By FAN Ndubuoke

Once again the issue of hiring a coach for Super Eagles has come to the front burner of our national discuss . It is a huge debate and I must say, it is very healthy for sports development ,particularly as it concerns football, the opium of Nigerian people.
It is equally encouraging to see the leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) throw the job open by calling for applications from qualified coaches both local and foreign.
Advertising the post which is a massive difference between this board and its predecessor which simply handpicked Gernot Rohr and later Jose Peseiro, is a proof that the Ibrahim Musa Gusau – led board is headed for the right direction.
While commending Gusau’s right step , I must advise the NFF President to beware of his aides and football agents.
Experience has shown over time that many of the aides , technical committee members and advisers of the NFF President and even the Sports Minister at a time like this are easily compromised.
Most of them have vested interest as sponsors or agents of foreign or local coaches . The advice they give in situations like this aren’t for the interest of the nation’s No. 1 sport but to line their pockets and sustain their strongholds.
It may interest the NFF President to listen to this story. Prior to Tunisia AFCON and USA ’94 World Cup, a dummy was planted in a section of the media to run negative stories about Anderlecht central defender, Chidi Nwanu, who at that time was the best central defender in Europe.
Each time, Super Eagles list was drawn, Nwanu’s name was omitted. They said he shunned invitations. Some said he was arrogant…and others said he gave conditions to honour national call by demanding among other things ,a first team shirt and a private jet to fly him to and fro Lagos and Brussels.
Ace sports journalist now Saturday Editor of Vanguard newspapers, Onochie Anibeze who covered Super Eagles like no other journalist did approached me then as a board member of NFF.
Onochie gave hints on Nwanu , that contrary to the lies peddled around him , there was no official communication between him and the NFF (as now called). I discussed with our boss then late Air Comdr Emeka Omeruah, rtd) who was shocked to say the least. He decided to personally invite Nwanu. We moved to his Ikoyi office from where we sent a fax message to Anderlecht and Nwanu respectively.
Nwanu replied within two hours stating that he had never received any invitation let alone reject or shun such….neither did he give any condition to play for his country. He was glad to have been invited and promised to honour the invitation. His club Anderlecht equally appreciated the invitation sent to their player. He arrived and showed class all through Super Eagles preparatory games leading to the mundial. That was how Chidi Nwanu got into the USA ’94 squad to show what Nigeria had missed all along having missed Tunisia’94 due to the activities of the fifth columnists in NFF. I guess the President of the NFF may see one or two lessons to learn from this story.
I have no issues with the idea of hiring a foreign coach for Super Eagles. But I must say that such a coach should have what indigenous coaches don’t have. Westerhof succeeded because he was more of a manager than a coach. He knew the hotel arrangements, vehicles for training and other logistics that may not suit the boys, he took charge. He even had more access to Aso Rock than the administrators . He lived in Nigeria, watched our local league matches, ate our food and fell in love with our women or the other way round, I’m not sure. Bonfere and Christian Chukwu were more involved with the technical details under his supervision.
Days are gone when you bring in a backyard, jobless coach from Europe who hasn’t the pedigree, relatively unknown in coaching circles in his native country to lead a big brand like Super Eagles of Nigeria.
Football is a global sport. It speaks one language. It carries one identity. A football personality cannot be hidden. Certainly not in today’s world where a touch on your keypad will give you all you need to know about anyone around the world.
Thankfully, Gusau didn’t want to repeat errors of the past in hiring coaches for the national team without due consultations. Advertising the post as I said earlier shows the maturity and experience in management and administration as displayed by the present NFF leadership.
However, given the situation of Nigerian economy, particularly the demoralizing parity between our currency and the foreign currencies, can we afford to hire a world class foreign coach? If we must,
NFF should go preferably for a coach who has handled a first division club or any of the top five clubs in Europe’s top eight leagues. Of course, playing the game to the level of featuring in the World Cup could be a plus.
One only hopes the NFF can pay this class of coaches. Aside securing the services of any of the aforementioned class of coaches, the NFF must issue a set of conditions which the coach must agree to.
