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The Making of NPFL's Louis Van Gaal: The Inspiring Journey of Coach Daniel Ogunmodede

From his beginnings in Ogun State to his innovative "Ijaball" coaching style, discover how Ogunmodede has risen to prominence in Nigerian football, blending influences from elite coaches like Mourinho, Klopp, and Guardiola.

Gbemidepo Popoola
G. Popoola

Last Updated: 2024-07-02

Louis Hobbs

7 minutes read

Coach Daniel Ogunmodede

From Ogbomoso to the world! As the saying goes in Nigerian local parlance, is definitely the journey of one of the finest young coaches in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), this season, Coach Daniel Ogunmodede.

Daniel is the Head Coach of Remo Stars football club, based in Ikenne, Ogun State. The club is privately owned and runs in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).

The young coach has shown like a million stars in the NPFL since his return as the head coach in the 2022-2023 season. This is due to the fantastic style of play displayed by his well-drilled side, game after game. 

Daniel Ogunmodede: The Journey 

Born in Ogun state, forged in Oyo state, mastered in Ikenne, OgunState. Daniel might have not turned out to be a Professional coach if he had listened to the wishes of his dad to be a Medical Doctor in his early childhood. But fate had other plans.

"My dad actually wanted me to be a medical doctor. I went through school, and I have two degrees,” Ogunmodede told SportsBoom.com.

Although vastly read with degrees in Physiology from the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, and another, in Human Kinetics from the University of Ilorin.

Also attending the Nigeria Institute of Sports, for his first coaching badges, before continuing his coaching sojourn in Portugal. He remains one of the most well-read young coaches in the NPFL this season.

Image Credits: Remo Stars

Image Credits: Remo Stars

From the Classroom to the Football Pitch

Ijaball as he's fondly known, started out from the classroom, falling in love with football from high school, but couldn't continue to play to the top level, due to a health issue.

"It was actually an appendix operation that dashed my hopes of playing football."

Also stating his doctors advise not to be involved in rigorous activities, including football "The doctor said I was going to die if I played football and that made me scared at that time,” he outlined.

As time went on his parents saw, and eventually supported him to chase his dream through coaching, as he couldn’t play professionally, or at the top due to the medical condition.

So, he started working with the school coaches with the understanding that, "not everyone would make it playing football".

"What really made me go into coaching was the realization that,  not everyone can be successful playing, but everyone can be successful in football, that was why I chose coaching another angle, since I can't play again.”

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I made up my mind, this is what I want to do.

Daniel Ogunmodede

His Breakthrough 

Then the coaching breakthrough process came through, while he was gathering boys in his local community through his newly developed passion for coaching.

That was where the late chairman of Crown FC, Baba Olayinka, saw his team play against them in a pre-season game, fell in love with his team, and offered him a scholarship to the National Institute of Sports, to get a coaching certificate.

It was the beginning of something that would outlive his benefactor. As he unfortunately died before his graduation from the NIS. One beautiful thing he also did before his death was making provisions for Coach Dan to be incorporated into the team after graduation from the NIS.

This, was where, the journey started.

"I first did something like an internship with them and that was how the journey started."

"Ijaball" - Coach Daniel's Coaching Philosophy

'Ijaball’ is a proactive possession-based style of football. This is as a result of Coach Dan's staunch following of his favourite elite coaches, and coaches he has worked under.

"It's as a result of the knowledge I've acquired from every coach I've been opportune to work with, and my idea of how I think football should be played."

Jose Mourinho's well drilled defensive pattern, Jurgen Klopp's gegen pressing, and Pep Guardiola's ball retention, and recycling is what we've come to see his side play week in week out in the league.

"I've got a lot of influences, but my biggest influence is Jose Mourinho."  

With a style similar to that of Louis Van Gaal in the way the team plays, and wants to keep the ball, trying to dominate with, or without the ball in a 5-3-2, 3-4-3, or 3-5-2 setting, switching intermittently on the field of play. Based on game play, and level of opposition faced, but not deviating from the core.

Not forgetting Louis Van Gaal team's shape, and the sweeper keeper role, that has been mastered by his first choice goalkeeper, and arguably one of the best safe pair of gloves in the country Kayode Bankole.

"I've been opportune to assist for about 13, 14 years in the league, from 2008-2019/20 or so.

"I was able to get one or two things from them, and combined it with my own personal ideology which, has resulted into what "Ijaball" looks like today.”

"I was opportune to assist top coaches in the country like Godfrey Esu, Lawrence Akpokona, Ganiu Salami, Niyi Akande, to mention a few.”

"At the international level too, I read a lot about Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola and added some of their football philosophy to it as well.

"In Mourinho, I picked his style of discipline, interpreting games from Klopp, and of course how Pep brings variation to his team. You can’t give what you don’t have."  

