*Our referees are the best corp I have seen
Fidelis Ilechukwu is of the new generation of coaches who are ready to change the face of Nigerian football for good, the Mountain of Fire Miracle coach had a chat with Olayinka Elebute of www.gongnews.net on how the team evolved from a street team to a league team and the challenges of staying at the top. Please enjoy the excerpts.
Let’s have a background check on you and how you came into football.
My name is Fidelis Ilechukwu. Coach of MFM FC. I’m from Nnewi in Anambra state. I started football coaching in 1999 in Lagos. I didn’t want to take it serious but I thank God for Pastor David of MFM who encouraged me. At the end of the day I went into full time football coaching
Now tell us if you ever had a playing career
No no no I didn’t play up to league level, I was a grassroots player but I was very good as well playing football
How has it been with Fidelis Ilechukwu and MFM FC?
I’m the first coach of the team since 2006 till date. So far so good MFM FC has been good to me. There’s nothing I ask I didn’t get. So we are good.
Tell us about the development of MFM from 2006 till date.
Its a great one. When we started then, we never expected to get to this level. We called it a gathering or repositioning. Taking youths off the streets. But at every stage we crossed the river we kept seeing promises. From grassroots to amateur two, then amateur 1. But we discovered after training these players, they go to join League teams so we took it on.
What led MFM to go into football?
Dr. Daniel Olukoya said he saw a lot of youths doing nothing. So he asked how he can assist them and they told him that 80% of boys play football. That’s what connected him. So we ourselves decided to make him proud. Its not only football. Table tennis, athletics, boxing, basketball etcetera. But because in Nigeria football is most popular. That’s why most people think MFM is only about football.
What happened last year when Fidelis Ilechukwu and his team struggled to survive the league?
Last season we started well but due to indiscipline and negative character of some of our players and some other things which I won’t like to mention, we dropped form. After first round last season we had 27 points but now we already have 30 points and the first round is still on. Which means there’s improvement.
How did you get the nick name ‘the working one’?
Its because I’m not a talking one. But we must talk to the media. I prefer to do my work without saying much and let me result on the pitch do the talking I guess that’s where the name came up.
What is responsible for your team being on top this season?
The players we have now are much more disciplined. In football, to get to the top you must be disciplined and that is the key for the team now.
Now you’ve taken CAF B licensing courses. What have you learnt and how would you impact it in your team?
CAF B licensing is just equivalent of someone going to Europe for refresher courses. As I talk to you, its a huge advantage to me, I’m going to utilise it to help MFM make top 3.
Last season some people described you as Leicester City of Nigeria. Do you see yourself in that light considering you struggle last year and topping now?
I’m looking it as MFM FC. I’m seeing us finishing top 3. If we don’t make it, then its a failure. Although, our target is to probably win the league and surprise people in the football community in Nigeria
You have talents doing great in Nigeria now. Stephen Odey doing well, Sikiru Olatunbosun won CNN goal of the week.
Presently I’m the youngest coach in the NPFL, just 38 years, So I have to work with young people to do great things. A lot of things are happening in our team. We have the top scorer, we won the CNN goal of the week I think its wonderful working with young players.
Nigerian teams have failed in CAF competitions. What do you think we do to make the league better?
In the NPFL the first thing we need to do is improve officiating. Its very important. If LMC wants to improve the league, they must give the referees best protection. The referees feel intimidated by hooligans and so on. If referees can be assured of protection, they’ll give you the best. They’re the best I’ve seen. They have families like others and they have to be there for them. But they need protection.
What is responsible for MFM FC not complaining about money.
MFM FC is the best team in the NPFL as far as I’m concerned. They’ll pay you what they agree to pay you at the right time. Its a church team, our General Overseer is a man of God Dr.Daniel Olukoya. His concern is for us to be okay. You can compare us with other clubs that promise to pay high but will not pay you as at when due.
What are you giving back to Dr. Olukoya this season?
Its important, he’s my father. He doesn’t need anything from the team apart from seeing MFM FC progressing. He’s a man of success. An achiever who likes to come top in whatever he ventures into. So because of that we are determined to tap into his success as a man of God and first class person. So we want to win the league for Dr. Daniel Olukoya, that’s the only thing we can give to him.