First of all, Bonfrere Jo ‘deserves’ an Olympic gold medal, and some news outlets might have chosen the wrong words in their description of what he said in the interview with BCOS Television.
Former coach of the Nigerian U-23 National team, Jo led Nigeria to its first Olympic football gold medal in 1996. Managing very talented and committed players, the Dutchman said that was a high point in his career. The summit of his achievements, however came with some lows, and that’s his age-long grouse.
After leading Nigeria to scoop the gold medal in Atlanta, United States of America, defeating Mexico, Brazil and Argentina in succession, Jo was prevented from getting a medal, albeit rightly and historically, and the former Super Eagles coach has never hidden his displeasure with Nigerian football officials ever since.
He accused former Minister of Sports, Senator Jim Nwobodo of collecting his medal, in a 2019 letter to Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Governor of Lagos State.
“The Sports Minister during the Atlanta ’96 Olympics, Senator Jim Nwobodo, asked his PA to collect my gold medal in Atlanta while on the line after we were awarded.
“Since then, I have written letters severally asking for my medal without receiving any response from the appropriate quarters,” Jo wrote.
In his interview with Matt Boluwaji of BCOSTV last week, the AFCON silver-winning coach narrated his ordeals in Atlanta and how he was ‘snubbed’ by Nigerian football officials.
He recalled the challenges faced by the team, and how they surmounted them to rule the world, and also revealed that everything he was promised was yet to be fulfilled.
“After we won the gold medal, we had enjoyment, laughing and dancing and we were very happy, but then the board members told me ‘coach you cannot go up, there’s no gold medal for you anymore. I was very sad and angry at that moment, I showed them also that I was angry. Then they asked me to come back to Nigeria to enjoy it, but I told them ‘no, you have punished me to take my gold medal away, I’m not going back to Nigeria’, so I left the US with Babangida (Tijani) to Holland, and that was what happened with me,” he told BCOS.
“I have not received my gold medal. I have not received my promised lands in Lekki, Lagos State. Every player has been given a piece of land and I’m yet to receive. There are two things which they have promised me, one, they have taken away, one, they haven’t given to me.
“It’s not fair if you bring back to Nigeria or the whole of Africa such a great achievement in the history of Nigerian football and Africa’s. You put Nigeria and Africa on the world map of football countries, then they promise to give you this and up till now, 24 years later, they are yet to keep their promise. It’s not fair, believe me,” Jo said.
Jo, in his revelation may have forgotten that he was given keys to a 3-bedroom apartment in the Gwagwalada area of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. In a news that was well publicised, and with a plethora of images, Minister of Works and Housing, then Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola was seen handing over the keys to the apartment to Jo, after 22 years of his success at the Olympics.
In other investigations, and research, it has been found that coaches don’t receive medals at the Olympics. Many have tagged it an anomaly, as the men who make the athletes are ignored in the International Olympic Committee (IOC) reward system, but it is the standard with the Olympics.
While Jo has oftentimes claimed to be a big fan of Nigeria and Nigerians, his previous battles with football administrators in the country are well documented. He has accused them of cheating him on several occasions and could have thought the Olympics was another.
The IOC has made it a custom not to reward coaches at all, either with prize money or medals of any sort.
Moved by the achievements of some of these coaches, the body in January rewarded some great coaches at the Olympics with lifetime achievement awards. This is however not a regular happening, but some successful Olympians have been heard to share their rewards with their coaches, sometimes giving them their medals.
Jo is not entitled to an Olympic gold medal or any of sort, as the IOC has maintained in its statement to the Tribune Newspapers, but should be given his house in Lagos, as promised. Nigeria owes Jo a debt, but it is not an Olympic gold medal.