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Why Indigenous Nigerian Coaches Cannot Handle The Super Eagles
The search for local coaches to deal, especially with the senior national team of Nigeria, 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 point, I was almost drawn into this school of thought, perhaps in sympathy with the local coaches who paid their dues in terms of football achievements.
I was almost blown away by our great achievements in the cadet categories of the World Cup, and especially in the under-17 category. Nigeria has won the trophy 3 times since the inaugural edition held in China way back in 1985 when a local coach named Christian Chukwu, himself a former captain of the senior national team, led a group of young unexposed boys to the Asian nation of China to put their names in the Guinness Book of Records 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 success. And as stated earlier, this feat was repeated two more times after the first edition, ironically on the same continent of Asia. First, it was China in 1985, then Japan in 1993 and the last in Korea in 2007.
On these three occasions, our local coaches were at the helm of affairs, first it was President Christian Chukwu, then Fanny Amun and most recently the late Yomi Tella who died a few weeks after returning from the famous trip to Korea.
In 1996, Nigeria achieved another feat in the field of football in far away Atlanta, Georgia in the United States of America. There, an underrated Nigeria team led by Dutchman Bonfrere-Joe took the world by storm by winning the Olympic gold medal that had eluded the almighty Brazil since they stamped their name as the world’s greatest footballing nation, winning all there is to victory in football at all levels of play expected at the Olympics ( I’m starting to think they’re tricked). Ironically, they were eliminated in the semi-finals by Nigeria in an epic game that the bookies had already tipped for the Brazilians. The event that led to Brazil’s elimination from the soccer match at the Atlanta Olympics is a topic for another day.
However, this is about Nigeria winning that football gold under the tutelage of a foreign coach, and it is recorded that Nigeria won the African Cup of Nations twice, the first time in 1980 under the leadership of a Brazilian known as Otto Gloria, the second time in 1994 in Tunisia under the leadership of the flamboyant and loud Dutchman known as Clement Westerhoff, the same man qualified Nigeria for their first senior football world cup popularly called USA 94. It was a double feat for the Dutchman who earlier this year in style won the Africa Cup of Nations, thereby sending a signal to the world about Nigeria’s readiness to take its rightful place on the world football field.
Why have foreigners succeeded more than domestic coaches when it comes to the senior level?
I would like to state the reasons in two ways, first because of the administrative lapses in the Nigeria Football Federation. Most of the people involved in the day-to-day running of a football game in Nigeria know next to nothing about the game and its challenges. The Nigeria Football Federation is thus politicized and is mainly used as an instrument of political satisfaction for electoral support. Foreign coaches succeed because they are hired under a well-signed and sealed contract, offered lip-service contracts that help motivate them to do their best.
When it comes to domestic coaches, it’s a different game. They are hardly given a concrete contract, and when it happens at all, a lot of mixing of powers that are in the ministry of sports and football’s ruling house makes it difficult for local coaches to make decisions. The issue of job security is another determining factor. Coaches are hired and fired at will, most of them are owed salaries for a few months, and they are never allowed to talk about such things, otherwise it would be seen as sabotage and an act of disobedience, because these coaches are treated as employees of the ministries.
The question of respect for players is another cauldron when it comes to coaching the senior national team. Come to think of it, some of these professional players earn as much as eighty thousand British pounds a week at their various European clubs, which translated into our local currency works out to millions of naira that could pay two years salaries of local coaches. Now, psychologically, the student here lives 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 both players and administrators and this gives them an advantage over their domestic colleagues.
Until domestic coaches are treated with much more respect than foreign coaches in terms of remuneration and free hand to operate without undue interference, the possibility of a domestic coach succeeding in the senior football team looks like a mirage for now and the foreseeable future.
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