In an interview with Punch Newspaper’s
‘Tana Aiyejana, former Super Eagles goalkeeper, Dosu Joseph spoke on the car crash that ended his short football career, how his wife helped him through that phase and many other memories.
How is life in retirement?
I will say life’s been good but then life after retirement for a footballer is not an easy thing. As a footballer, you are used to training in the morning, afternoon and evening but after retirement, you have to sit most times now whether at home or in the office.
Do you find your new role as a football pundit on TV challenging?
It’s brought me back into the football circle again. Though it’s something new to me but I am enjoying every bit of it, thanks to Niyi (Oyeleke) who helped me. I’m still into football, managing the young ones and trying to carve a career path for them but analysing is equally an interesting part of football.
Can you tell me about your family?
My mother is Togolese while my dad is Nigerian from Badagry; that was why there was a lot of controversy about my nationality. But I am a Lagosian, a Nigerian. My mother was a beans seller and it’s what she did after giving birth to six of us; four boys and two girls. She sold beans, yam and plantain as well. We enjoyed it while growing up, we never went hungry and the food was very delicious. She did that to train all of us and we never regretted it. It was a sweet life and we had fun all through till we became what we are today.
With such humble beginning, did you think you could make it in life?
Life is all about dedication, discipline and determination towards what you want to become. I was very good in football, goalkeeping especially, so I decided not to hide my talent. Most people don’t know this but I am not the first person that played football in my family. My elder brother, David Dosu, was an excellent goalkeeper too and he kept up to YSFON and Flying Eagles levels. He played for Racca Rovers of Kano and played alongside Alloy Agu and the Olukanmi brothers in YSFON. My other brother, Abass also played football but he left the game to continue with his education. In my family, everyone is a goalkeeper, so it encouraged me to also become a keeper as a well. My younger brother, John, now with Warri Wolves is also a keeper and has played for big clubs like Shooting Stars, Nassarawa United and Akwa United.
When did the breakthrough come?
It wasn’t easy because my mother was against me becoming a sportsman or footballer because my elder brother was one already. All she wanted was for me to go to school. But my brother defended me. My father is a quiet person. He just laughed over it and gave us his blessings but advised us to listen to our mum. I started with a team in my area known as Olumo Bombers, we played football around the area and the interest kept growing. Before I knew it, I was snapped up by Nigerlux of Ikeja. We gained promotion from division two to one in Ikeja League. Igbobi College saw me when I was keeping for Akoka High School. We played against St Finbarrs’ and we lost 5-0 but I did very well; it could have been more. So Igbobi College came calling and from there my career moved up. I won the Principal’s Cup with Igbobi College and Julius Berger came for me; Joe Erico was the coach then. I was in the feeders team with Sunday Oliseh. Erico left and he took me along to Highlanders of Jos. I performed well and a move to Insurance was on the way but we didn’t agree terms and Highlanders were not ready to release me. Julius Berger chairman sent a message to me that I should come back and I was with them before I travelled out to Europe, Italy precisely. At the end, my mother was happy that I made it in football and wrote the family’s name in gold before she died.
How did you seal the deal and how was Europe initially?
Firstly I give thanks to Sunday Oliseh and his elder brother, Churchill. He made it possible for me to go on trials in Italy. Sunday was the architect of it, because he spoke to his brother about me. It wasn’t easy; you are in a country where you don’t know anybody. It’s you, your God and your talent. They don’t speak English and even those that understand pretend not to when you talk to them. But the most important thing for me was to sign a contract and move my family away from the position we were before. And thank God I signed a four-year contract with Reggiana.
How did you receive invitation for the Atlanta ’96 U-23 squad?
It was while with Reggiana that I was invited for the 1996 Olympic Games. Though I have been part of the team, but there were very good keepers, Abiodun Baruwa and Emmanuel Babayaro was ahead of me. I was called up as a back-up keeper.
How did you become the number one goalkeeper of the team?
Before we travelled to Tallahassee for camping ahead of the Olympics, we played a friendly game against Togo and we lost 3-1. Actually, we didn’t play very well; Nigerians were not happy and they wanted us to play another game before we travelled. So another match was organised for us against Shooting Stars. When the team list was released, coach Bonfrere Jo said, ‘Dosu Joseph will be in goal.’ The then sports minister, Jim Nwobodo warned me, ‘If you misbehave, you will be dropped from the team to the Olympics.’ In camping in Tallahassee, we played our first game against Saudi Arabia and I was on for 45 minutes due to an injury. Bonfrere came to my room and said, ‘Dosu, I have a keeper who can play for only 45 minutes, so I have to bring another keeper from Nigeria.’ He scared me and I told myself I had to go back to training, no matter how bad my injury was and even if it meant I had to use pain relievers to kill it. At the Olympics, our first game was against Hungary and I still didn’t believe I would be given the keeper’s position. Bonfrere announced the names of 10 outfield players for the match but he didn’t mention who will keep. Later he said, ‘Dosu Joseph in goal.’ I didn’t expect it, Nigerians at home didn’t expect it as well. Everybody was thinking of either Baruwa or Babayaro. Bonfrere gave me the confidence to believe in myself. We beat Hungary 1-0, beat Japan 2-0 but we lost our last group match to Brazil but that game brought me to limelight. I did very well and from there, we didn’t look back until we became the first African team to win a football gold at the Olympics.
Can you recall the semi-final match versus Brazil?
