Nigeria is a country where policy makers have no reference to records, nor applaud excellent performance exhibited by indigenous experts. In football circles, in particular, because of the way we pick our administrators, our sports development suffers and that ultimately ridicules our performance in international sports meet.
In the year 2013, Nigeria's Super Eagles clinched the highly coveted African Nations Cup trophy in South Africa. The nation hailed the players and the officials who led our National team to lift the trophy for the third time, having previously won it in 1980 and 1994.
Our sports administrators, the NFF in particular came down heavily on our coaches by dropping some of them and reviewing their salaries downwards.
As if that was not enough, the NFF refused to pay the salaries to the coaches for so many months, yet the NFF always jumped at the offer of friendlies because it afforded them the opportunity to tour the world and swell their estacodes . Our football coaches bore the high handedness of the NFF with equanimity till the federal government intervened.
When Stephen Keshi was given the assignment to tinker our National team to the just concluded CHAN competition, no adequate logistic support was given to him, like camping the players enough for the competition, taking the players on training tour to at least three African countries. Furthermore , the coach was given the tall order to lift the trophy. Keshi complained from day one that the players assembled had not trained enough for the competition and also stated that it will be a miracle for him to lead a hurriedly assembled team like the CHAN team to lift the trophy. We all saw how the team performed in the competition .
The issue of playing against a Ghanaian 10-man team and conceding defeat which the NFF views as technical deficiency shows how technically unsound members of the NFF present their logic. In the game of football which I have played at the amateur level and followed professionally as an administrator and a coach, the most difficult team to defeat is a team depleted by a red card. The reason is simple, and it is logical too, the remaining ten players put in extra efforts knowing fully well that one of their positions is leaking. Impliedly, the team plays as if it has twenty players. In the course of covering the leaking position every player makes extra effort, all geared towards covering up the depleted position. It takes some element of luck like we had against Zimbabwe to defeat such a team..
The Ghanaian team we lost to in the semi final approached the match with ruthlessness from the on-set, inflicting injuries on our apparently youthful players who took fright, panicked and abandoned their fast flowing system of soccer. When they were depleted through the red card given to their most ruthless defender, the Ghanaians naturally whittled down their attacking forays, fortified their defense line and played towards possible penalty shoot out which worked for them. That our players did not convert their penalty kicks should not be blamed on the coach.
Based on practical experience in the game of football , the foreign technical adviser who the NFF is clamouring for would come to Nigeria few months to the World Cup and take us to the final and possibly clinch the cup. He must be a magician but I am afraid such foreign wizard is not yet born . If there is one existing , white people would have discovered him and engaged him many months back.
My personal experience from Nigerian coaches is that they know how to fight themselves and run down their colleagues, especially when they see one amongst them trying to make history. If the NFF has no hidden agenda, there is no way it will think in terms of foreign technical adviser few months to the World Cup when it: (1) failed to recall Sylvanus Okpala who worked well with Keshi to win the AFCON Cup in 2013. (2) failed to address the issue of incessant default in the payment of salaries to indigenous coaches.(3) failed to attract sponsors that can help it to package our teams to various competitions without relying solely on government funding.
If then NFF finds it difficult to pay regularly the indigenous coaches, simple logic wonders how they will pay foreign coaches who can never manage the way we do in this part of the world. If the NFF wants additional hands in the technical crew of the Super Eagles, Sylvanus Okpala is readily available . The NFF should close its ranks and work with the present technical crew which it willingly hired and which had performed beyond reasonable doubt. It is no more the issue of which white man or additional technical adviser will take us to the World Cup, rather it is now more of how to support the present crew to give us the desired result. Nigerians are watching!
*Edwin Eze is the former Sports editor of Satellite Newspaper Enugu.