Celestine Babayaro needs no introduction because he was one of the famous gang that made up the Dream Team IV that won Nigeria the Atlanta Olympics gold medal in 1996. However, in recent times, tales of the player’s bankruptcy have been the topic of discussion. Lukmon Akintola spotted him at the Teslim Balogun stadium where he had come to watch the Kanu Nwankwo Testimonial match and he bears it all on issues surrounding his bankruptcy, the politics that led to his being kicked out of the national team and his plans for the future. Enjoy the excerpts:
In recent times, thee have been stories both in Nigeria and England insinuating that you are broke, what do you have to say to that?
There is nothing to say about it, because human beings have the right to their own opinion in life. So, if any body wants to say any thing, let them go on with what ever they want to say.
A lot of people believe that if actually you were not broke, you would have come out to dispel the rumor?
There is no need to come out and say any thing. Every human being has the right to come out and say what they feel about an issue. So, those who are saying that I am broke are only expressing their own opinion on any topical issue.
Your friends have also spoken on your behalf, asking if you look like one who is broke
That is exactly what I am saying, no matter how good you are in life, there will be people who will like you and there will be other people who will not like you. There is nothing you can do about it. So, if anybody comes out today and say some thing about me, it is for their own.
You played in Anderlecht of Belguim before going on to play at Chelsea in England, and then Newcastle United, a lot of people think by now you should have made a lot of money to keep you in form, how do you take that?
All I can say is that I am grateful to God and I am more than comfortable.
You are no longer playing professional football and you are also not a coach, what do you do presently?
I engage myself a lot of time in helping the younger ones grow, giving them advice on how to become successful professionals.
The Super Eagles, as a team is currently undergoing restructuring, what is your impression of the team after your exit?
The national team, since the exit of names like myself, Okocha and the others, have not been doing really great like we thought they would do, but we will give them time and I am sure every thing would come together, hopefully. It is a hard job; I have been there before, so I know what I am saying. We shouldn’t criticize them, but I am sure they will get themselves together pretty soon.
With a new coach and a new crop of boys, there still seems to be a missing link in the team, what is that link?
Honestly, I can only speak for the Super Eagles I played with. In our time, when we played we had character. We never believed that any other team or country could beat us. That was what we had going for us. But looking at the new team, I am not too sure about that; but they are doing well, and there is room for improvement.
A lot of people have criticized you, saying that you retired from football too early, how do you feel about that?
Well, yes I would probably say I left too early, but during my time I did my last move from Chelsea moving to Newcastle United. I had a lot of injuries and that was what made me to retire early.
A lot of people believe that your lack of discipline was more responsible for your losing form than injuries?
No, if you look around, you will find out that there are a lot of other players, young players that have retired because of injuries and other things. I can name a lot of other younger players who have retired before twenty six or twenty eight. I think it has to do with the human body. My body is different from your body and your body is different from my body. That is all I have to say.
What will you say is your greatest regret in your football career?
I don’t have any regret.
How about your greatest moment?
That would be winning the Atlanta 1996 Olympics. That is the greatest moment of my life.
You seem to be a very controversial person, how did you feel when you were sent packing from camp years back?
I felt bad, but that is definitely not my most regrettable day in football. And there is always politics in life, there are people that like you and there are people that hate you. When you get sent out of the National team, it involves so many things and politics takes the centre stage, but let’s just forget about all that and put it behind. I have long forgiven them.
What are the gains of playing for Nigeria?
Playing for Nigeria is a great thing. When I played for Nigeria every thing was smooth, things were going very well. We had fun and nobody could just come into Nigeria and test Nigeria, we were the best in Africa, but now, you can hear other African countries saying that they can beat Nigeria. Hopefully things will get better.
So, what is next for Celestine Babayaro?
The next thing would be for me to remain cool, calm and see what the breeze will bring. Actually, certain things are in my plans for now, but any thing can happen.