The first game we played against them in the group stage gave us a lot of confidence that we could beat them. Though they won 1-0, they were not better than us. We were down 3-1 before the break in the semi-final. As we were going down the tunnel during half time, Bonfrere said if we don’t concede the fourth goal, we will win the game. And we were looking at ourselves and thinking, can this happen against almighty Brazil? So the coach removed a defender and brought in Wilson Oruma. And we played three defenders with a lot of midfielders and attackers. Before we knew it, Austin Okocha should have made it 3-2 but he lost a penalty. Not long after, Victor Ikpeba scored our second and Nwankwo Kanu, I call him the King, grabbed our equaliser. In extra time, we thought the game would extend to extra time but Kanu emerged again to give us the winning goal. It was sudden death, meaning whoever scored first in extra time will win the game but we didn’t know because it was a new rule then. We thought the game would continue until the referee sounded his final whistle and we went into wild jubilations.
How were you able to beat Argentina in the final?
After beating Brazil, we were sure of beating the Argentines but they stunned us with a first minute goal but Celestine Babayaro equalised for us and from that point, there was no going back. They went ahead in the second half through a penalty but we equalised again and Emmanuel Amuneke, whose two goals helped Nigeria win the Africa Cup of Nations in 1994, got the winner and suddenly we were Olympic champions.
You were gradually becoming one of Nigeria’s top keepers when you had an accident that ended your career in 1997 after the Eagles qualified for the ’98 World Cup. What happened?
My career was short-lived because of the accident. It happened after we beat Guinea 3-0 to qualify for the 1998 World Cup in France. After the game, we went back to Sheraton, our hotel and I prepared to visit my wife and children. I was with a friend, Saturday, a policeman on my way home when I had the accident. It was along the Lagos-Ikorodu Road. Suddenly, everywhere went blank; all I could see were cows everywhere. As I tried to control the car, I veered off the road. I asked the guy beside me, ‘Saturday are you okay?’ And he said, ‘Yes I’m okay.’ And I told him, ‘I’m not okay.’ So we were waiting for help and suddenly Taribo West’s car was passing by though he wasn’t inside. They saw us and rescued us and took us to Eko Hospital.
Is it true you were drunk while driving?
The first thing the matron did was to smell my mouth to find out if I was on alcohol. And I replied immediately, ‘I don’t drink and smoke. It’s just an accident that can happen to anybody. Before I knew it, I passed out and when I woke up, I found myself in Plaster of Paris.
Did you regret not playing again?
During the early days of my accident, I used to think, ‘I should have been playing.’ But I had to understand that you can’t play football forever. I had to stop at a point. Everybody stood by me and made me understand that football was just by the way. There are so many other things to live for. Thank God after football, a lot of things have gone on in my life and I give God the glory.
What role did you wife play in your recovery?
She’s everything to me. When I had the accident, a lot of things were said: ‘he can’t walk again, he is finished, he will be on wheelchair for life.’ Maybe if it was another woman, she would have packed out and left me to my fate. And that would have demoralised me. Maybe I wouldn’t even walk anymore. But she stood by me during my predicament and rehabilitation. She was there. She was with me in the hospital when my operation was done in Tallahassee. She was sleeping on the floor just to give me the confidence I needed. And I told her not to sleep on the floor but to sleep in the hotel and come to the hospital every morning. But she said she preferred to stay by my side rather than waste money.
Did the society accept you back after rehabilitation?
It wasn’t easy because I wasn’t born like this. My first outing after recovery was in 2000 when Taribo and Friends played against Professionals at the National Stadium, Lagos. I was amazed at the way the fans responded when I was taken around the main bowl. They were waving at me and that showed I was accepted back into the society even though I wasn’t playing the game anymore. I didn’t give up and had the belief that I could do better than I did before. I give God the glory for helping me back.
Sunday Oliseh scored in France ’98 and shouted your name in celebration. Were you filled with emotion?
After recovery, I said I was going to support the team at the World Cup. So I went to France with Churchill Oliseh, my agent. We were there before the game against Spain but we didn’t let any of the players know that we were around. Against Spain, we entered the stadium when Nigeria’s anthem was played and (Sunday) Oliseh saw us but he wasn’t sure. So I waved him and he knew we were the one. So when he scored, he ran towards the corner where we sat and started shouting my name. His teammates were shocked too and they were asking, ‘Is he here.’ It reminded me of my time with the team.
Which defender made you most confident while in goal?
Uche Okechukwu, he‘s very confident. A keeper can close his eyes and he won’t receive a shot because Okechukwu is there. Another defender is Taribo West. He is very strong. Just tell him to keep a striker out of a game and he will ensure that the player doesn’t have a shot at goal all through. These two defenders made the Eagles feared. Any keeper will be happy to have them play in front of him.
Are your children into sports?
People have said a lot of things about my son, that I didn’t encourage him to play football. But you can’t force someone against his wish. He is into taekwondo and rugby but my daughter knows nothing about sports. She is interested in education.
Where is your Olympic gold medal?
Last week was the last time I saw it after so many years. It is in a bank. When I saw it, Atlanta memories came back again. I enjoy seeing it because it makes me happy.
1. Colour — My favourite colours are black and white.
2. Car — I don’t really have a favourite but I have an Infinity, CrossFire and Suzuki.
3. Goalkeeper — I watched Dino Zoff, the Italian keeper, while growing. I enjoyed his goalkeeping.
4. Player — The late Muda Lawal is my best. The way he passed the ball and controlled the midfield was amazing.
5. Perfume — I don’t have a favourite but I combine two or three together, maybe Hugo Boss and Versace, so that people don’t know the exact perfume I’m using.
6. Designer- I prefer to put on anything neat and good looking, I am not interested in the name
7. Film — I watch Nigerian movies
8. Actor — Will Smith
9. Child — That’s difficult. I love my kids
10. Novel — I love reading James Hardly Chase novels. He is a great writer