There is no woman like my wife –Dosu
Atlanta Olympics football gold medal winner, Dosu Joseph, in this interview with our Correspondent, Augustine Akhilomen, recounts how his wife stood by him after a car accident that cut his football career short, how the Dream Team defeated Brazil, and why his parents did not support his football career. Excepts:
At the Atlanta Olympic Games, you were the least experienced among the three goalkeepers selected by Coach Bonfrere Jo. How did you become number one?
It was hard work and determination to really make my presence felt in the team. I might have been playing in the domestic league then, however, my determination to be counted distinguished me from the rest of the goalkeepers. The likes of Abiodun Baruwa and Emmanuel Babayaro were very good goalkeepers that once played in the domestic league before moving to Europe and, of course, you could imagine the competition that was in the team. I did my best, like I said earlier, and I am happy my best was enough to help the team win the Olympic gold medal in the football event.
The Dream Team came from behind to defeat Brazil 4-3 in the semi-final of the football event in 1996. Can you describe the magic moments and what went on inside the team’s dressing room?
It was a game that I will never forget because at some point we thought it would be impossible to overcome the Brazilians, after going down 3-1 at half time. Mind you, we met with this same team in the group stage and we lost 1-0; that was just the group stage. But we, the players, realised that our country’s image was at stake and we had millions of Nigerians watching and rooting for our victory that we must not disappoint.
After half time, we told ourselves that the Brazilians were beatable, irrespective of their stars, because they had the likes of Bebeto, Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos and many of them at their disposal. Like magic, we were able to level the score at 3-3 and take the match to extra time, where we felt the mission was possible. Meanwhile, the Brazilian team was over-confident and believed that it could repeat the magic of the first half against us during the golden goal but thanks to Nwankwo Kanu, who had to rescue Nigeria by scoring the winning goal. I was so glad when I saw Kanu’s shot pass the goalkeeper because it was not an easy match.
Can you still recall Bonfrere Jo’s pep talk to the team that gingered the players?
I remember Bonfrere Jo telling us that we should not just give up easily and that we are capable of upsetting the Brazilians. Though we were down but the little words from the coach really motivated us and gave us that self-belief that we could truly turn the table in the second half against Brazil. Besides, the coach had to remove a defender for Wilson Oruma, who changed the complexion of the match. Of course, the tactical approach to use three defenders against a Brazilian side that was blessed with an array of stars was something I never understood but I think he was a genius to take such a risk. In fact, he was the first coach, as far as I am concerned, to use three defenders in a match situation and still achieve something worthwhile. Some coaches now use such tactics but it was strange to me when he decided to make the move.
You hung up your boots after an accident that almost claimed your life.
I give God the glory for keeping me alive up till today. He deserves all adoration and appreciation because, if not for his grace, I would have been history. It is 18 years now since I survived the accident that made me who I am today. I bless God because there is a purpose for everything in life. Oftentimes, man proposes but God disposes, so there is nothing you can do in that regard.
Though it came like a shock to me, because my dream was to play in the top clubs in Europe and to become one of the best goalkeepers the world would reckon with, but, like I said, God understands everything better than we ordinary mankind that He created.
Lots of people insinuated that I was drunk, which led to the accident. Dosu Joseph is not a drunkard and does not drink but it was so painful that some people just assumed that it was my act of drunkenness that left me where I am. One thing is for sure, people say whatever they like when situations like that arise and I don’t blame them. All I know is that Dosu is not a drunkard and people should stop painting me negatively. It was something I can hardly explain because it happened within the twinkle of an eye, and the next thing was that I was lying in the hospital.
Did you give up your dreams as a result of the accident?
I never gave up my dreams because, sometimes in life, things like that motivate you to go the extra mile in changing your situation and I am happy that I was able to take up the challenge and face the reality that awaited me in life. The fact that I was down did not mean that was the end of my world as a footballer. Oftentimes in life, people believe that once you cannot walk life is meant to be difficult. Every footballer’s dream has always been to play in Europe for a very long time but mine was just unfortunate that I played for just one year in Reggiana before waving goodbye to active football after my accident in Lagos.
I am really grateful to God that despite the situation I am still capable of providing something for my family.
Talking about your family, how did your wife cope with the accident?
Wow! My wife is gift from God because she stood by me when things were tough and rough, when I was confined to a wheelchair. Unlike other women who would want the sweet life with a concubine, my wife was instrumental in my return to full fitness. Ordinarily, she would have left me behind to enjoy her life with other men but she chose to stay and motivate me till I was discharged from the hospital.
I thank God for giving me the bone of my bone and the flesh of my flesh, because there is no woman that is like my wife. She is all I will ever cherish. In fact, it was after my return from my club in Europe that I had that accident and my wife was there throughout my toughest time in life. She saved my football dream though not as a player but in terms of managing and unearthing young talents that will represent Nigeria at the national level.
Did you get any support from your parents when you decided to venture into football as a career?
My parents never supported the idea of me becoming a footballer because they felt going to school would have made me a better person in society. Most of my siblings are educated and my brother is an educationist but I chose football because it was my passion. Personally, I support my parents’ idea of me being an educated person than just being a footballer, but then playing football has always been my dream and I have no regrets for it. Sometimes, it is good to allow people to follow their dream rather than impose your own on them, because they may end up not doing well in what you have asked them to do.
Did government play any role in ensuring that you got the best treatment?
It would be unfair to say that government did not do anything to better my situation. At least, they assisted me in some certain areas, which really helped save the situation. However, I must give thanks to all Nigerians who prayed for me while I was down in the hospital because their prayers went a long way in reviving my dream. In all, I think God was the superior because without him, I would have been history today.
What was the feeling like among your family and friends when they heard of your accident?
To be frank with you, they felt so disappointed and dejected because it was not what they expected. It was a day many of them would not want to remember, because there were high hopes that things would change for good with my success at the Olympics, but like I earlier mentioned, God knows better than the ordinary man on Earth.
Apart from winning the Olympics gold medal with the Dream Team in 1996, what other trophies would you have loved to win, if you were still playing football?
For me, I think I have won the best trophy as far as football is concerned because winning the Olympic gold medal was one huge achievement I would never forget. Besides, winning the Nigerian FA Cup in November 1996 with Julius Berger of Lagos and being part of the team during the qualifying stages for the World Cup in France 1998, even though I was not opportune to grace the competition. Besides, the little time I spent in the round leather game gave me the chance to shake hands with the President, governors and other mighty figures in our nation. Football really gave me that platform to meet them, which if I were to be the ordinary men on the street, I would not have had such opportunities.