• Saturday, March 02, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria, their football and their coaches

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Over the years, I have been pondering over which institution or sector  is the epitome of what is wrong with Nigeria. I considered the universities, where they do not practice what they teach, where even at UI in the sane old days of late ‘70s, professors were doing weird things for posts and positions or where even today, a department in a ‘world-class’ Federal University bypassed a fellow who made the best result since the department’s establishment to employ a far less endowed but connected applicant!

I considered the hospitals with their professionally foul-tongued nurses, doctors who divert patients and recourses to private clinics and professional groups who have almost destroyed the system because they are fighting an unnecessary superiority war!

I also thought of politics and politicians; including those in uniform and the silent operators whom Awolowo referred to as evil-servants. This is the group which does everything for the masses,

 including, bare-faced looting, murder, arson, adult delinquency and all forms of unmentionable atrocity.

But of late, I have shouted Eureka; it is the Nigerian football family, where those who have never played the game are either the authoritative commentators (the press) or the moneyed and monitoring administrators (NSC/NFF); who ensure that we always have the highest contingents to every football competition, and who spend more money ‘administering’ football than in developing the game! It has taken me 10 years and three commentaries to come to this realization. These are ‘football and management’ (11/2/04, 5 editions); Foreign Coaches, Import Dependency Syndrome & Other Matters,(9/3/10); & Eagles and the African World Cup: The Failure of 12th Hour Strategy(28/6/10). Our football administrators are so convinced that there is a significant correlation between colour and coaches’ performance that they import and deify foreign coaches, pay and promote them beyond their competence and they then underperform at our own expense. They also believe that

 the best strategy is to commence preparations for any competition after other contingents have landed at the venue of the games. When they fail, as they are bound to, and break the hearts of soccer-crazy Nigerians, they start trading on blames.

The football governing house (I think they call it Glass-House) is a den of  a corrupt and greedy cabal. Two wives of Sani Lulu,[as at June 2010 the CEO of NFF] were in the official delegation to world cup[South Africa,June 2010] and female world cup[July 2010, Germany]. The NFF delegation to South Africa was 300![and this excluded FG delegation, Presidential Task Force, Senate delegations). Financially, one may want to cry as $240000 physically disappeared from the office of NFF while nobody knows where $400000 for Nigeria-Columbia friendly, $1m from FIFA for W/Cup qualification and $300000 from FIFA for football development, went to or went into!

Of course, In Nigerian football, you either win or you win; there is no loss in their dictionary and that was why Siasia was sacked, barely one year in office, for failure to qualify for African cup of Nations. And that is why we also have the highest turnover of National coaches in the world. From 1990, the year of Westerhof to 2011 when Siasia was sacked, we have had 13 coaches, an average of 18 months per coach! But for this period plus 7 years (1986-2013), Ferguson was in charge at Manchester; and he did not win a single trophy for the first 4 years. He also lost almost 250 matches during his tenure!  Segun Odegbami, one of the few players who participates in the Nigerian football circuit tells the pathetic story that in the history of Nigerian Football only two coaches have escaped being sacked and that was because they ran away from their job! The first was Clemens Westerhof who abandoned the eagles-and his job –in the US following a mutiny by the players and the other was Othman Calder hired to build a new team after the humiliating defeat of Eagles by Zambia in 2004: he just disappeared from his hotel[Eko Hotel] without telling anybody -after few weeks on the job. That was why Stanley Azuokola referred to the NFF as Trigger-happy ( Pinch of N[u]ews, Guardian, 6/11/11, p5)

And yet, those who run our football do not see anything wrong in themselves, with themselves or with their methods. They just sack coaches, employ new ones, go on endless tours and conferences and life goes on. But Tilewa Adebajo made a pertinent statement about 3 years ago: Who is the most successful coach in the world today? Guardiola of Barcelona, I guess. If you bring him to Nigeria as the structure is presently, he is going to fail; the structures are just not there! You don’t build on emptiness!  (Thisday, 31/10/11, p67).  But the greatest problem of our football administrators is that they do not appreciate or reward performance, especially if it is coming from a local coach; they do not  know how to motivate their coaches and players and they won’t even allow the coaches to do their job in peace. Amodu is probably the most unjustly treated Nigerian coach. He qualified Eagles for the World Cup twice and twice he was not allowed to take the team to the games

Now, they have started again. Probably, they had thought that Keshi would not do well so that they would then bring in their favoured ‘white’ coaches and share the spoils.  But Keshi has performed beyond everybody’s expectation or imagination. But rather than rejoice and celebrate him, NFF is hitting him below the belt! Giving him official car was an issue until Globacom came in to help. In South Africa, his crew and team were almost sent home before the end of the competition because nobody believed they could go beyond certain stages. His colleagues in the team were sacked without consulting or informing him. The NFF told him that there was no money and that there was no need to discuss it with him because he was just an employee like those fellows. And now, the NFF that did not and does not have money to pay Nigerians to support Keshi are forcing, coercing and begging Keshi to accept a foreign assistant! What else is there to say? This is ‘signs and wonders’ walking on four legs! The Nigeria football administrators are surely the epitome of the trouble with Nigeria…

By: Ik Muo