• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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NFF, Finidi, and Osimhen’s outburst: What next for Nigeria’s football?


On Saturday, June 15, Nigerian football was thrown into turmoil following a viral video of Super Eagles star Victor Osimhen criticizing former international Finidi George, who had been in charge of the national team for just over a month.

Osimhen’s outburst stemmed from an online blog post alleging that Finidi had called out some prominent Super Eagles players for not showing commitment to the national team. This followed Nigeria’s poor performances in their two 2026 World Cup qualifiers against South Africa’s Bafana Bafana and the Benin Republic.

Osimhen’s Outburst

Without verifying the report by contacting Finidi, Osimhen hastily took to Instagram to vent his frustration. In his impulsive rant, he disrespected Finidi, a former international who served Nigeria admirably during his playing days and cursed fans who were critical of him.

For the record, Finidi George, the Port Harcourt-born former Nigeria international, has an impressive list of accolades, including the AFCON title, UEFA Champions League title, three Dutch League titles, UEFA Super Cup, and Copa del Rey trophies.

He played for four European clubs and was regarded as one of the finest wingers during his active years. He made a name for himself at Ajax in the Netherlands, being a key figure in a team that won eight major titles, including the 1995 Champions League. Finidi also represented Nigeria in two FIFA World Cups, in 1994 and 1998 respectively.

On the other hand, Osimhen, at 25 years old, has yet to play in a FIFA World Cup and has not won the AFCON for Nigeria. His decision to publicly criticize his coach was unprofessional and showed a lack of maturity.

NFF’s Choice of Finidi Under Scrutiny

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) is also to blame for the current state of Nigeria football, particularly regarding the process of appointing a national team coach and their choice of Finidi George. While Finidi is undoubtedly a legend in Nigerian football, many believe he lacked the coaching pedigree and credentials to lead the national team.

Football enthusiasts criticized the NFF’s decision to appoint a coach with no national team experience. Before his appointment as head coach of Nigeria’s senior football team, Finidi had only managed Enyimba Football Club in the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL), where he won the league title. The NFF took a significant risk, perhaps throwing Finidi into the ‘deep sea’ by tasking him with qualifying Nigeria for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

Former Nigeria and Watford defender Sam Sodje recently expressed doubts about Finidi’s tactical capabilities and credibility as a coach.

“I’m not talking about Finidi George, the legend. I’m talking about the coach; he’s not good enough. He was a legend as a player, but his comments about not needing a system or philosophy concerned me.”

In defending their choice, the NFF cited Finidi’s impressive coaching record and his prior experience as an assistant coach with the Super Eagles. They argued that this set him apart from other notable candidates like Emmanuel Amuneke and Daniel Amokachi.

However, under Finidi’s leadership, the Super Eagles played two World Cup qualifying matches, resulting in a draw against South Africa and a defeat to the Benin Republic. These outcomes have raised concerns about Nigeria’s chances of qualifying for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

Finidi’s Technical and Tactical Weaknesses Exposed

Despite questions about his lack of experience in managing the Super Eagles, Finidi George failed to prove his critics wrong. The former Ajax international served as an assistant to former coach Jose Peseiro for nearly two years—20 months to be precise. Many football analysts believe this period should have been sufficient for him to learn, study, and understand the team.

However, the Super Eagles’ recent World Cup qualifiers suggest that Finidi did not fully grasp the team dynamics or possess the technical expertise required to manage a nation with prominent stars like the Super Eagles. His player selection, tactical formations, and team management were visibly poor, leaving many Nigerians disappointed.

To illustrate this point, consider the appointment of Italian coach Enzo Maresca, who managed Championship side Leicester City and led them to promotion to the Premier League. Initially, many Chelsea fans questioned hiring a Championship coach, but Maresca, a former assistant to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, demonstrated that he had indeed learned from one of the best.

He successfully adopted Pep’s style and philosophy, which played a significant role in helping Leicester City achieve Premier League promotion. This impressed the Chelsea board, who then offered him the job.

In contrast, Finidi’s tenure with the Super Eagles highlighted his technical and tactical deficiencies, underscoring the importance of not just experience but also the ability to learn and apply effective coaching strategies.

What’s Next for Nigeria’s Football?

With Finidi George reportedly resigning as the Super Eagles manager, the pressing question is who will take up the mantle next. The 2025 AFCON qualifiers resume in September, and the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers kick off in March 2025. The NFF faces a crucial task of appointing a competent manager swiftly, avoiding any “schoolboy” appointments, as time is running out.

The Super Eagles also need to win all their remaining six matches to stand a chance of qualifying for the expanded 2026 FIFA World Cup, to be hosted by Canada, the USA, and Mexico. This requirement adds immense pressure on the NFF to make the right managerial choice.

Millions of Nigerian football fans are eager to see their beloved Super Eagles compete again on the world stage against the biggest teams at the next football carnival. The NFF must act decisively and wisely to ensure that Nigeria’s football dreams are realised.