ANDREW UWE: Age grade league way to go
Former Flying Eagles skipper, now coach of German club side BV Essen, Andrew Uwe went memory lane to share his intimate past while proffering solution to Nigeria’s football slide in the interview with TAIWO ALIMI.
Andrew Uwe’s towering presence cannot be overlooked in Nigeria’s football teams from mid 80s to late 90s.
Kicking off his professional career from Ibadan club side Leventis United in 1985 he moved on to Iwuanyanwu Nationale where he spent two seasons and helped them to reach the final of the African Champions Cup 1988.
In 1985, he captained the Nigeria team to winning bronze at the FIFA World Youth Championship in USSR. Flying Eagles defeated host country in the third place match in the match that went into penalties. In the six matches leading to the third place game, Uwe stood out like a Trojan horse and that may have endeared him to the senior team handlers.
In 1988, he made the final list to the African Cup of Nations in Morocco and played four games en-route the final game against Cameroon. Though, Super Eagles lost 1-0 in the final game, Uwe was exemplary and left Morocco with a silver medal.
Same year, he was called in to the Nigeria football team to Summer Olympics in Seoul-South Korea. Though Nigeria performed below par, Uwe maintained his position in the Super Eagles. He made it again to the next AFCON in 1990 in Algeria. Nigeria again reached the final match but lost to hosts 1-0.
Uwe joined the European train in 1989 teaming up with Belgian third division club, Roeselare. He spent four season there before moving to Germany where he had more playing time during his career from 1994 to 2000: Veen (94/95), Oldenburg (95/98), Rot-Weiss (98/99) and Cloppenburg (99/2000).
Speaking from his base in Germany, Uwe said he was eager to play football as a child. “Yes I did found football because I was eager to play football. My parents did not want their kid to play football, but I was deep and in love with football. They tried to stop me but along the line they did not have a choice but to be on my football side.”
Uwe must have had a great time at Leventis United as his departure abroad was tied to disbandment of the club. “I decided to go professional abroad because my loving team Leventis United was disbanded and when I played for other teams in Nigeria, it wasn’t like Leventis United. That was why I decided to go out of the country.”
That kindled memories of great times he had in Ibadan. “Football is important to me and every game is important. Personally all games are important and what great games I played in Leventis United. I played with great players that made all games great. We wanted to win and after each game we all have fun together.”
As captain of the Flying eagles team, the over six-footer said the team had good chemistry together. “As a captain of that Flying Eagles ’85 team we have fun together, and care about one another. The trainers, team manager, physio are always around each other and that is why we played well in Russia. We had great time too.”
Unknown to many his professional career abroad transcends Belgium and Germany. “My pro career was great. I played in Belgium, Holland, Portugal, Malta South Korea, United States of America and Germany. I am pleased with my pro career and what I have achieved during my pro spell. I thank God for my achievements.”
Coaching came naturally to him due to his devotion and passion for football and his love for teaching. “I love to teach and if not for football I would have been a school teacher. I wanted to work as a school teacher.
“I went for coaching certificates because I enjoy and have passion for it. Coaching is fun if you have your plans, policy, philosophy and love for the game. It’s fun when you know what you are doing and have your plan. Here in Germany if you don’t have those plans, then forget about coaching. It’s tough to obtain German Elite license but I thank God for all I have achieved. It was achieved with hard work and in the end its fun coaching.”
Uwe is very much in touch with his roots in Nigeria and as an experienced coach with youth teams, having spent time with Nordwest U17 as assistant manager and manager; he said Nigeria has a lot of work to do to get it right in age grade competitions.
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“We have a lot to do on how to develop the young ones. I will say instead of having Academies here and there, that we should try to see how they can have youth leagues and from there pick players for our age grade national teams. It is possible with the right focus and attitude. That is how it is done in Germany and all over Europe for the age grade teams. There is systematic progression from the cadet to junior and then to the senior team but there must be concrete plans ahead.”
“In Germany, there are leagues for U17 and U19 and we have coaches at these levels. At the end of the season the top teams get promotion and the last two or three teams will be demoted and that is how it is in the U11, U12, U13, U14, U15, U16, U17, U19, and U23. They all have their leagues and play 22 or 24 games home and away for the season. So, from these teams they pick the players for the age grade national teams. My idea is for the age grade teams to have their own league and the national teams are picked from the leagues.”
Uwe, who last month took charge of Bundesliga club BV Essen, said his family is ever supportive of his dream to do well in coaching. “My family is great and we doing fine. They all know the love I have for football and they respect it because I am always on the road going to football camps or some courses just to be current with coaching age grade teams. One of my children is playing and also good at school because you have to get good grades to do sport in Germany.”
“I am happy with this new development. I’ve signed the contract and I will be starting with the club on July 18. Everything is set and I have all the schedules. The contract is one year in the first instance with an automatic extension after six months,” added Uwe.
ANDREW UWE: Age grade league way to go