Omokaro: I was part of Eagles’ mafia

Former Super Eagles strong man in defence, Bright Omokaro has admitted that he may have been one of those Super Eagles players known as mafia under the leadership of Stephen Keshi.

Bright Omokaro, now a coach with Delta Force, based at Ogwashi Uku says he was not one of those to be pushed around and said it as it was so he may have been called a mafian.

"I have always been very blunt. I do not lobby for anything and maybe that was why in our playing days they called us the mafians.

"There was no real clique in that team, it was just that some of us were very outspoken and would not take any nonsense," Omokaro said.

"I remember when Sam Okwaraji joined the team before that Qualifying match against Algeria in Enugu. He did so well in training that myself and Sunday (Eboigbe) said he had to play because he had distinguished himself. We always believed in merit."
The soft spoken coach said it was for the same reason that he has not lobbied for a national team job just like most of his former colleagues.

"This (Delta Force)is not my first club as a coach. I rescued Mighty Jets from relegation last season before I joined Delta this season.

"I want to prove myself at club side level because I believe it is more difficult to be a club side coach.

"If I succeed here, the national team job will come sooner than later."
Code name 10-10

Most Nigerians know Omokaro more as 10-10 than his real names because of an incident that occurred in the semi final of the Africa Cup of Nations in 1988 between Nigeria and Algeria.

With Nigeria down to ten men courtesy of a red card given to Ademola Adesina, Omokaro's rough tackle on an Algerian reduced the opponents to ten men and after that tournament he got the nickname 10-10.

"I always want to win and when I play game I can do anything to win and even if that means incapacitating an opponent I will do it to win a game.

"I had a policy to be remembered long after any game I play and that is why I was so hard on my opponents. Now you see I quit the game more than fifteen years ago but people still know me for some aspects of my game and that is what I wanted."
Strangely enough, that legendary move was an instruction from the head coach of the team, Manfried Hoener, a German.

"After the red card to our player, Manfried Hoener told me to do it. It was a specific instruction from our coach to reduce the Algerians to ten players.

"I did not risk getting a red card because I was very smart with my tackles. Well, maybe if that match was played in 2009, it may have been different but back in the day I was sure I wouldn't get a red card."

Sometime ago in Benin he almost ended the career of another player who made some fringe games for the Super Eagles.

At the yearly Christmas tournament in Benin, he was playing against Monday Agbontaen, a player who was so skilful, it was thought he could dribble anybody, but not Mr. 10-10.

At the end of that adventure, Agbontaen was lucky to still have his legs as part of his body.

"Well it was nothing," Omokaro laughs. "He is my younger brother who wanted to be smart to I just hacked him a little and people started shouting.

"It was not too hard, just a little touch but we are brothers."
Kalou's embarrassment

Looking back at the African Cup of Nations hosted in 2008 by Ghana, Omokaro said it was embarrassing for him as he watched the Ivory Coast's Salomon Kalou walk through the Nigerian defence to score in Nigeria's opening match.

"I watched that game and I felt bad and embarrassed. As far as I was concerned it was a cheap goal let in by our defenders. I do not like things like that."
From player to gaffer

After he quit the game, he delved into business, selling cars but soon realised he had something more to put into the game than just being a footballer.

"Nigeria's game was going down and needed to be revived. And again I realised football was what I knew best so I made a quick return.

"Some of us ex-internationals realised that the game will die in Nigeria if we leave it like that so we decided to come back and here I am coaching Delta Force.

"Nigerian coaches have been static and that is because they do not want to update themselves. Some people think updating themselves is all about going to school but even the internet is a good step forward.

"I have attended refresher courses in Spain and London and planned one for the N.I.S before the Delta Force job came.

"Most of us, the new generation coaches refresh ourselves. It is the older ones that have refused to grow."

Also for a man who played to stop attackers, he has built a side in Delta Force who play attractive attacking football, an irony.

"Football is about winning and if you do not score goals you cannot win. I have a side who are tight defensively but who also play attacking football.

Reminiscing the NNB days
Though Bright Omokaro played for Bendel Insurance, New Nigeria Bank and Shooting Stars, he is best known for his days at NNB when they won the WAFU Cup twice in 1983 and 1984.

Then they had a team that comprised Wilfred Agbonavbare, Lawrence Oriaro, himself, Stephen Keshi, Sunday Eboigbe, Austin Igbinabaro, Henry Nwosu, Peter and Joseph Egharevba, Samson Ozogula, Austin Popo and Humphrey Edobor with about six of them starting for the Green Eagles when they played.

In 1983, NNB won the WAFU Cup beating Ghana's Sekondi Hasacas 2-0 on aggregate in the final while a year later they beat Stade Malien 4-2 on aggregate.

"Both sides were memorable ones to me. I cannot count one victory as more important than the other.

"I joined NNB from Insurance, Keshi and Nwosu joined from a club in Lagos (ACB). A lot of us came from different clubs but we created a unique team spirit that a lot of people thought we grew up together. It was a great time we had in Benin.

In my fathers footsteps
Having had a fulfilled career, he said he still knows he never played in a World Cup after failing in two attempts to qualify, 1986 and 1990.
However, one of his own could achieve what he failed to as his son is also a budding footballer.

"He has said he wants to be like me. I am encouraging him to see how far he can go and I hope he goes all the way."

Omokaro may be just like any former Nigerian international who wants turns out to be a coach but he surely has a vision that makes him different.

He wants to change Nigerian football for sure and that is why he started from a lower league club rather than lobby to coach any of the national teams.

His success or failure with Delta Force will go a long way to determine whether or not he will ever coach any of the national teams.

For now they are not doing badly, in second place behind Dolphins, but time will surely tell.

This interview was done whilst Bright Omokaro was head coach of Delta Force
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  1. I believe in him'omokaro'.he was ma coach in rochas foundation college ibadan,his major aim is 4 his team to win any match..this is a man dat is full wif focus nd had left a great policy in d life of d student b4 he left.we all loves u nd always b proud of u