The elite tactician who had the opportunity to be trained abroad, and also to work with C.D Feirense in Portugal, Europe, said his knowledge gathered is to be put into action, in the Nigerian elite league back at home.

Image Credits: Pulse Sports Kenya

Image Credits: Pulse Sports Kenya

The Becoming, and Mentality

The 44-year-old coach finished second in the league last season, qualifying to the CAF Champions League in his first season as the head coach of the club.

Narrowly losing the league on goal difference to eventual champions, and 9-time NPFL winners, Enyimba Int’l Football Club on the Final day of the season.

This was after he took over from Coach Gbenga Ogunbote who finished in 3rd place, the previous season, and qualifying for the CAF Confederations Cup. The club's first continental outing in its 14 years of existence.

His side currently sits second in the Nigerian top-flight league, with 62 points from 36 games, and a goal difference of 14, just 2 points behind the current league leaders, and 7-time Champions, Rangers Int’l of Enugu. A side who has never been relegated from the top-flight, and a traditional powerhouse in the league.

Ijaball has been able to get the best from Sikiru Alimi, the league's joint top goal scorer on 15 goals, alongside Enyimba Int’l striker Chijioke Mbaoma, after match day 36.

This is after the striker had a forgettable season, last season, laden with injuries, and a loss of form, and scoring only one goal for his previous side, Shooting Stars Fc, Ibadan.

His massive influence can also be seen all around the squad, with the atmosphere he's built in, and around his player.

Known for his side's never say die attitude and playing for goals till the end of the game, "Ijaball" has been consistently providing edge of the seat moments with "Fergie Time" goals in back-to-back games on home soil, in Ikenne - Remo, Ogun state., and also away from home comforts.

"It's who I am, and I try to pass the same to my team, to have the same mentality as I do.”

"I'm not the type that give up easily on my cause hence, I train my players with this ideology, and this has been our way of life.”

"Having inculcated it in them over a period of time, it is just what I am, and I try to give it to my team." 

The Drive

The young enigmatic coach has been motivated and is driven by seeing young coaches abroad do well. Making a huge reference to Andre Villas Boas wining the Europa League at 33years of age.

"If Andre Villas Boas can win the Europa League at the age of 33, we can too."  

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For me, all I'm looking forward to is, making coaching in our environment more lucrative too, and well respected.

Daniel Ogunmodede

Long Term Goals, and Dreams

Ijaball's dream is to make coaching lucrative, and well respected in his home country like other professional jobs. The Ogun state born tactician also hopes he can one day lift the CAF Champions League with a team in his home country.

"To win the league one day, to win the CAF Champions League with a Club in this country, and to one day win the World Cup for my country, this is my dream.”

The master tactician wants to make his environment better first, by bringing all he can to make the Nigerian coaching system lucrative and better. Also touching on coaching a European top side as well.

"It will be a tall dream to say I want to coach a top division club in Europe, you know what that means with the lack of respect for black people, and dominance of whites when it comes to the coaching job in Europe.

For sure I'd like to match up to them, but also bringing it down here, into my own system and making life better for coaches in my home country."

Coach Dan is passionate about mentoring younger ones unto the right path of the coaching job and hopes youths in his home country would embrace it fully.

Off the field of play, balancing Career, and Family

"Outside football, I love reading, writing, surfing the net, I love swimming for relaxation".

The above were his exact words when discussing about what he does outside of football, in his free time. Also stating how difficult it is for him juggling between, work time, family time, and leisure.

"It's difficult, absolutely difficult but, thank God I have an understanding, and supportive partner that makes things easy for me, to be able to balance between home, work, and leisure.

"My wife has been there for me as a pivotal support, and it’s really been helpful".

More To Come?

With quality years ahead of him, he plans to leave a Legacy of been able to have created a blueprint, a pathway of success, for the young ones coming into the coaching sector in the Npfl, and on the Nigerian football community.

He said, "It's not easy in the country to say you want to wake up and be a coach but, people like us have changed the narrative.

"For people in my country to know it's a professional job. Anybody should be able to come up and say he or she wants to be a coach.”

"My biggest dream for our football at the end is, to have been able to create a pathway, easy for young ones to tread, in the nearest future."

Coach Daniel Ogunmodede may have his role models in Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp, and Pep Guardiola, but his pattern of play is more similar to Louis Van Gaal.

With his charisma like that of Jose Mourinho, his agility as of Jurgen Klopp, and brilliant mind like Pep Guardiola, definitely his best is yet to come, and his dreams might just be nearer to realities, than mere dreams.

Gbemidepo Popoola
Gbemidepo PopoolaSports Writer

Gbemidepo Popoola, is a freelance Sport Journalist with multiple years of experience in Writing, Reportage and Broadcasting. Gbemidepo's major concentration is telling the local Nigerian Sporting stories, in its own Unique way. This is because he believes, "no one, can tell our story better than ourselves".