By Patrick Omorodion
As those saddled with the running (is it ruining?) of football in the country continue to dilly dally on the issue of a coach for the Super Eagles, either local or foreign to replace out of favour Shaibu Amodu, the Edo-born coach has thrown up another debate over who is the best indigenous Nigerian coach.
It was gathered that at a recent meeting of local coaches who met to drum up support for one of their own in the face of raging criticisms over his performance, Amodu allegedly told his colleagues off, stressing that he was the best coach in the country as none of them could boast of his records.
His utterance, we gathered, drew the ire of his colleagues and almost drew the meeting to a close until some of his friends called for a truce and asked him to apologise to the coaches who included his predecessors on the Eagles job, Adegboye Onigbinde and Christian Chukwu.
It is pertinent therefore that Amoduâ€™s claim be looked into to put the records straight on who is Nigeriaâ€™s best local coach and too, what constitutes a record in the countryâ€™s coaching business.
What are Amoduâ€™s antecedents in football coaching? Before the late 1980s when he became coach of the defunct BCC Lions Football Club of Gboko, Amodu was hardly known in football circles nationally.
At the time Amodu was in-charge, the club was solid owing to the strength of the parent company, Benue Cement Company which pumped funds into the club for the recruitment of some of the best players in the land.
The team had such names like the late Amir Angwe, John Zaki, Patrick Mancha, and the bandana wearing rugged defender, Benedict Ugwu, alias â€˜surugedeâ€™ who was the nemesis of most daring attackers.
As a club coach, Amodu was successful on the continent, winning the Cup Winners Cup with BCC Lions in 1990 and defending it till the final the following year. He equally became the coach that led BCC to break the jinx of the Challenge Cup not going up north since Independence by winning it for the first time in 1989, a ticket that qualified the club for the 1990 African Cup of Winners. He equally helped Elkanemi Football Club lift the FA Cup at a time.
However, it is pertinent to state here that Amodu was not the first coach to win continental honours with any Nigerian club. Shooting Stars Football Club broke the jinx in 1976 with a foreign coach, Allan Hawkes with Jossy Lad as his assistant and Rangers Football Club followed a year after with coach Dan Anyiam. After Amodu in 1990, Insurance Football Club of Benin also won the newly introduced CAF Cup competition in 1994 under coach Lawrence Akpokona, a competition 3SC also won.
Also at the club level, two other coaches, Kadiri Ikhana and Okey Emordi wrote their names in gold when they helped Enyimba Football Club of Aba win the elusive Africa Champions League trophy, the first club to do so in the countryâ€™s history.
The Champions League far outweighs the Winners Cup won by Amodu, therefore on this strength, he cannot claim to be greater than Ikhana or Emordi at club level, the same way he cannot claim to be greater than Anyiam who won the Winners Cup before him.
At the national team level and Africa Cup of Nations in particular, the best indigenous coach is unarguably Chief Onigbinde who led the Green Eagles with wholly home-based players (sprinkled with one or two pros) to the final in 1984 in Abidjan and came back with a silver medal after falling to Cameroon. Amoduâ€™s best is a bronze.
His claim as the best indigenous coach is probably hinged on the qualification of the Eagles for two World Cups, 2002 and the most recent, 2010 coming up in South Africa in June. Amodu himself knows that the qualification of the team was as a result of several factors, with his coaching prowess counting less than the others.
This, more than anything else, is the reason the Nigeria Football Association (that is their real name) and the Presidential Task Force (PTF) can look him into the face and say the Eagles definitely need a coach of whatever hue ( most probably white, I believe) to tinker the team for the World Cup after their heart-rending performance in Angola.
Amodu himself knows this but may just be grandstanding. He has somehow come down from his high horse to say that he would not mind having Stephen Keshi to assist him in the big task expected of the team at the World Cup. This is not the stance of a coach who believes his prowess earned the team the World Cup ticket. Most coaches who know their worth, would not hesitate to throw in the towel when tomatoes are being thrown at them for a â€˜good jobâ€™ like is being done to him now.
Amodu is just hanging there, waiting to accept anything because like the local parlance, â€œat all at allâ€ is worse, that is half bread is better than none.