I do not like writing about coaches, I think they earn too much money anyway, compared to the work they do. Players do most of the work.
Coaches dramatise most of the time that the players are playing to instruction when the team is winning, and not playing to instructions when the team is losing. They act out their script in the full glare of television, standing by the sidelines, pretending to be taking down notes (those are the smart ones). They scream out instructions that no one on the field hears or understands, impacting little on how the players play.
They ‘pretend’ to those that pay them colossal wages and the fans that hire and fire them that they are ‘conducting’ things on the field of play with their sideline dramatization of moods. They play mental games with referees. From their field-level position by the sidelines, they have the poorest view of the game and yet they have the final say on the teams. That’s why they earn those outrageously high fees, particularly after almost winning one or two trophies and know how to play the media! They talk and bluff their way to millions of dollars, hopping from one failed coaching job to another. The world of football is full of them – failed coaches!
Do not get me wrong, I love coaches. As players we are forced to develop a ‘love’ relationship with them because they hold our careers in their hands. That’s why you would hardly ever hear a player criticise or condemn a coach even when he knows he may be the worst in the world. We had a great example in Nigeria. Throughout his coaching stint in the national team, none of the players (including those that had trained under obviously much better coaches in Europe) was brave enough to tell the world the coach was so bad, he could not even coach himself to control a ball!
Pardon my digression. I am really interested this day in the brouhaha over the next coach for Nigeria.
It is probable that by the time you are reading this, Stephen Keshi would have accepted the offer made to him by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to resume again as coach of the Super Eagles. In the past few months, I have been following the drama of his re-appointment (or not) by the new NFF.
Permit me to admit that I have never really thought they were as important as football makes them out to be, even if I also concede that without them the game would not be the same because of the extra drama and dimension they bring to the game.
In public, the debate has been whether Stephen Keshi deserves to continue or not as handler of the new Super Eagles that must now surely evolve because the last one that he coached, the one that won the African Cup of Nations in 2013, the one that went to the World Cup in 2014, came back a few months later and could not even qualify for the 2015 African Cup of Nations is definitely not good enough now and may be confined to the dustbin of Nigeria’s poor footballing past.
For reasons more political than otherwise, Keshi has remained on the periphery of the team, waiting to be re-hired or ‘fired’. It is Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan’s intervention in his matter last year that provided him with the lifeline to remain in contention. But for that he would have been history by now.
Against public outcry, Keshi may accept the NFF’s reluctant but ‘poisoned’ offer. Which Nigerian alive can resist a job that may probably be the easiest and most paying in the world?
Unbelievably, according to what we read may be in his contract, he does not even have to win any trophy in the next two years!!!
Don’t get me wrong. I was part of the many Nigerians who sung his praises to high heavens when he took over from Samson Siasia some years ago. I believed, and still do, that the days of games masters and local Nigerian coaches handling the national team are over, and that ex-Nigerian internationals from Stephen Keshi’s era, that take up coaching with proper training, are the best persons to handle Nigeria’s national team.
Unfortunately, the most successful coach in the history of Nigerian football, became a pariah with the woeful performances of his team after the 2014 World Cup. The Super Eagles became shadows, very ordinary and devoid of real talent. As a result, only very few voices have been raised to support Keshi’s recall to the team.
So, who really should coach Nigeria at this point? Should the country be looking for a good coach or a successful coach? It is very easy to know the difference between the two.
A successful coach is one who wins championships consistently. His successes are listed in the number of laurels and silverware in his chest of trophies.
A good coach is one who produces teams that often play well, win the occasional trophy, but manage to leave an imprint on their teams.
There are very few truly successful coaches in the world. You can almost list them on your fingertips. Two excellent examples are Jose Mourinho and Alex Ferguson.
I was actually looking at Jose Mourinho’s records and found that since 2000 that he started his coaching career in Portugal, he may only have failed to win a trophy twice in the years in between for the different clubs he coached. That is consistency, the true definition of a successful coach who knows how to win trophies and championships.
Good coaches are also few. In this group would be Arsene Wenger, Luis Van Gaal, and late Father Jelisavic Tiko.
For better illustration let’s take Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger. Many of his fans will swear he is one of the best coaches in Europe, if not the world. But the reality is different. Without winning trophies consistently, even if it is with the same team (as in the case of Alex Ferguson), his worth can only diminish with the failures in successive seasons. Until the FA Cup of last season, Wenger failed to win anything for Arsenal in eight years!
Most other coaches do not fall within either of the two categories above. They are part of the large population of ‘failed’ coaches! They are the stepping stones for successful coaches! You find them in most teams, hardly ever winning anything and always being hired and fired between jobs. Successful coaches necessarily double as good coaches! Good coaches don’t have to be successful. Winning trophies make the difference.It is against this basic background and understanding that I situate the matter of the coach for Nigeria.
If not Keshi, who? Who is good enough to coach the Nigerian team? Does the country require a good or a successful coach? I look through the history of coaches that handled Nigeria’s team in the past and start to wonder how they ever got there in the first place. What made Berti Vogts, Bora, Onigbinde, Shuaibu, Lagerback, and many others qualify to coach the team? Were they successful, good coaches or ‘failed’ coaches at the points of their engagement?
Take Clemens Westerhof for example. On what basis was he hired in 1990? He was a nobody in coaching before he got the job, spent five years before he won the African Cup of Nations and also led Nigeria to qualify for the country’s first World Cup. By all standards that is a great achievement that should define the man.
But it did not. It has been 20 years since he left the country. In that time, he has coached other teams and won absolutely nothing. He has not even remotely come close to his Nigerian ‘achievements’. Should Nigeria be looking for another Westerhof?
Who is that coach who would take on any team and transform them into winners? That’s the man Nigeria needs now, a man with records of tangible achievements that can be counted in trophies and Cups, and not those that have handled teams with epileptic records!