Bright Sodje, the most senior member of the famous Sodje sports family that has produced notable international footballers like Efe Sodje and Sam Sodje speaks on his impression of the just concluded European Nations Football Championship[Euro 2020]. In this interview from London, he explains what Nigeria and indeed Africa stand to gain from the Championship.
What is your general impression of Euro 2020, especially in terms of organisation and quality of play?
My impression is positive, really good. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, Euro 2020 was a relief welcoming, to thousands of fans, as well as opening football doors to the public after a long time. The Championship gave people the opportunity to meet up with friends and families in the pubs, parks to watch the games. Above all the mental state of people was really good. In terms of organisation, it was top class, for it was the first time a major tournament was holding across all major cities in Europe almost at the same time. In football terms, it gave a greater access to fans to support their respective countries. It was cost effective by this one had the opportunity to stay in one’s country without spending extra money to travel to other cities or nations. Not everybody can afford this. And also it gave opportunity for the local bars, hotels to make extra money for their country’s economy. What is more, Euro2020 gave us some quality play from all the participating nations, with , different formations which were very exciting. For example England employed two to three different formations. In some games England used four players at the back and in other games they used three at the rear. All depended on what country England was playing. When the tournament started, majority of bookmakers tipped the big nations to get to the final like: France, Belgium, Germany, England, Spain. A lot of noise was made about them, but we had other nations like Denmark, Italy, that just went about their own business and made tremendous impact . Above all the quality was very good.
Expectations were high of England success. What do you think went wrong with the ‘Three Lions”, where did Manager Southgate get it wrong?
In any major tournament the expectation of the British public is always high. The British always believe it’s their rights that England should win. To certain degree, yes they should win, because the country invented most sports including football. The British press do not help either due to the pressure from their writings on how good the country is in sports, not only in football, same applies to cricket, and rugby. If you speak with any British person about football, they will tell you they have the best league in the world. I am lucky to be in a position to speak with people in the football industry. In my view the EPL is the best product in the world in terms of promotion, but not the best league overall in the world. You have to go to Spain to prove yourself as world class player. Those that win the best players in the world, majority ply their trade in Spain. Don’t get me wrong EPL is special in different ways. It is not right to ask the question where did it go wrong. In my view, both teams England and Italy did their homework on each other in terms of strengths and weaknesses, it was more of mental toughness that decided at the end of the day, I believe more pressure was on England playing at home ground with die hard supporters. Italy had less pressure, even when England scored in first two minutes, you can see the body language of Southgate, he did not celebrate that much from the touch line, because he knew Italy will comeback into the game. Those that follow Italian League will tell you when the time is right the team will come out and stick to the game plan. Harry Kane did not enter the Italian box to have a shot for 120 minutes, he was dropping a lot deeper hoping that one of the defenders will follow him, so Stering can use his pace to run into the hole. Italian team knew this right from the start. It is therefore not fair to say that Southgate got it wrong. England did the homework on Italy but it did pay off.
What do you think this youthful England squad learnt from the competition for the future?
The youthful England team are very very talented group, it was a big experience for them to play in major tournament on home soil, it can only get better for the country. I had the opportunity to watch most of these boys playing Academy football, they are on different planet, Mason Mount, Jaydon Sancho, Saka and the rest. For the 2022 World Cup watch out for England.
What do you think Africa and Nigeria in particular could learn from the event, especially in organization ?
To be fair not much we can learn from this, we had World Cup 2010 in South Africa, the biggest football event in the World . What can we learn as Nigerian? We should try to move away from government funding and look forward to get the private sector to do more in sponsoring major events in Nigeria. We need to plan ahead instead of last minute dot com; this does not help any team to prepare. As a nation if we get it right the whole world will sit up and respect Nigeria. Who ever thought that Nigeria Basketball team will beat the Mighty USA team? If we get it right we can beat any team in the world. In my view, we should focus on developing the Country league, if South Africa and other African countries can do it, no reason we can not.
Pinnick, the NFF president was at Wembley, do you have any advice for him .
Mr. Amaju is a well travelled person, he understands how the sport industries works around the world. I am sure he’s still looking for ways to improve the standard of football in Nigeria.
Thanks for granting me the interview.
You are welcomed.
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