A few days ago on my Facebook wall, and in my usual habit of dialogue with intellectuals on football matters in Nigeria, we discussed the appointment of Sunday Oliseh. It was full of mixed reactions as patriotic and passionate Nigerians discussed the Super Eagles, their beloved team. My conclusion, Nigerians are desperate for a positive change.
Its been a shock jamboree this year at the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) under the guise of propagating change, and who says they are taking steps in the wrong directions? They have entertained us with more administrative drama than they have articulated football programmes. Its all about entertainment anyway.
It is no longer news that the NFF is getting set to unveil Sunday Oliseh as the new head coach of the Super Eagles. But the Federation will be unveiling an inexperienced and jobless man. Realistically, he lacks the experience for such a huge position. Ideally, he should have started with the junior team to garner the desired cognate experience, like Samson Siasia who grew through the ranks to become the toast of many Nigerians with his successes with Dream Teams did.
No doubt, Oliseh is eloquent and, as an experienced and accomplished footballer, he appears to understand the game as a pundit and through his write-ups. In fairness to him, Oliseh has indeed proven to be knowledgeable and tactically astute. Having said that, we can only wait and pray to see if these talk can be translated into action. However, anyone who properly understands the game can discuss it. Being a good pundit doesn’t make one a good coach. In coaching, theorical experience is totally different from the practice. And as our people say, “enu dun ro’fo jare” – Its easy to cook vegetable soup with verbal descriptions.
Yes, Oliseh possesses the highest Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) coaching license, abandoned on the shelf for a long time now, and I hope that the knowledge acquired back then hasn’t eluded him. However, I will appeal we give him trial and benefit of the doubt. Let’s say its a marriage of convenience between the NFF and Oliseh.
The questions are: why should the NFF appoint an inexperienced coach to oversee our dwindling Super Eagles. When last did Oliseh attend a refresher course? Can he work with the National Technical Director, Shuaibu Amodu and the NFF Cabals? Why can’t NFF make it transparent enough by calling for applications like the Ivorians and other nations rightly did? Is there any iota of truth that NFF practically begged him to take the job? As an apostle of local coaches for the national teams, there is nothing wrong in hiring him, but everything is wrong when we circumvent or short circuit the recruitment standard.
If Oliseh should fail and I pray he doesn’t, Nigerians will come hard on NFF, with dangling hammers falling on them from many directions. The Federation should get ready and immunise itself against the impending onslaught.
Before I am tagged a prophetess of doom, history has proved that inexperience may not actually pose a serious challenge to Oliseh succeeding, since cases abound of such coaches succeeding in the past. Jurgen Klinsman of Germany belongs to this category of inexperienced but successful coaches. Frank Rikjaard and Lother Matheus are other great examples that come to mind.
However, Nigeria’s terrain is entirely different from Europe in terms of attitude and administration. Over there, they have a totally different mentality and attitude. Without our tribal goobledegooks. If their coaches fail, they give them another opportunity to continue which is a rare possibility in Nigeria. If a coach fails, we will call him all manners of derogatory names that might derail his ambition if such a coach is not focused.
My greatest fear for this marriage and what poses a threat to Oliseh is his would-be employer, the NFF. Oliseh is the beautiful bride now because they want someone out at all costs and to also satisfy Nigerians’ yearning for the appointment of a local coach.
Will the NFF give the necessary support to Oliseh to succeed? Will they be patient enough to stay by his side if he fails? And will their marriage end in war, like it was with past coaches? What are the antecedents of his foreign assistant? Oh well, lets allow time to be the judge.
Undoubtedly, we will have it rough at first since he has not done this before. Even as someone who played football to the highest level, coaching is more practical than theoretical. My advice if you ask me is that Oliseh should, as an imperative, be mentally and psychologically strong and resilient to deal with the high expectations of many Nigerians.
During his playing days, he picked quarrels with and insulted both the Federal Government and the NFF, before turning his back on the team. I hope such attitude will not come back to bite him on the foot. Oliseh will have to carefully work with the foreign coach to understudy the home front for a smooth transition.
I want to implore my colleagues in the media to sheath their sword and give him chance. Nigerians should be patient, support Oliseh and see him to greater heights. There is a saying that there is time for everything. Any position, relationship or office anyone is holding today is just temporal. Whatever you do in your tenure is what posterity will judge you by.
Sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, I wish him a blissful marriage with the NFF.
Aderonke Ogunleye-Bello is a journalist and sports for development enthusiast. She can be reached on Twitter: @Aderonkew.