Nigerians were very happy not just with the victory but also the organization of the Super Eagles against Egypt in their opening game of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) campaign on Tuesday, January 11, 2022.
Curiously, while they celebrated, former international and one-time Super Eagles coach, Sunday Oliseh, as published in Daily Post, one of Nigeria’s national dailies on January 11, was loquaciously hacking at the Nigeria Football Federation, ostensibly rooting for the retention of Austin Eguavoen the interim coach of the Super Eagles to continue on the job after the AFCON, pretending to be making a case for Nigerian coaches.
As a characteristic, he dished out unduly scathingly, suggesting that the NFF has “a craze” for foreign coaches and describing same as “lack of ideas.”
Ordinarily, there would be no point joining issues with him on the need to retain Eguavoen because that is the general conviction of Nigerians, but it is no longer in Oliseh’s place to tell the NFF a thing about the engagement of indigenous coaches.
He lost that moral right long ago. This is so because, had Oliseh been better adjusted when he was engaged as the coach of the Super Eagles, the nation would long have crossed this threshold of debate over foreign versus indigenous coaches.
Also, to set the records right, it is not true that the NFF in modern times prefers foreign coaches over indigenous coaches.
The records show that after Clemens Westerhoff, Nigeria has had about 25 coaches, out of these, only eight were foreigners and 17 were Nigerians.
Particularly from 2010, the succession of coaches has been mostly Nigerians. When Jo Brofere was relieved in 2001, the NFF engaged the following in succession: Shaibu Amodu (2001–2002), Festus Onigbinde (2002), Christian Chukwu (2002–2005), Augustine Eguavoen (2005–2007), Berti Vogts (2007–2008), James Peters (2008), Shaibu Amodu (2008–2010), Lars Lagerbäck (2010), Augustine Eguavoen (2010), Samson Siasia (2010–2011), Stephen Keshi (2011–2014), Shaibu Amodu (2014), Stephen Keshi (2014), Daniel Amokachi (2014–2015), Stephen Keshi (2015), Sunday Oliseh (2015-2016), Gernot Rohr (2016–2021), then Austin Eguavoen.
This list of 14 coaches has 11 Nigerians, including Oliseh himself, and only three foreigners. This indicates a conscious and deliberate motive to establish indigenous coaches in the management of the team, but it also must be with the caveat of delivery.
Oliseh succeeded Steve Keshi and it is interesting to note that the NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, was accused then, of engaging Oliseh almost single-handed.
At the time, some critics pointed out that he had no track record and that has been a player or being a match analyst on TV does not translate to being a good coach, but the NFF stood its ground on him.
Sadly, Oliseh proved the critics right. He disappointed not only Pinnick but the NFF, Nigerians, and the community of Nigerian indigenous coaches.
Perhaps, it was the same at Fortuna Sittard where he went next. The stint ended in a fiasco.
It was his brazen temperament and abrupt resignation that led the NFF to look outside, leading to the employment of Gernot Rohr.
Not only was he scornful of and querulous with his players, leading to disaffection with the likes of Mikel Obi whose father was kidnapped, and the exit of Vincent Enyeama even when he was mourning his mother, his erratic management style inspired no confidence in both the team and the NFF.
Recall that Oliseh abandoned the team on February 26, 2016, with just about a month to the fixture against same Egypt for the 2017 AFCON qualifiers. Given that disruption, Nigeria failed to qualify for that edition in Gabon.
Recall also that when he was engaged, he insisted on bringing a foreign coach, Jean Francois Loscuito, a Belgian and his personal pal, as an assistant. He jettisoned the home coaches which he now pretends to support.
When he resigned over sundry reasons including laughable claims of spiritual attacks, the foreign assistant he brought should naturally also go with him. But Loscuito was encouraged to surreptitiously sue the NFF in a Belgian court to seek compensation.
Late for the NFF to join issues, it had to cough out about $200,000, good money that should have been applied at home, to settle him and whoever he may have shared the booty with.
There were also several other suits that may have been intended to distract the NFF from moving forward. So, see who is talking!
It is unprofessional for a presumably enlightened coach to state that the NFF has signed a foreigner to replace Eguavoen after the AFCON when indeed no such action has been taken.
When there is a vacancy in coaching positions, the practice is for the authorities to open a search. Various names come up in the process of contacting, but true professionals ought to be circumspect in drawing conclusions.
Even at that, the debate over foreign and home-based coaches is neither here nor there in world football. Football is a global language and players, and coaches move across nations.
Perhaps, England is the world’s best when it comes to football administration but as conservative and proud as they can be, they have had cause to engage foreign coaches from time to time, depending on the situation they find themselves in and the value they seek that point. They have had Sven-Goran Erikson, Swedish, and Fabio Capello, Italian.
Similarly, various African nations, including the North Africans with robust and thriving domestic football scenes, have had to engage foreign coaches. It is therefore not very useful to whip the NFF into a straight jacket.
Still, Oliseh cannot claim to know the mind and plans of the NFF and cannot tell it what to do.
If nothing else, he did not determine the NFF engagement of Eguavoen as its Technical Director, in the first place, before redeploying him as coach of the Super Eagles, and all indications are that they are happy and comfortable with their decision.
Cerezo’s performance speaks and will speak for him. He does not need Oliseh’s bitterness and disrespectful spits to keep him on the job.
Just as well, the Super Eagles are moving on and the nation does not need Oliseh’s poisonous distractions. Not now, not ever again.
Fred Edoreh is a former Chairman of the Sports Writer Association of Nigeria (SWAN, Lagos chapter and a Lagos, Nigeria-based Public Affairs Analyst.