Eagles someday?
It’s the joy of every coach to be named the head coach of their national team. I will be so happy if that opportunity comes my way. I will gladly take it.
If you had a chance to pick one player among Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Victor Osimhen in your team, who will that be?
Generally, I would have loved to pick Ronaldo because he is hard-working and a goal-getter, but I will pick Osimhen because what he achieved last season is commendable. He is one player that guarantees goals when he leads the lines. He has all the attributes if the team plays well with him. So, I would go for him.
Remo fans were hostile during some league games last season. What advice do you have for them ahead of next season?
I won’t comment on this issue but my advice is for them to continue to love what they do and that is supporting Remo Stars. We appreciate them for everything — the time we made them laugh, the time we made them cry. We will continue to do everything possible to make them happy. We will always get better going forward.