Current 3SC general manager, Dimeji Lawal has taken time to reflect on how the emergence of Finidi George ended his national team career, his move to Real Madrid and the current Super Eagles team.
Lawal, who famously joined Spanish giants Real Madrid in 1989 spoke extensively on this topics during the University of Ibadan old students’ interactive forum.
On his national team career, he said “Westerhof single-handedly played a role in my setback at the national team, but he cannot be blamed for creating a perfect replacement in Finidi George, who without doubt, remains one of the best in our position,” starts Dimeji Lawal who was Real Madrid’s player at the time.
“My utmost respect to Finito,” Lawal remarked.
In 1989, Dimeji Lawal was one of the standout players in the Flying Eagles squad that achieved the famous ‘Damman Miracle’ comeback alongside Mutiu Adepoju, Chris Ohenhen, amongst others.
After the world cup, Lawal was snapped up by Real Madrid but it did not go as planned due to certain factors.
“My signing for (Real) Madrid was a long story of fulfilment. I couldn’t have dreamt that football would take me to Santiago Bernabeu one day, not to talk of sitting in the same dressing room with Hugo Sanchez, Michel Salgado, Bernd Shurster, Oscar Ruggeri, George Hagi, Robert Prosinescki, Emilio Butragueno, Canizares and Fernando Hierro, amongst others,” Lawal recalled.
“My first set-back was that in those days, there was quota system as you could only have four foreigners registered and only three could play in a game, unlike now that the system has changed drastically. So, looking at the aforementioned super stars, we can all understand why it was so difficult to become a part of the first team.
“We had a few opportunities to play with the first team in some friendly games but not in an official matches.”
“With the array of talents at Real Madrid at that time, unfortunately, I could not edge out the foreigners above me because football and representation go beyond just the leather object. But no regrets. While I was signed by Madrid, my younger brother Muyiwa also signed for Atletico Madrid. I thank God for the uncommon privilege and honor”.
On the current Super Eagles of Nigeria squad, Lawal is positive Nigeria can win a 4th AFCON title in Ivory Coast with the players excelling for their respective European clubs.
“Nigeria will be the team to beat in the next CAF Nations Cup. I have no doubt about that, ” Lawal said.
“We have the generation of young talents doing so well in various European top clubs. Not only that, they are young and have the opportunity to play with and against the best legs in the World week in week out”.
Lawal added words of admonition “Notwithstanding the talent depth of the Super Eagles, this crop of players have not won anything tangible for the country yet, except at their clubs. I am very sure that will be a big drive for them to really cement their arrival as new boys on the block,” he said.
“My advice for the technical crew is simple: the time of trials should be over. We have had enough of testing and trials. It’s time to build a formidable team with cohesion and understanding.
“Suddenly, we have become a country without a standing team. It’s not the best for our football. I know the first eleven of Germany, England, Spain, Holland, and France, unless there is any unforeseen circumstances (injuries, sickness etc).
“But our coaching crew keeps ‘searching’ for new half-casts or European -born players every day. That must stop now so that the team can focus on team cohesion”. He concluded.