Mbawas Magnut is a household name in Nigerian football. The former Heartland FC player, who also played internationally, is currently the Chief Coach of Wikki Tourists FC of Bauchi.
In this interview with AOIfootball.com’s ABIOLA SHODIYA, he talks about the real problems bedeviling Nigerian players and other sundry issues. Excerpts:
Can you give us a background into your playing career before you became a coach at Wikki Tourists?
Well I started my football career in the Might Jets of Jos. From there, I left for Sharks in Port Harcourt for three seasons. I left Sharks for South America where I played with America de Cali and Deportivo Cali. I left there for Saudi Arabia where I played a season with Al-Hilal. From there I went to Qatar and played for Al-Arabi, then I went back to Colombia. From there, I came back to Nigeria and played for Iwuanyanwu Nationale, now Heartland FC. I captained them for three seasons. From there, I went to Enyimba and returned to Heartland after that I went to India for my retirement. I started my coaching there. Then I came back to Nigeria and coached Heartland for four seasons. I’m now into my fifth season as a coach.
You were quite a tourist. You’re now with Wikki Tourists; What’s the transition between playing and coaching?
A lot of difference. As a coach, you have no off season or on season. You’re always thinking of ways forward. As a coach, you plan a game, once you execute it, you’re thinking of so many things because a coach is guarding different characters and different mentality, bringing them together to achieve your goal. So, you have a lot to do in coaching than playing. When you do that, the job becomes easy.
Wikki Tourist crashed out in the first round of the CAF Confederations Cup. What has not been your challenges with the club?
Well, to me it’s difficult. I’m a new coach that joined the team. Right now, they’re not doing good but I must tell you we’re having a very good team there this year than last year. But the results are not coming like last year. When we started during preseason, everyone appreciated the team. We played so well in Sierra Leone but couldn’t score. Also, during the second leg in Bauchi, we played so well but couldn’t score. I believe ours is also similar to Rangers’ situation. This is the kind of players we’ve in Africa, a little achievement gets into their heads and they believe that’s the end of success. I’m not saying they’re not committed but they refuse to understand that this is the beginning of their successes, but they believe they’ve arrived. So, we’ve to change their mentality. There’s a little bit of internal crisis within the team which I don’t have to say but everybody in Bauchi knows. It’s a serious crisis internally. So many people played a role for the club to succeed last 2 year. This season they felt they’ve been left out, it’s affecting the team. It’s a big problem affecting even Rangers right now.
You said little success gets into the heads of Nigerian players. When you were a player, did it get into your head also?
I cannot say I’m perfect but I must tell you one thing, we’ve this thing in Africa; every time you see an outstanding African player in a season, you don’t see him the next year. It’s very rare to see a back to back highest goals scorer in Africa. Everywhere I played in the world, anytime I find more than 4 or 5 players in that team, it becomes a problem for me. Sorry to say that. I prefer having a black Latin American. They have a different mentality. When you live abroad you see what your fellow brothers do, your fellow brothers don’t want to see you grow. We have that.
I believe when you have a little opening you should work harder. The likes of Messi or Ronaldo train more than others. But an African player, with a little achievement, he comes to training late and begins to do what he likes. And that begins to pull him down. So, it’s a problem generally. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but I know I wasn’t like that. Because I believe in hard work which helped me get everywhere I’ve been.
How do you train them to work harder continually?
I do more of psychology coaching in Africa. In Africa, we use religion to replace psychology. While in Europe, they don’t do that. When you really put the psychological thing in him, because if you tell him and he doesn’t listen, he’ll see it. What I do is more of the psychological thing and back it up with tacticals. You need to let them know before you begin to fine-tune their minds. With the new generation of players we have, you ask a player to come to training for 4pm, they come and sit and wait for you. When we we’re playing, we went to training one hour before the coach and we’re already working on our lapses, so when the coach comes it becomes easy for the team. But now you beg the player to come to training, beg him to dress, beg him to understand why he should work before he makes the money. All they’re thinking about is to make money, and be Mikel Obi but they don’t understand the road to get there.
Let’s talk about Heartland, what really happened to them?
It’s obvious; you saw what happened a team that started the season with one management and ended the season with three. We started with Okey Ibe, then the Deputy Speaker came to take over and the current chairman. So, you’ve their chairmen in one club, with four coaches during the season. During the season, there were so many still fighting the club for position. After season, there were two managements in Heartland for some months and the government does not know whom to follow. I can’t believe what happened to Heartland because we had what it takes to win the league.
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