By Nurudeen Obalola:
Samson Siaisa could lead the Super Eagles to beat Egypt home and away playing like peak Brazil in the process, but he knows that he is holding the head coach’s job for someone else.
The U-23s head coach has been brought in to fill the gap left by Sunday Oliseh and the Nigeria Football Federation have made it clear that the ultimate plan is to get a foreign coach.
So no matter how well proponent of positive, attacking football Siasia does, he is warming the seat for a non-Nigerian coach.
Of course, it is the NFF’s prerogative to decide on whoever they feel can do a proper job with the Super Eagles. But one must also wonder the category of foreign coach Mr Amaju Pinnick and his men have in mind.
Is it the relatively unknown, untested but ultimately successful one like Clemens Westerhof and Jo Bonfrere? Or the ones with big reputations who ended up failing spectacularly, like Berti Vogts or Lars Lagerback?
Or the mythical one that guarantees success?
The truth is Nigeria has struggled with foreign coaches in recent years, while the indigenous ones have fared better.
Since the departure of Bonfrere in 2001 when he left Nigeria’s qualification for the 2002 World Cup hanging in the balance, it is Nigerian coaches who have been cleaning up the mess.
It was Shaibu Amodu who did the rescue job in 2001 and somehow led the Eagles to qualify from the brink of elimination. His reward? He got the sack for not winning the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations – reaching the semi-finals was obviously not good enough.
After Bonfrere took the Eagles to the final of the 2000 AFCON, every foreign coach that followed the Dutchman failed.
Berti Vogts, Germany legend and coach of their 1996 European Championship-winning side, was perhaps the biggest name Nigeria had ever employed, yet he could not take the Super Eagles beyond the quarter-finals of the 2008 AFCON in Ghana.
The Eagles struggled to get out of their group and lost 2-1 to Ghana in the quarter-finals despite being one goal and one man up at a stage of the match.
Ghanaians enjoyed the win so much that they laughed at us Nigerians unfortunate to be around during that time. And they rechristened the Super Eagles the ‘Super Chickens’. You couldn’t be more humiliated to be a Nigerian in Ghana back then.
That humiliation did not stop Vogts from collecting his entitlements and hightailing back to Germany.
Amodu again came around and helped Nigeria qualify for the 2010 World Cup. Again, after another semi-final finish at the 2010 AFCON, he was fired, to be replaced by yet another foreign coach.
Lagerback had enjoyed decent success with his native Sweden and apparently bamboozled the NFF with his powerpoint presentation while interviewing for the job. But he was also a big failure as the Super Eagles got kicked out at the 2010 World Cup in the first round, after getting just a paltry point in a group that had Argentina, Greece and South Korea.
Somewhere just before this period too, Nigeria had Frenchman Phillipe Troussier – vastly experienced in African countries – and Bora Milutinovic. They both came in before Bonfrere’s second coming.
The one theme running through all the foreign coaches is that they all left in a huff or under a cloud. There was always some acrimony in the departure; none left amicably.
Conversely, since 2000, the best moments in Nigerian football have come with indigenous coaches.
Siasia led the U-23s to the Olympic football final in 2008 and it took Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria and Co to stop the Nigerian lads from claiming gold.
Nigeria’s finest football moment in the last 20 years came in 2013 when the Super Eagles won their first AFCON trophy in 19 years. It was a Nigerian coach, Stephen Keshi, who got the job done.
The closest a foreign coach took Nigeria to the AFCON title in recent years was the 2008 quarter-finals with Vogts. The Super Eagles had reached three straight semi-finals (2002, 2004 and 2006) before then with Nigerian coaches (Amodu, Christian Chukwu and Austin Eguavoen).
Without any doubt, Nigerian coaches have raised their game in the last few years and are attending the same coaching courses with their European counterparts. Besides, most of the current crop of Nigerian coaches are ex-footballers who played in Europe under the best coaches.
The likes of Keshi, Siasia and Amuneke (although you can’t really judge with the U-17s) are beginning to show that if treated right and allowed to work under the best conditions, Nigerian coaches can be as good as their foreign colleagues.
However, it is still the NFF’s call as to who they give the job to.
Although you can’t help but wonder what would happen if they owe the foreign coach one month’s pay, let alone several months.
Would the foreign coach be issued a query if he complains about unpaid salaries? Would his players’ entitlements be promptly provided so that they could concentrate on their football?
Is there a system in place to ensure that this foreign coach is paid as and when due? No excuses, no delays, no mumblings about economic meltdown?
Hopefully, the NFF will consider these key questions before going ahead to get this foreign coach, who must not be a journeyman looking for a quick buck.
NPFL: WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?
I was mighty impressed last weekend when Nigerians were talking about their own league while games were going on in Europe.
The Nigeria Professional Football League is gradually worming its way into the hearts of Nigerians and social media was awash with discussions and banter on the league on Sunday, although there were matches in the English Premier League and La Liga.
The League Management Company is turning our league into one that cannot be ignored. And many young Nigerians are buying in.
More people are attending matches – there were full houses at most grounds on Sunday – and even reports about the Nigerian league are getting more hits on the internet than ever before.
A lot is going right for the Nigerian league and the momentum must be sustained and built on.
What’s not to like about our league?
There were four away wins on the opening matchday.
There was a 24-year-old FIFA-badged referee handling a huge game, and he was flawless.
More and more foreign players are coming over to Nigeria. Brazilians are playing for FC IfeanyiUbah and a Togolese plays for Enugu Rangers etc.
There are four privately-owned clubs already in the league.
Of course, there are still issues like unpaid salaries and the like, but Rome was not built in a day.
The NPFL has already laid the foundations of its own Rome and the building has commenced.