I find it totally unbelievable that some Nigerians are actually still suggesting that after the exit of Stephen Keshi, what Nigeria needs is a foreign coach to succeed him!
Having had several foreign coaches in the past and started a new experiment with Nigerians, the only reason to go back would be because Nigerians have failed! Otherwise why would we choose to go back to our vomit?
Our experience under foreign coaches is there for all to see. It surely helped up to a point in building the foundation upon which we have started the process of developing an authentic culture of Nigerian football. We will stumble but must never stop!
Through the decades, helped by exposure to professional football in Europe, Nigerian players have developed and several have become ‘giants’ in the game. The country needed to develop its coaching and administration next. Coaching was easier to deal with first because players with vast playing experience were coming through the ranks and acquiring coaching certificates that would put them in good stead to take over from the foreigners.
With the entry of Keshi’s generation, Nigeria arrived at that point and all Nigerians were in agreement that the era of foreign coaches and the siphoning of foreign currency under that guise was over! Keshi was to be the start of the evolution, not it's end. He came, he saw and he conquered with a record of successes unmatched by any previous coach, foreign or local, in our history even if his methods were not fully convincing.
The next logical step should be to build upon Keshi’s foundation, to look for another Nigerian who can take Keshi’s experiment to a new level, and not a return to that which the country had discarded for good.
Looking around the landscape of our retired players, at those with the right background, experience and intellect to take us into the future, one image and name looms large, with several others lining up in the background with the capacity to advance the cause until Nigeria eventually achieves its ultimate objective.
In that new group of future coaches, in my humble estimation, are highly a few players who, should they choose to become coaches and acquire the professional qualifications, will easily fit into the shoes of Sunday Oliseh, the one presently with the looming image and name – Vincent Enyeama, Seyi Olofinjana, Ogenyi Onazi. Mark my words, these players have the temperament and intellect to become great coaches in future.
To go back now to the era of foreign coaches is to turn back the hands of the clock, and to return the country to the era of wheelers and under-hand dealers in foreign currency. In addition, such a move will not sustain under the present political dispensation in Nigeria.
Foreign coaches have served their purpose in our football history. Aggregated, the so-called experienced ones amongst them – Berti Vogts, Lars Lagerback, Bora Milutinovic – all failed woefully.
The few that succeeded had neither the name nor the pedigree some people now clamour for – Westerhof and Jo Bonfrere, for example. Both were nobodies in Europe when they arrived these shores and used Nigeria to shore up their credentials and add to their ‘experience’.
The only foreign coach Nigeria needs now is the young Nigerian that the NFF hired this past week. Those who claim he has no experience in coaching should examine the following facts and figures!
The coaching ‘experience’ of Sunday Oliseh
Without question as a player his credentials are impeccable – a successful domestic career, a successful European career, plus a very successful international career!
At the end of Oliseh’s playing career, he went back to school in Belgium to obtain a diploma in Management to shore up his academic credentials. Thereafter, he enrolled and passed through the various cadres of coaching in Europe. In the final stage of his UEFA Professional License programme, three of his course mates were Gianfranco Zola, Roberto Di Matteo and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Do those names sound familiar? I bet they do.
Zola, of course, is the Italian legend that played with Maradona in Napoli in the early 1990s, and later in England with Chelsea, where in 2003 he was declared Chelsea’s greatest player ever! He was also part of the Italian national team that narrowly defeated the Super Eagles in the second round of USA’94 World Cup.
Immediately after his playing career Zola became coach of Italy’s Under-21, before spending time at West Ham and Watford. His last coaching assignment in 2015 was with Cagliari in Italy.
Roberto Di Matteo is also an Italian legend. Like Zola, he played in Italy (for Lazio) and in England for Chelsea. He was a member of Italy’s 1998 team to France ’98 World Cup!
Immediately he retired from the game, he coached Milton Keyes Dons and West Bromwich Albion before guiding Chelsea to the 2012 UEFA Champions League victory! His last assignment was with Schalke FC in 2014.
Oliseh’s third mate was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the great Norwegian whose last minute goal in the 1999 UEFA Champions League for Manchester United earned the team the trophy and gave the team a treble that memorable year.
When he retired from football, his first managerial assignment was as a coach in Manchester United FC. He later went to coach Molde FC, a Norwegian club, and Cardiff City FC in Wales.
The three players were course mates for their UEFA Professional Coaches’ License.
What happened to Oliseh?
Whereas Zola, Matteo and Solskjaer were offered coaching appointments into major clubs in Europe, Sunday Oliseh, even with his superior results and lengthy stay in Belgium, struggled to end up as a coach to a third division club in the Belgian league.
Come to think of it, even that ‘small’ appointment was a giant leap for African coaches. How many Africans have ever had the opportunity to coach a European club, small or big on the continent? You can count them on the fingers of one hand!
Oliseh and his ‘small’ coaching assignment was monumentally symbolic for Africa, after all, the standard of third division football in Belgium could be better than the highest standards in most African countries, whose poor leagues provided even some Nigerian former Super Eagles coaches that have now become critics of Oliseh, the limited ‘experience’ they dangle as their own credential and condemn Oliseh’s.
I ask therefore: where is Sunday Oliseh supposed to garner the ‘experience’ his critics now tell us he requires, when Africans never get the opportunity to coach the big clubs in Europe?
The foreign coaches that they are clamouring for as alternatives either get their own experiences here in Africa, or by coaching small clubs in Europe! We must not succumb to the vestige of ‘dead and buried’ colonial mentality that portrays everything white or foreign as better!
We have progressively moved through the generations in our evolution – foreigners, Onigbinde, Amodu, Siasia, and Keshi. Onigbinde took us to the African Cup of Nations. Amodu qualified us for the Nations Cup as well as the World Cup. Keshi took us to the Nations Cup and won it, to round two of the World Cup to equal Westerhof’s record, and to the final of CHAN for the first time. These are monumental achievements that should not be diminished by some people’s personal agenda and narrow interest.
Nigeria needs ‘generation next’! Of that generation, Sunday Oliseh stands tall as the ‘foreign’ coach Nigeria needs now!