One, he must live or stay here during the period of his contract. Living here makes it easier for him to work with the NPFL on how best to develop the domestic game. The whole idea is to come up with a working plan to incorporate local players into the national team.
Two, he will work with the coaches of Golden Eaglets, Flying Eagles and U-23 Eagles which are feeder teams to Super Eagles. Working with these teams will help shape up the quality of players to make up the numbers for the senior national team when their foreign counterparts arrive camp for any game.
If the NFF cannot hire a world class coach and the coach cannot live in Nigeria then, the only option left is to employ an indigenous coach.
Rather than bring in coaches like Rohr or Peseiro, I will prefer we use what we have to get what we need. There are coaches here who are better than Rohr or Peseiro.
Emmanuel Amunike, Samson Siasia (if he’s eventually off the hook), George Finidi, Daniel Amokachi and Sunday Oliseh are names mentioned loudest so far by stakeholders. One or two names here stand out amongst the rest.
Arsenal Wenger wasn’t a known footballer but he remains one of the best celebrated coaches globally. Fanny Amun was not known to have played for a notable club in Nigeria but he won the U- 17 World Cup as a coach.
Nobody has told us what laurels Rohr or Peseiro had won before getting Super Eagles appointments.
Which player(s) from the U-17 level has Rohr or Peseiro nurtured to stardom that are as big as Kanu Nwankwo, Victor Ikpeba, Celestine Babayaro , Mobi Oparaku, Kelechi Ihenacho, Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze. But some indigenous coaches have nurtured some of these super stars.
It is thoughtful of the NFF to keep Austin Eguavoen in his office as Technical Director than allow him to shuttle between that exalted seat and the Super Eagles training ground.
If Eguavoen had been handed the interim job as earlier rumoured, it would have been a disaster in the waiting. His office should be busy formulating a playing pattern for our national teams. All national team coaches should be under his department.
This is why the interim assignment given to George Finidi should be a wake up call to the former Ajax and Real Betis winger. How he handles the games against Ghana and Mali will go a long way in how he would be viewed or rated.
Sadly, the debate over hiring of foreign coach or not seems to be taking away our attention from the real issue…which is repositioning of Nigerian football.
The Honourable Minister of Sports should reject the idea of not having an oversight function into the activities of the NFF except it’s for personal aggrandizement. Late Emeka Omeruah(PhD) , remains in my opinion, the best NFF president and Sports minister both in terms of achievements and style. As a Sports Minister, he held regular meetings with the leadership of the NFF during which times he conveyed to the board, the feelings and expectations of the Nigerian football family. He never rebuked or gave them directives publicly . ( He was a three -time Sports minister of the Federal Republic).
The present minister must know that football is the opium of the Nigerian people. ( the number of Nigerians that died during the just concluded AFCON should be an eye opener). The success of his tenure will essentially be measured by our achievements in football. He must get involved, albeit remotely.
This ritual of recycling of coaches is destroying what is left of our football. Imagine the calamity created by Ladan Bosso in Ghana at the 13th All Africa Games.
Yet a certain Salisu Yusuf is queueing for Super Eagles job. Yusuf has been in and around the various national teams in more than one decade without any meaningful contribution or achievement. Same with Bosso who has had four appointments with Flying Eagles in the last 17 years and yet have nothing to show for it. When people say the NFF is micro Nigeria , what it means is that all the draw backs in Nigeria’s development are present in the Football House. Namely; Religion, Tribalism and Quoter system.
Truth be told, the national teams shouldn’t be jobs to rehabilitate or recycle coaches. A coach has to prove that he has the capacity to handle any of the national teams. When jobs are given on ethnic or religious sentiments, we are bound to either remain stagnant or continue with our retrogressive steps.
Fan Ndubuoke is former Special Adviser on Sports to Late Sports Minister Comdr. Emeka Omeruah. He was also national President of Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN). Ndubuoke was a board member of the NFF and immediate past Executive Chairman Imo State Sports Commission.

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