WHEN the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) appointed ex-International, Sunday Oliseh, as National Coach of the Super Eagles, to replace Stephen Keshi, in July 2015, an effusive Amaju Pinnick, the NFF Chairman, described the new coach, as the “Guardiola” of Nigeria. Oliseh was going to do to Nigerian football, what Pep Guardiola had done to Barcelona FC.
Oliseh’s relationship with the football authorities was always loaded with controversy, dating back to when he captained the national team. Oliseh had a very arrogant and impatient streak that was likely to be a source of tension with the senior players in the national team.
The most capped Nigerian player, skipper and goalkeeper, Victor Enyeama ran into a headwind with the new coach. He retired from the national team, as well as striker Emmanuel Emenike. Things did not go as people had hoped, with the coach.
He took Nigeria’s home-based players to the CHAN tournament in Rwanda, and could not get out of the preliminary rounds. Nigerians were shocked! And in response, Sunday Oliseh posted an online response, in which he described his critics as “insane”. Just a few months down the line from his much-publicised appointment, things seemed headed for the rocks.
The NFF was scandalised by Oliseh’s rude online statement they seemed to have made up their mind to fire him, but the sports minister stopped the NFF from carrying out the sack. There is an important game coming up against Egypt, which might determine Nigeria’s participation in the next African Cup of Nations tournament. We had failed to qualify for the last tournament.
And the rocky relationship with the coach was certainly an unhealthy backdrop against which to prepare for the game. The NFF wanted the coach to present his plan to the Technical Committee, but the coach would not. There was a directive sacking Tijani Babangida from the technical team around coach Oliseh, which he disagreed with.
And as usual, there were arguments about salaries owed the coach and members of his technical team. Stories surfaced that Oliseh’s Belgian assistant was even begging for a backlog of payments in order for to take care of an ailment. Sunday Oliseh was also refusing to return home arguing that he wanted to stay abroad to monitor players.
It was within this whirlwind of controversies, that Sunday Oliseh announced his resignation at the weekend. He was barely eight months in the job. A short but very controversial tenure ended in an acrimonious divorce between the coach and the NFF. Nigeria’s football is the worse for it!
Reports emerged this week, that the NFF accused Oliseh “tricking (it) into paying his salaries only to jump ship with less than a month to the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier with Egypt in Kaduna”! That must be one of the most incredible statements I have read in recent times, but it just went to underscore the depth of rot in our football.
There was no indication that the NFF leadership had met to analyze Oliseh’s appointment in the first place; nor learnt critical lessons for the future. Lunacy has long been defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. The administration of Nigerian football has remained mired in controversy and sustained accusations of corruption and the institution of an oligarchic system controlled by individuals who see football as the “Milch Cow”, extorted for their own personal ends.
Those who genuinely love the sports, and have played for the country, and who can make a positive turnaround, like Segun Odegbami and Adokie Amasieamaka, are not allowed to get the opportunity of leadership. The spoils system central to the corruption, ineptitude and the gradual bastardization of the beautiful game in our country, continues to reign. This is actually the system that must be uprooted before we can take football back to where it should truly belong in Nigeria.
When Sunday Oliseh, the much-vaunted “Pep Guardiola” of Nigeria, abandoned the leaky ship of Nigerian football, as the National Coach over the weekend, he exposed frontally, the depth of crack that they have been papering over for years. It was more than a pinprick for Pinnick (no pun intended!). If a root and branch reformation is not carried out in the administration of Nigerian football, the game will continue to lurch from crisis to crisis. That is the naked truth.