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Foreign coach for Nigeria!

In direct response to the public’s call for a foreign coach to complete the job of taking the Eagles to the World Cup, the NFF…

In direct response to the public’s call for a foreign coach to complete the job of taking the Eagles to the World Cup, the NFF is now saddled with the challenge of hiring a competent foreign coach that would meet the high expectations of Nigerians, avoid the controversy of competency and achieve convincing results particularly at the World Cup in June.  At the same time, even as he would be completing the World Cup assignment, the coach would be expected also to build a new foundation for the development of the domestic game in Nigeria.  It is a tough job indeed!  So, it seems the job of the new manager is cut out for him – to do well at the World Cup, and to improve the state of Nigerian football thereafter. It is with that in mind that I believe the NFF have to go shopping for the right coach!

On the issue of coaches and what kind of coach Nigeria needs what I can do is express my personal thoughts. To start with it is important to clearly state the objectives for which a foreign coach is to be hired. Clear goals and responsibilities must also be set for him.  The coach’s antecedents and background would give an indication of his capability to achieve the goals. The final consideration would then be the conditions the coach gives to enable him deliver on the goals set for him. Obviously a situation where a coach would propose to live abroad, monitor foreign – based players and have nothing to do with the domestic game and players, would be totally unacceptable considering the country’s last experience with Berti Vogts. The question of opening the vaults of Nigeria’s Central Bank to pay him would also not be acceptable. To eliminate any controversy over the choice finally made the coach must have good records, good credentials, broad coaching experience, must be a known spotter and developer of talent, must be passionate about the game and about winning, and must have the ambition to take Nigeria to the zenith of world football! To succeed he must already have a good appreciation of what is wrong with the present Super Eagles! This last aspect is very important.

The problem with the Eagles

The Super Eagles, like the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, is a fast ageing team.  The true average age of the team will be closer to 35 than 25! Some of the players have passed their peak and there is nothing left to be extracted from them any more.  They can only drag the rest of the team down the slope. A good and simple indicator of a team’s age is the rate and spate of injury its players suffer.  Injuries are more frequent and recovery rate much slower with age.  The Nigerian team needs a boost of younger, fitter, faster, and more athletic players. These can only come from the domestic game. That means the domestic game needs to be injected with new ideas and programmes to breed better players in larger numbers.  The tradition of falsifying documentation and reducing true ages by a minimum of 5 years and sometimes even more, has done too much damage to the growth of Nigerian football and must be stopped somehow! A new coach must be aware of this and join with other stakeholders in building a proper nursery that will be hatching good and ready players for the country’s national teams.   

The second thing is that the present Eagles are deficient in the area of team tactics. This is the direct product of a coach’s depth in the game, his experience and his impartation skills. That’s why the same team with the same set of players will play differently under two different coaches.  That’s why a new coach will take over a team with a losing streak and within a few days be able to transform the same set of players into a winning side! Team tactics are key to success at this level of the game. Nigeria must, therefore, get a coach sound in team tactics. That’s why a foreign coach with a deep experience in European football is preferable to one  whose pedigree is limited to coaching in Africa.

Finally, the Nigerian team has lost what used to be its greatest asset (a very clear and discernible style of play) –  wing-play; fast breaks from defence to attack, with very fast and athletic forwards running at defenders and creating wave after wave of goal scoring chances! That’s the Nigerian style maximally exploiting the physical attributes of the players. It is beautiful to watch and behold. That’s why Nigerian football provides an almost irresistible attraction for many top coaches from around the world. It is only the history of our poor administration by those that have passed through our hands that dampen the initial enthusiasm of foreign coaches who would otherwise have given an arm and a leg to handle Nigeria’s Eagles.

My poser!

I asked a question here on this page the other day. My childhood friend Yakubu Ibn-Mohammed called me up to remind me that I had not provided the answer to my poser in the week that I promised. So here goes!

The response to that poser was designed to stimulate some thought process in the minds of readers. Has there been a Nigerian of Northern extraction that captained the senior national team?

The answer is simple – None!

 Well, the junior teams have produced two captains. But the senior team? Think of it. Except for Dahiru Sadi who may have been acting captain for one or two matches during his illustrious career, there has never been an official national team captain from Northern Nigeria. The closest would have been Samuel Garba whose father was Igbo and Ismaila Mabo who captained the Academy college of commerce in Jos, the Benue Plateau Academicals, the Plateau Highlanders and the Mighty Jets of Jos, and led a team of 5 players from Jos to the national academicals team and then the senior team, but was not made captain of the national team. That honour goes to Samuel Garba whose father was Igbo!

This is a part of the country rich in the tradition of great athletes. This s the part that bred Mairo Jinadu, Issa Borodo, Steven Akiga, Yakubu Ibn Mohammed, Tijani Salihu, Inua Lawal Rigogo, Yakubu Bauchi, Musa Dogonyaro, Danladi Ibrahim, sadiq Abdullahi, Lawal Garba, Tijani Babangida, Daniel Amokachi, Ben Dwamlong, Husseini Suleiman,. The list may still be lonmg but not long enough! There is a whole forest to be harvested. That will be my focus soon – to turn the ‘desert’ into an ocean of footballers and to produce the first authentic captain from the north of Nigeria for the Green (it is not a mistake) Eagles!