Journalism in the service of society

Nigerian football at the crossroads!

The least I can say now is that there is confusion in the ‘house’ of Nigerian football.

The last two matches played within a space of a few days, against South Africa and Benin Republic, have thrown the Nigerian Football Federation, custodians of the game in the country, into a state of frenzy.

 

It is hard for any observer to understand the transformation of the Super Eagles.  For almost 10 barren years, with unknown foreign coaches mostly in charge, the Super Eagles grovelled in the dark in search of an answer to her dwindling fortunes in African football. 

 

5 months ago, fortune smiled on the team. At the African Cup of Nations in Cote D’Ivoire, against all odds and with plenty of luck, playing a mostly pressure-laden defensive style of play that ‘killed’ six Nigerians, the team got to the finals before capitulating to the home-team that they had beaten in the first round.  

Nigerians were so appreciative of that brief spell of success that brought joy and relief from the hardship of life that the government lavished on the team rewards and awards unheard of in the history of football in the world. 

Ironically, the foreign coach was so ‘good’ that Nigeria did not renew his contract. Of course, everything considered,  everyone knew Jose Paseiro was not good enough. Yet, in what many people still consider a set-up designed to fail, they settled for his assistant, a Nigerian. 

 

After only two games with Finidi George in charge, the team’s fortunes have plummeted and have set off a chain of reactions that have the strength of a volcano to consume Nigerian football if not handled carefully. 

 

Last Thursday, the Executive Committee of the Nigerian Football Federation, NFF, rose from its emergency meeting, and limped back to its previous vomit. 

 

With threats hanging over the board like the Sword of Damocles, the board decided it will  immediately embark on a search for a new foreign coach and keep Finidi as his assistant again in the technical team. In addition to that, they will heed to wise counsel and look into amending the constitution of the NFF to include some new stakeholders as advised by the government one year ago. 

 

All of these plus a few other matters, of course, are as a result of the shameful performance and loss to Benin Republic last Monday. It shattered the camel’s back. 

 

Indeed, it was a most humiliating football match.  The Super Eagles not only failed to win, they played without spirit, like ‘school boys’ on a vacation. It was massive dent to the country’s image and reputation as a giant in African football. The result of that match left the public baying for blood.

 

The federal government was going to wield the big stick. The Minister for Sports fired the first salvo by requesting explanation from the NFF. Till now, huge threats still hang precariously over the board. 

 

I am in my observatory high up in the hills of Wasimi. I am trying to work it all out and understand the motivations for the NFF decisions tumbling down accompanied by many begging questions. 

What nature of foreign coach this time around? Another journey-man coach? Or a ‘world-class coach as many analysts demand? What is the definition of a world-class coach? Who in that category is available and willing? Who will pay their humongous wages? 

What will happen to all of Finidi George’s hired technical assistants?

And so on and so forth. Questions, all begging for answers.

 

However, whilst waiting for the details of implementation of the NFF’s decisions, I shall share a few random reactions of the public on my platform to the match against Benin Republic last Monday night. They make interesting reading.  One or two may even be in support of the decisions of the NFF.

I reproduce them here, unedited.  

 

Opeyemi Ajala 

Those opposed to indigenous coaches will gleefully appoint a Lagerback who failed to qualify Sweden but would be eager to sack Amodu that qualified the Eagles.

Mancini won the Euros but fell to Macedonia

 

John Mastoroudes

Segun, I cannot believe we lost to Benin.

It’s as if I was afraid that this might happen when I sent my last message to you!

I am all for a foreign coach, BUT A BIG NAME, who can inspire our selected players, because in our case it’s all about psychology

If NFA cannot afford it, many welltodo Nigerians, I am sure, will be willing to sponsor the salary for at least 3 yrs. This is my personal view

I have nothing against Finidi whom I respect as a great footballer.

 

Toyin Imevbere 

I’m still too “pissed off”. Whenever I flash back on that embarrassing match, it looks to me like the match was sold. There was definitely no urge to win on the part of the Eagles.

I’m not happy at all. My son gave up on them. He went to sleep and said he did not want anyone to give him hypertension jare

Finidi is too soft to handle the national team. 

 

 

Prof. Seun Omotayo

I have spoken about the need for psychological management of the Super Eagles players. The game is nothing but a mindgame at all levels, including telepathic connections.

 

Dapo Oguntoyinbo 

Segun, we are all saddened by the loss of the Super Eagles to Benin. Finidi may have underrated them.  How could he go to the match without his key players: Ekong, Osimhen, etc? In addition, I do not think the players spent enough time together before going for the match. It was a great blunder by Finidi and will be difficult for him to recover from.

Now, everyone is asking for him to be axed. As a new coach, he should have realised that his first matches would be a make or mar affair. All of us who supported the choice of a Nigerian Coach are now licking our wounds !!!

 

Godwin Akhigbe 

NFF wants to hire a foreign coach to boss Finidi George. It reminds me of what Taju Disu said: that the football body will mess Finidi up like all other ex-internationals who have handled the team. The Eagles refused to play for Finidi.

 

Omotayo Olanrewaju 

The search by NFF of a Foreign Coach is unfortunate and illadvised. The solution is not replacing Finidi George but about ensuring thapplication of Sports Coaching Science and Performance Optimization strategies. NFF should support the Finidi-led Technical crew rather than going on another wasteful quest for a Foreign Coach at this point of our Football Development in Nigeria. NFF should NOT crucify Finidi for the current performance of the Super Eagles, but should rather ensure the adequacy of his backroom staff which is suspect, a situation and concern that I pointed out on a television program about three weeks ago. Who is Finidi’s Match Analyst?Who is Finidi’s Sports Psychologist? Who is Finidi’s Exercise Physiologist etc I use this opportunity to reiterate my call for the need for all Sports outfits across categories to be put in place as the SPORTS MEDICINE TEAM.

 

Kalima

I watched the team. There was no hunger, no thirst, and no leader on the pitch. The captain spoke more with the coach than with his fellow players.

The players have individual skills that can be harnessed with humility. Someone must do the dirty job on the pitch. The midfield was porous.

 

Yakubu Mohammed

I am a patriot and I want us to be in USA, Mexico and Canada, but nothing so far has fired my patriotism. 

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