People Deserve The Coach They Hire -By Owei Lakemfa

Filed under: National Issues,Sports Issues |
Owei Lakemfa

Owei Lakemfa

 

…how come a footballing nation like Nigeria, which ranked fifth in FIFA World Ranking in 1994, tumbled to the 43rd position in 2014 and 57th in 2015? How come a country that produced a team at the 1994 World Cup which emerged from the Group that included Argentina, Bulgaria and Greece and almost defeated Italy to qualify for the Quarter finals could, some years down the line, not even qualify for the African Nations Cup?

Nigeria is a reservoir of skillful footballers. From Thunder Balogun to Haruna Ilerika, Inua Rigogo to Emmanuel Okala, Tony Igwe (World Two) to Chairman Christian Chukwu (CCC), Sanni Mohammed to Muda Lawal, Kanu Nwankwo to Jay Jay Okocha, Nigeria produced them all. ‘Danger Man’ Jossy Donbraye was no terrorist, he earned the sobriquet on the field; ‘Mathematical’ Segun Odegbami did not earn his in the classroom, but on the field where he was an artist; and the amazing Adokiye Amiesimaka was not made ‘Chief Justice’ by the National Judicial Commission, but earned it on the field even when he was still a law student at the University of Lagos.

Our league was so good that fans paid gate fees to watch their darling clubs like Stationary Stores practice. In 1972, the leading Scottish football club, Dundee United came on a playing tour. It was so mercilessly whipped by local Nigerian clubs, that Dundee United became another word for a fool in Nigeria.

So how come a footballing nation like Nigeria, which ranked fifth in FIFA World Ranking in 1994, tumbled to the 43rd position in 2014 and 57th in 2015? How come a country that produced a team at the 1994 World Cup which emerged from the Group that included Argentina, Bulgaria and Greece and almost defeated Italy to qualify for the Quarter finals could, some years down the line, not even qualify for the African Nations Cup?

…Siasia was not a politician who could dribble past the country’s football administrators… He was clearly the best coach we had and the bureaucrats in the Glass House had no choice but to appoint him the National Coach. But in ten months, he was kicked out after orchestrated media campaigns and the use of star footballers like Peter Osaze Odemwingie to insult him and create the impression of division in the team.

At the 1996 Olympics Games in Atlanta, Nigeria produced one of the most beautiful orchestras in world football, beating all other nations to win the gold medal. Why is that same Nigeria ranking behind non-footballing nations in Africa like Cape Verde and Congo; politically troubled countries like Tunisia, and even Egypt that has been virtually engaged in a civil war? The fault is not in our football stars, nor have Nigerians become less enthusiastic with the round leather game; the fault is in our football administration and the coaches they hire.

It is good that we are no longer insulted by the argument that we need a foreign coach. After eighteen of such coaches, with Germany supplying us with five; Holland, four; and England, Hungary, Brazil and former Yugoslavia supplying two each, such arguments have waned. The once dominant mentality of hiring a foreign coach (by the way one of them came from Israel!) is like the culture of hiring foreign companies to build our roads when the technology has been available for hundreds of years.

After the Swede, Lars Lagerback left, we had made the good move of hiring Samson Siasia in 2010. He is a coach with passion for the development of young talents who would produce a continuous nourishment for the Super Eagles. He had successfully coached Under 12, 20 and 23 teams taking Nigeria to world finals in those categories. The logic was that since many of the boys pass through him to mature into the Super Eagles, he could build a formidable senior team for the future.

Replacing a Siasia with a Keshi was like a family in need of security replacing its guard dog with a monkey; of course, the family will be entertained by the antics of the monkey, but not get the security it needs.

However, Siasia was not a politician who could dribble past the country’s football administrators. When they denied him funds for the junior team, rather than read the match correctly, he approached the Bayelsa State Government to bail out the team and refused to bring the money into the pool that the bureaucrats control. He was clearly the best coach we had and the bureaucrats in the Glass House had no choice but to appoint him the National Coach. But in ten months, he was kicked out after orchestrated media campaigns and the use of star footballers like Peter Osaze Odemwingie to insult him and create the impression of division in the team. The final excuse used was the failure of Nigeria to qualify for the 2012 Nations Cup.

With that, the team Siasia was building was destroyed, and in came the super football politician, the ‘Big Boss’ himself, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi. Replacing a Siasia with a Keshi was like a family in need of security replacing its guard dog with a monkey; of course, the family will be entertained by the antics of the monkey, but not get the security it needs.

Keshi was a great footballer who captained the Super Eagles. But he was quite controversial. He had his own team within our national team, and ran the Super Eagles with another politician and public relations ‘guru’, Clemens Westerhof, the then Technical Adviser. Players not in their good books may not even be called to the National Team, or were like Rasheed Yekini, treated as outsiders. Our best outing in the World Cup, the 1994 edition, might have been better if there was team cooperation.

Keshi’s high as Super Eagles coach was winning the 2013 Nations Cup. With that, he began his theatrics. Showing complete disrespect for Nigerians and dampening their joy of winning the cup after nineteen years, he announced right there on a South African radio that that he had resigned.

Keshi went on to coach the Togolese National team and qualified that country for Germany 2006, the first time Togo would play at the World Cup. Then the team virtually disintegrated before Germany 2006, with all sorts of petty quarrels and accusations, at the centre of which was Keshi. The most explosive were the quarrels between him and the Togolese star player, Emmanuel Sheyi Adebayor whom Keshi accused of being indisciplined. On an occasion, Keshi had to be restrained in the team bus from physically attacking Adebayor who accused Keshi of wanting a cut from his transfer from Monaco to Arsenal.

Keshi’s high as Super Eagles coach was winning the 2013 Nations Cup. With that, he began his theatrics. Showing complete disrespect for Nigerians and dampening their joy of winning the cup after nineteen years, he announced right there on a South African radio that that he had resigned. Many Nigerians including then President Goodluck Jonathan had to appeal to him to withdraw his threat. With that, he tried to arm twist the football authorities primarily on pecuniary matters. Of course, he brought Nigerian football to its lowest ebb before being finally given the boot.

I was about assessing the new coach, Sunday Ogorchukwu Oliseh, when Westerhof roundly condemned him, claiming that he and Keshi are far better. A lesson from our African-American brothers is, when the white man viciously attacks a black man, the latter must be good or capable of doing something good.

 

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