Once regarded as one of Nigeria’s strong defensive midfielder in his playing days, ex international, Tajudeen Disu bares his mind with our correspondent, AUGUSTINE AKHILOMEN on his experience at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Mexico, the senior national team and why his children won’t play for Nigeria
Please Sir, can you share your experience playing for Nigeria at the 1983 U-20 World Cup in Mexico?
I was happy to be on the 1983 Flying Eagles team because it was the first time Nigeria flag will be raised in any FIFA organised tournament and we were all in secondary school so that made it to be special compare to what they do now. I have every reason to be grateful to God because it’s the dream of every player to don the colours of their national team. It’s unfortunate that Nigeria got eliminated in the group stages despite picking four points. We had teams like Netherlands, Soviet Union and Brazil in our group. We defeated Soviet Union, lost to Brazil before drawing against Netherlands in our last match. For me it was a great experience that I will never forget.
Which match was the most difficult for the team at that tournament?
The match the flying Eagles played against Brazil during the U-20 world cup in Mexico where we lost 3-0 and the final of the FA cup against my former team Leventes United of lbadan in 1984 at the national stadium which, of which we lost 1-0. And another FA cup final in 1986 to the same Leventis United at the same venue (National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos)
Did your parent ever support your choosing football as a career?
Yes, my parent supported my playing football, most especially my mom. My dad never supported it fully because of his own experience when he was playing for Railways. He wanted me to continue my education and have my degrees. My mom supported me fully and covers me up anytime I go out to play football. My dad started supporting fully when he started hearing my name over the radio representing Nigeria and playing for Abiola babes.
Which trophy would you have loved to lift as a player during your playing days?
I would have loved to win the U-20 World Cup in Mexico in 1983. Though I won some big trophies like the Challenge cup in Nigeria, Tessema Cup in Africa beating Ivory Coast 4-2 in the final, Shagari’s cup in Africa beating Ghana 1-0 in the finals, Dana’s Cup in Denmark beating Denmark 1-0 in the finals, Gothia cup in Sweden beating Royal Navy 2-0 in the finals in Sweden, Dallas Cup in Texas beating Germany 3-1 in the finals in Dallas Texas, Brazilian State Cup in Sao Paolo Brazil, beating Brazil 1-0.
Did you regret playing for Nigeria?
It goes both ways because I have both good and bad experience during and after the game. I did not regret playing football because it gives me everything I have today but my regrets really came after the game. Seeing my colleagues anytime I come visiting Nigeria from America I always weep because they have been left to struggle for themselves. Most of them have no job because most people who has no business in coaching or running football are the ones doing it, leaving the ex footballers to suffer.
I know how ex internationals are been treated overseas and sometimes it makes me hate playing for Nigeria because if chief Mko Abiola has not sent me to school in America, I will probably be begging before feeding myself and family. That is why I will appreciate chief MKO Abiola till I die, because of what he did for me and today, I am living comfortably in America with my family. I won’t encourage my kids to come serve Nigeria because of our mentality and system, all my children are American citizens.
What if one of your children decides to play for his fatherland, will you prevent him or her?
I have already prevented them from doing that. I have made them understand how things work in Nigeria because I would not want them to fall into any mess that will affect their career. I hate cheating and that will explain why I can’t easily fit into Nigeria system and that is why most organizations in Nigeria hate me especially NFF, football clubs owners, commissioner for Sports, etc.
Talking about your Children, what kind of sports are they into presently?
They are into American football, Athletics, baseball and soccer.