Dehinde Akinlotan was renowned for his goal scoring prowess for both clubs and country. According to the USA based soccer coach who was nicknamed Littbarski, it was tough and yet, fun playing for the national team. He recalled scoring the only goal that won the Tessema Cup in 1983 for Nigeria, in the presence of former President Shehu Shagari. While also describing the invitation to the camp of the Junior Eagles, as the team was called back then, to winning a jackpot.
Speaking exclusively with Akeem Busari, our Sports Journalist from his base, he also admonished the newly appointed Super Eagles technical adviser, Gernort Rorh, to come strongly on the job with the attributes and efficiency of a German. Enjoy the excerpts of the interview.
THE BEGINNING :
It all started in Lagos at the Saint Paul's Primary School in Ebute - Metta. Though l didn't get a chance to play for the school because at that time, we had morning and afternoon school sessions. The afternoon session had more players and the school combined both sessions. I can remember that Godwin Odiye from the afternoon session made the team.
Back then, we engaged in several street games and organised competitions as mercenary players, in what called jeun jeun. After my primary education, I attended Agunbiade Victory High School and there serious football began.
As a student, l participated in several competitions including the first Ogun State Sports Festival, after the state emerged from the old Western region. I was also in the squad that represented the state at the National Sports Festival tagged Oluyole '79. After that, I got a job with Ogun state Sports Council.
From thence, my game improved and l moved back to Lagos to play for Savannah Bank, with the hopes of securing a job as a banker. But God had different, but better plans for me as l moved on to join National Bank football club, where l got more exposure and was eventually invited to the camp of the Youths Sports Federation of Nigeria (YSFON), alongside Tajudeen Disu, Samson Siasia, Paul Okoku, Segun and Femi Olukanni, to mention a few.
Later, l joined Abiola Babes and was also invited to the Junior Eagles. And then the new star emerged in Dehinde Littbarski Akinlotan.
PLAYING FOR NIGERIA :
Playing for the YSFON, was tough because players were invited from all parts of the country. It was the same with junior and senior national teams. We travelled a lot for tournaments and it was fun in the camp.
As young players back then, if you are lucky to be invited to the camp of either the YSFON or the Eagles, it was like winning a jackpot. All you wanted to do was wear the jersey for your country and be part of history. Unlike now, things are completely different in the way footballers of today approach the game.
MY FIRST SALARY WAS N100 :
At Savannah Bank football club, I was earning N100. When l moved to National Bank fc, it was N120 plus luncheon vouchers and this was between 1980 to 1982. However, at Abiola Babes, I received between fifteen and seventeen thousand naira. I also received a sign on fee of one hundred and fifty thousand naira.
MOST MEMORABLE FOOTBALL MOMENTS :
My most memorable moment happened in 1983. That was in the final of the Tessema Cup, which was later renamed WAFU Cup. I scored the only goal that won the cup for Nigeria. And it was in the presence of former President Shehu Shagari.
ON LATE MKO ABIOLA :
The late Chief MKO Abiola was like a messiah to every Nigerian player. Starting from the days of Concord football club and to Abiola Babes. He wanted the best packages for every player that signs for his team. He doesn't want any distractions for the players and he went on to acquire a whole building very close to the training pitch to serve as the players' hostel. He thoroughly treated the players as professionals. And he was also very generous to virtually all sports persons.
STATE OF NIGERIA FOOTBALL :
I think the football administrators know what to do but are reluctant because of their selfish interests. However, we can do better if we try to upgrade our local professional league. And take it to a level where we won't have to always invite our foreign based professionals.
Moving forward, I hope our newly appointed Super Eagles coach would be true to the nature of the efficient and meticulous Germans. I expect him to in corporate the ideas of Franz Beckenbauer and Trevor Brookings of Germany and England respectively by engaging youngsters in the game. I also pray that one day, a truly committed and proactive person will come to put our football in order.
PLANS FOR NIGERIA FOOTBALL :
I have started an academy called Goal Driven Football Academy, that runs at the Lisabi Grammar School, in Idi - Aba, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
And working with some indigenous coaches we teach boys and girls from the U-13 cadre upwards. I try to teach the youngsters the way the game is played. And not only coaching them, but also guiding their ways of playing the game to the professional level.
FOOD AND FAMILY :
Interestingly,I met my wife here in the USA. And she didn't know l was an ex - international footballer, until she heard it from her friends.
To the glory of God, l have one of my children taking after me as a footballer. That's Ayodele Michael Akinlotan, who is also a striker. One day, l hope he become a Nigeria international player.
I remain a core Nigerian. And my favourite food is Eba and vegatable soup.
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