Benjamin Okaro played for FRCN Breaker waves FC, Enugu. He also featured for Rangers and Green Eagles before he relocated to the United States of America.
Like his other contemporaries, While in the USA on retirement from football, Okaro delved into coaching and today he is a USSF and Massaschuttes licensed football coach.
He now in charge of Nigeria National League (NNL) side, Nnewi United. Okaro says the second tier league is the toughest in the world, but believes he is up for the challenges, insisting he will be disappointed if he fails to lead the modest side to the NPFL.
Ahead of the 2018/2019 NNL kickoff on Wednesday April 10, Okaro fields questions from Completesports.com in an exclusive interview, explaining his dreams with Nnewi United who are in the Southern Conference B3 that comprises Rovers FC, Dynamite FC, Gateway United and Ekiti United.
CS: Coach Okaro, you are welcome back to the Nigerian soccer scene after decades of absence.
Okaro: Thanks my brother.
How does it feel making your return to Nigeria and kick-starting your coaching career with Nnewi United?
It has been another interesting experience, I must say. Life is all about challenges and I’m in love with this new experience. New in the sense that I left Nigeria as a player and I’m coming back now as a coach.
So what motivated your decision to take up Nnewi United coaching job?
When I made the decision to come back home (from USA), it was because I wanted to contribute my own quota to Nigerian soccer. I feel I’m blessed. The game has done a whole lot of good for me and I feel it’s good I give back to the society what the game has given to me.
Could that be in the area of catching them young?
Exactly, that’s how I’m looking at it and that’s actually my motivation.
Are you saying this ambition is not driven by financial consideration?
No, absolutely no. It has got nothing to do with money. Rather, its all about paying back a debt to the society.
How did you go into coaching, I mean your basic coaching papers because here in Nigeria a lot of value is placed on paper qualification?
Its been a long journey. As soon as I hung up my shoes, playing-wise, I started taking courses in all kinds of coaching. So right now, I’m a USSF and Massachutes licensed coach. USSF means United States Soccer Federation. I’m based in Massachutes.
The Nigeria National League, NNL, which is where Nnewi United presently play, is a second tier league, regarded all over the World as the toughest league. What’s your opinion on this?
You are right, it is, not only in Nigeria but across the globe.
Don’t you envisage difficult season in your first domestic campaign as a coach?
I played in the second division league while in Nigeria before I traveled out to the United States (of America). I played for FRCN Breaker Waves FC, Enugu, back then. So I can say I’ve an idea of the kind of league I’m coming into now as a coach. Its going to be tough.
Yes, there are challenges, no doubt but it is for man to courageously confront and with positive mind you must overcome it. Right now, the biggest challenge I’m facing is the weather. Its so hot. Sometimes I wonder how these boys run up and down the field. Anyway, that’s the least of the worries. One can always adapt. I’m a Nigerian. I’ve gone through it before, so I can always adapt. It is often said when you come to America, you behave like the Americans. So, coming to Nigeria is not a big deal. This is my country.
Having concluded screening exercise and now focusing on the season which kicks off on April 10, how would you describe the players turnout?
It was most wonderful. The turnout was massive. I was excited because Nigeria has boundless of talents. Now I’m glad to have them. Its now my job to mould them the way I want them to play, which is attractive football.
How are they responding to your philosophy which you said is playing ‘attractive game’?
Yeah, they are getting the message well and even faster than I anticipated. This gives me joy that we are ready for the season and can get off on the strong foot.
Were you not bogged down by the usually huge turnout of players during clubs’ open screening? If yes, how did you manage to deal with the Nnewi United version?
I was scared, to be honest with you. At a time, we were having over fifty something players. I don’t know how you can see over 50 players – that’s really difficult. You you know sometimes, you have to make difficult decisions which in this case is having to drop players. We had to cut the number down to 35 which is fair enough.
How ready are Nnewi United for the 2018/2019 NNL season which kicks off on Wednesday April 10?
When you are building a team, time is of huge essence. There was a time our training pitch was not available to us. We lost like three days of training and even at that we had to make do with a training session per day. But that’s not going to be an excuse. We are ready for the season even if the season starts today. I’m not going to go into any game thinking I’m not going to win, no, not at all.
Its going to be an abridged season, just like last season. So what target are you setting for yourself and the club?
For myself, honestly speaking, I want promotion to the premier league. I believe that’s the same ambition of the group is anticipating. If I don’t get the promotion at the end of the season, I will be disappointed. But I know that something good gonna happen here for me and the team.
We wish you all the best
Thank you very much.