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Why Indigenous Nigerian Coaches Cannot Handle The Super Eagles
The clamor for indigenous coaches to handle Nigeria’s senior national team known as the Super Eagles has been going on for as long as I can remember. The issue of national pride has always been cited by ideological thinkers as a major reason for continuing agitations.
At one point, I was almost drawn into this line of thinking, perhaps out of sympathy for local coaches who have paid their dues as far as football performance is concerned.
I was almost blown away by our great performances in the cadet categories at the World Cup, especially in the under-17 category. Nigeria has won the trophy 3 times since the inaugural edition in China in 1985, when a homegrown coach named Christian Chukwu, himself a former captain of the senior national team, led a group of young strangers. The Asian nation of China entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the first country in the world to win this championship sponsored by Kodak.
No one gave him the slightest chance of success before he left Nigerian shores. When they finally returned home with the trophy, there was much cheering for their success. And as mentioned earlier, ironically in Asia, this feat has been repeated two more times since the first edition. First, China in 1985, then Japan in 1993 and most recently in Korea in 2007.
On these three occasions, we had homegrown coaches, firstly Chairman Christian Chukwu, then Fanny Ammun and most recently the late Yomi Tella who passed away a few weeks after returning from a brilliant tour in Korea.
In 1996, Nigeria made another achievement in the field of soccer in Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America. There, an underrated Nigerian side led by Dutchman Bonfre-Joe stunned the world by winning the Olympic gold medal that has swept almighty Brazil since making its name as the world’s greatest football-playing nation. Winning in soccer at every level of play expected in the Olympics (I’m starting to think they are). Ironically, they were beaten by Nigeria in the semi-finals in an epic game that the bookies had already tipped the Brazilians. The incident that led to Brazil’s elimination from the soccer competition at the Atlanta Olympic Games is the subject of another day.
However, the point here is that Nigeria won football gold under a foreign coach and it is on record that Nigeria has won the African Cup of Nations twice, the first time in 1980 under Otto Gloria, a Brazilian. The second time was in Tunisia in 1994 under the captaincy of the flamboyant and articulate Dutchman known as Clement Westerhoff, the same man who qualified Nigeria for her first senior soccer World Cup known as USA 94. It was a double feat for the Dutchman. Earlier in the year the African Cup of Nations was won in grand style, sending a signal to the world about Nigeria’s readiness to take her rightful place in world soccer.
Why are foreign coaches more successful than indigenous coaches at the senior level?
I want to state the reasons in two ways, firstly the administrative error in the Nigerian Football Association. Most people involved in the day-to-day running of the game of soccer in Nigeria know nothing about the game and its challenges. The Nigerian Football Association is thus politicized and used mainly as a means of political satisfaction for electoral support. Foreign coaches are successful because they are hired under well-signed and sealed contracts, given mouth-watering contracts that help motivate them to perform at their best.
It’s a different ball game when it comes to local bins. They are rarely given solid contracts, and when they are, considerable interference from the sports ministry and soccer ruling families makes decision-making difficult for local coaches. Another deciding factor is the issue of job security. Coaches are hired and fired at will, most of them are owed two months salary and never talk about such issues otherwise treating these coaches as ministry workers will be seen as an act of vandalism and humiliation.
The issue of players’ respect for the position of senior national team coach is another fish. Just think, some of these professional players earn as much as eighty thousand British pounds a week in their various European clubs, which translates into our local currency, into millions of Naira that can pay two years’ salaries of native coaches. Now, psychologically, the student here lives more comfortably than the teacher, has achieved more than the so-called teacher, and therefore it is difficult to submit to a man who has not played professional soccer all his life.
Foreign coaches are respected more by players and administrators alike and rank higher than their local counterparts.
Unless local coaches are treated with more respect than foreign coaches in terms of remuneration and to be able to work without undue interference, homegrown coaches seem likely to succeed with the senior national football team. A mirage for now and the near future.
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