Segun Arinze,an actor and producer opens up on his love for Chelsea,his football hero and many more…..
1.Growing up, did you get involved in football?
Yes, in my secondary school days, I was involved in football. I played as a goalkeeper when I didn’t have a chance in the team, but on a normal day, I play from the wing, because I am a left-winger.
2.Back in the day,parents only wanted their children to study.Were your parents in support of you playing football?
My father liked football,I remember those days when we were in Benin and Asaba,he used to take us to the stadium and then the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium to watch Bendel Insurance.When we moved to Kaduna,the tradition continued.Although football wasn’t as commercial as you have it now,those days when you play football,they see you as a rascal.Even my present profession (acting) as at that time was a no go area,being an actor then was sacrilegious and for low life people,but time has changed things, actors,footballers are now stars.
3.Who was your boyhood football hero while growing up?
I never really thought about it not until Maradona played in the World Cup in 1978.It was actually in 1986 that he became a big star,but it was in 1978 that Maradona caught my attention and became my hero.There was also Pele,but Maradona brought some swag into football,the way he played football, he made it look sweet and classy.
4.It was interesting watching Maradona do his thing.You would have watched him against Nigeria at the 1994 World Cup?
Yes,I watched him against Nigeria, he was something else.Sunday Oliseh didn’t let him rest; (Austin) Eguavoen was on his case.I also had the opportunity of seeing him live at the 2010 World Cup when he brought Argentina as their coach,but they didn’t click at the World Cup under Maradona.Lionel Messi was there, Angel Di Maria was there, Sergio Aguero was there, they were just a collection of stars but no flavour or structure, and they didn’t play well. So sometimes, you just discover that being a great footballer doesn’t mean you will be a great coach like Lampard messed up at Chelsea.
5.What prompted your love for Chelsea ahead of other clubs?
Chelsea at that time were very good in the days we had the likes of Dennis Wise, Tore Andre Flo, GianFranco Zola, Marcel Desailly and the rest of them. I am not an Roman Abrahamovic army; I have been a core blue fan from the onset. Abrahamovic now came and they now went through rejuvenation and for the first time we won the Premier League because we brought in Jose Mourinho from FC Porto and things started changing. But know that, before he came, (Claudio) Ranieri was already there and was doing a great job, but because football is big business, Abrahamovic tried to recoup his investment, so he went for Mourinho and the rest is history, we have seen the trajectory of how Chelsea have been going.
6.Do you agree with the assertion that Chelsea is not a club for the elites in Nigeria,but for touts and area boys?
I don’t know where they got the notion that only area boys support Chelsea.It is a club for the elites;it is the only elite club in London.If these people who are talking know that Chelsea is in the elite area in London, they will understand.
7.How would you describe the standard of the Nigeria Professional Football League in Nigeria?
The standard of the NPFL right now is pathetic, it’s like secondary school football of those days, and I can’t believe our league is still at that level. Do we even have a league? I know we have a kick and follow; there is no structure, no organisation, now welfare package. There are no incentives for players, so those are the things you need to look at. Classic football will continue to elude us in this country; we are just playing around as if we have red noses. I think we should go beyond that and organise our league very well. Maybe we can get a consulting company to run the league for us while the Nigeria Football Federation continue with their work and let the league be managed by professionals. All the boys that played their football abroad, the Okocha’s, Daniel Amokachi, call them together; let them run the football for us. With the vast experience that they have, I am sure that they will do better because they have played abroad and can come here and execute what they played abroad.