By Paul Bassey
DUE to my CAF assignment I could not make the swearing in ceremony of the technical committee of the Nigeria Football federation. I remember calling the chairman of the committee Chris Green to offer my apologies. However, he told me to promise that I will be present for the interview session with the coaches. I promised.
I got back to Nigeria to receive very interesting messages. The one from Anthony Onyeador was very interesting. He thanked me for “….. not being part of the charade called the technical committee of the Nigeria Football Federation. That you, Odegbami and Okocha among others have refused to serve is enough indication that they are not credible.
“It was their ambition to use people like you to gain cheap popularity and unmerited acceptance. Now they have failed……”
I replied. That I was out of the country when the swearing in was done that is why I did not attend, that when called to serve I did say I would, but that the day I realized that I belonged to a body that was not relevant, that I was ready to bow out, and that if any one believed I could add value to his aspirations, I was ready to oblige………
That Thursday I flew out from Lagos at about seven am and headed straight for the Nicon Luxury interview venue. The moment I entered the hall, I noticed that a camera was set up for what was to be a live recording of the interview session. I made to question the rationale, got an explanation from Barrister Green that was not very satisfactory, but today I want to bow to the ingenuity of that decision.
Today also with due apologies to the decision of the technical committee, I want to be able to write on some aspects of that interview, due in the main to some of the funny fall outs that have filled the media since Siasia was appointed as Chief coach of the Super Eagles.
When the coaches came in for the interview, the first thing they were asked was whether they were comfortable with all the members of the committee. That should they have any reservations, that member was going to be excused. Siasia said he had none. I expected a contrary view.
When Stephen Keshi appeared on the scene, I remember telling a television station that both on paper and by experience, Siasia had no chance. That Keshi has coached three countries, one of them to the World Cup and two to the Nations Cup. That what was instructive about the world cup feat was that Togo came out from a group that no bookmaker gave them any chance and besides with players that could not be considered world class.
I admitted that Siasia had some credible records but all at youth level, punctuated by disastrous outings in Egypt and Heartland.
That, would have been enough for him to ask that I be dropped. He did not.
I was not alone. The media was split down the line as Keshi steadily crept into the headlines, giving the popular Siasia a fight for his high domestic rating.
Let me quickly say that before the interview it took us nearly two hours to come out with what I consider a full proof process that cannot be faulted by both candidates. With the likes of Chiefs Onigbinde and Anyansi, Chairman Chukwu, Deji Tinubu, Garba Lawal and Victor Ikpeba on this side of the table, the candidates were in for a proper drilling as the all encompassing questions finally got the approval of Chairman Green and were rolled out, ready for the candidates.
Let me rewind. Wednesday, a day to the interview Godwin Enakhena of Lagos Television called me to say that he had been told “authoritatively” that the Thursday exercise was a farce, that the coach had been appointed a day before. He wanted me to talk to his “authoritative source.” I did. Told him to rest easy that I was a member of the panel and that I was still in Lagos etc…….
Also widely publicized was a news story that Siasia suspected foul play and was pulling out of the interview. That he did not know why he should be interviewed twice, given the fact that he was at the stage of picking up the appointment when the last board was disbanded.
Before the interview, a letter from the Siasia camp gave credence to this report, as they wondered why Siasia should be subjected to another interview. The protest recalled how Siasia beat all comers the last time around, yet the job was given to someone else.
It is only natural to say that even within the panel, these two great sons of Nigeria’s football enjoyed great support and there was no doubt that the work at hand was going to be very herculean.
Needless to say that we did talk to the two coaches and I will be speaking the mind of the committee if I say that we were not very impressed with what we got at the end of the day. IF, these are two of the best coaches we have in this country today, then the technical committee of the NFF has a lot to do, perhaps even with those who are looking up to these two. Our coaches should be exposed to advanced coaching courses to enlarge their horizon ( Arsene Wenger took advantage of the off season to attend one in)
The moment our coaches accept that they do not know and are ready to know, that day they would have started a journey to greatness, especially those of them who handle national teams and have a lot of time in their hands in between competitions.
Having said this much, the interview day was a day Keshi had an off day, matter of speaking and Siasia took the opportunity to score, especially in the areas of the domestic league, future Super Eagles team, discipline and the making of a Super Eagles Brand that will aid the corporate sponsorship and marketing of the National Team.
His masterstroke for me was when he was asked why he should be the next coach of the Super Eagles and he said because he was the missing link. “…….My boys in the U-20 and U-23 have all graduated and gone up there. I am the missing link. They are waiting for me, so that we can move on together……”
And to think that Chris Green captured all this on tape.
See you next week