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Why Indigenous Nigerian Coaches Cannot Handle The Super Eagles
The clamor for local coaches to handle Nigeria’s senior national team, popularly known as the Super Eagles, has been going on for as long as I can remember. The issue of national pride is always cited as one of the main reasons why the exponents of this school of thought continued their agitation.
At one time, I was almost lured into this school of thought, perhaps in sympathy with local coaches who have paid their dues in terms of footballing achievements.
I was almost blown away by our major achievements in the World Cup cadet categories, especially in the under-17 category. Nigeria has won that trophy 3 times since the inaugural edition was held in China as far back as 1985 when an indigenous coach by the name of Christian Chukwu, himself a former captain of the senior national team, led a group of unexposed young boys to the Asian nation of China to enter their names in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first country in the world to win this championship then sponsored by Kodak.
Before they left the shores of Nigeria, no one gave them the slightest chance of success. When they finally returned home with the trophy, much euphoria greeted their achievement. And as stated earlier, this success has been repeated two more times after the maiden edition, ironically in the same continent of Asia. First, it was China in 1985, then Japan in 1993 and most recently Korea in 2007.
On these three occasions, our indigenous coaches were at the helm of affairs, first it was Chief Christian Chukwu, then Fanny Ammun and most recently the late Yomi Tella who died a few weeks after returning from a glorious walk in Korea.
In 1996, another exploit was achieved on the soccer field from Nigeria in far away Atlanta, Georgia in the United States of America. There, an underrated Nigerian side led by Dutchman Bonfrere-Jo took the world by storm by winning an Olympic gold medal that has eluded mighty Brazil since they registered their name as the world’s greatest footballing nation after having win them all. there is to win in soccer at any level of play expected in the Olympics (I’m starting to think they’re screwed). Ironically, they were knocked out in the semi-finals by Nigeria in an epic game which the bookies had already tipped the Brazilians. The event that led to the elimination of Brazil in the football match of the Atlanta Olympic game is a topic for another day.
However, the point here is that Nigeria won that football gold under the tutelage of a foreign coach and it is on record that twice Nigeria has won the Africa Cup of Nations, first in 1980 it was under a Brazilian known as Otto Gloria, the second time was in 1994 in Tunisia under the sensational and loud Dutchman known as Clement Westerhof, he was the same man who qualified Nigeria to its first ever FIFA World Cup popularly known as USA 94. It was a double success for the Dutchman who earlier in the year won the African Cup of Nations in style, sending a signal to the world that Nigeria is ready to take its rightful place on the world football field.
Why have foreigners had more success than local coaches at the top level?
I would like to offer the reasons in two ways, firstly the administrative errors in the Nigerian Football Federation. Most of the people involved in the day-to-day running of the game of football in Nigeria know next to nothing about the game and its challenges. Thus, the Nigerian Football Association is politicized and used mainly as an instrument of political gratification for electoral support. Foreign coaches succeed because they are hired with a good contract signed and sealed, they are offered good contracts that help motivate them to do their best.
When it comes to local coaches, it’s a different ball game. Hardly they are given a concrete contract and when even this happens, many interventions from the powers that be in the ministry of sports and in the house of football make it difficult for local coaches to take decisions. The issue of job security is another determining factor. Coaches are engaged and fired at will, most of them have two months salary and will never talk about such matters, otherwise it would be seen as sabotage and an act of insubordination as these coaches are treated as employees of the ministry.
The question of respect from the players is another kettle of fish when it comes to coaching the national team for adults. Guess what, some of these professional players earn as much as eighty thousand British pounds per week at their various European clubs, which translates to our local currency, runs into millions of Naira that can pay the two year salary of local coaches. Now, psychologically, the student here is living more comfortably than the teacher, has achieved more than the so-called teacher, and therefore finds it difficult to submit to the authority of a man who has never played professional football in his entire life.
Foreign coaches are more respected by players and administrators and this tends to give them the edge over their local counterparts.
Until such time as local coaches are treated with much more respect than foreign coaches in terms of rewards and a free hand to operate without undue interference, the chances of an indigenous coach succeeding with the senior national football team it seems like a mirage for now and the near future.
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