By Onochie Anibeze
Today, I begin with a story we published on April 4, on our back page. I wrote the story. Please, read and follow the comments below it:
Osaze faces sanction
Amodu Shuaibu, in the estimation of Osaze Odewengie, was a good coach until he benched him a few times during the Angola Nations Cup in 2010.
Thereafter, Amodu’s style was dubbed obsolete by the same Osaze. The West Brom striker publicly campaigned for the engagement of a foreign coach especially when he was absolutely sure the authorities had opted to sign one in spite of the short time to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Lars Lagerback was signed. After few training sessions under the Swede Osaze almost idolized the man, saying that “now we have a good coach.”
His remarks on the style of the man painted the Swede as first class coach.
The World Cup started and Argentina pipped Nigeria by a lone goal. By the time Nigeria had fumbled against Greece and Korea and Osaze also found himself on the bench, the Swede, in the estimation of Osaze, had turned a bush man from a civilized country. Osaze publicly, too, ate his words on Amodu and regretted that Nigeria ever signed Largaback. He said that Amodu should have been left to continue.
All the players who were invited for the Ethiopia qualifier were also invited for the friendly against Kenya. But after the March 27 match Osaze returned to England the following day. Nigeria Football Federation officials Tuesday night complained that Osaze did not inform anybody before leaving. They were considering sanctions against him.
“We have told Samson Siasia to take any disciplinary decision that he may deem fit,” a top Federation member said Thursday, adding “if Osaze is not disciplined, it may send wrong signals and other players may toe his line. He just ignored the federation and the coaches. This is wrong and an act of indiscipline.”
By Friday, what Osaze said on his twitter page was already in the media. He had attacked Siasia, found faults in his coaching style and claimed that senior members of the team were not comfortable with Siasia’s coaching style.
“His training methods, his unguarded outbursts, attitude and treatment of older players is causing disaffection,” Osaze was reported to have said. He came in as a substitute against Ethiopia.
Contacted on this Siasia preferred to focus on his job and not to respond to his players tantrums.
“I have got serious things to do. My focus now is how to play Argentina June 1 and win the next Nations Cup qualifier in Ethiopia. We should win that match,” he said.
We gathered from the Federation last night that Osaze may be suspended from the team or quietly be left out of matches lest he causes disaffection in the team.
Last week, Samson Siasia released the list of players to play Argentina in Abuja and Ethiopia in Addis Ababa. He excluded Osaze. There have been many reactions. People have raised alarm and called for caution.
“How can Siasia drop his best striker?,” they queried. The exclusion coming just as the season was ending shocked many. Osaze had done well. He was voted the best African player in the English Premier League after helping West Brom to avoid relegation. His 15 goals in one season were a club record. No Siasia has got this wrong, many a fan yelled.
One thing is interesting. While the fans are complaining, the technocrats and the real football people have all backed Samson Siasia. Complete Sports, during the week published the opinion of the likes of Emmanuel Amuneke, Victor Ikpeba, Christian Chukwu, Alloy Agu, Ben Iroha, Felix Ayansi Agwu etc.
They all supported Siasia’s decision which was based on maintenance of discipline. Stephen Keshi called for caution while Adokiye Amiesimaka maintained that while everybody must respect the fact that Siasia is in charge, the coach must be firm and fair to all.
Osaze was invited for the March 27 Nations Cup qualifier against Ethiopia and the friendly match against Kenya three days later. After the Ethiopia tie he left the camp without informing anybody.
I recall that at the Beijing Olympics, Osaze had issues with Siasia who frowned at certain behaviourial attitudes of the player. Osaze, one night, packed his things and made to leave. He went to tell Siasia that he was leaving and the coach bid him farewell. That shocked him and he changed his mind.
I recalled this story to Godwin Abigor, the chairman of Warri Wolves, who called four days ago to express concern over the problem between Siasia and Osaze. He called for a truce. I told him that I shared his view but added that sometimes such decisions are meant not only to eventually instill discipline in the player but also to bring out the best in him. The ex internationals who backed Siasia did that on the grounds of discipline. Sylvanus Okpalla put his this way:
“I think that Osaze got it wrong by walking away from the team. I’m a coach and I know the problem such a thing can create. When a player breaks camp other players may be watchful just to know what you as coach will do. If you do nothing they will note it and will expect you not change when they do same thing. If you discipline them it means apathy and you will lose respect. When you lose respect, you may lose control, you become a failure.”
I agree entirely. But I know that this will be sorted out. Osaze has not been banned from the Eagles. He is just being dropped for two matches. And Siasia left the door open for him to return by saying that he was “waiting for Osaze’s call to explain why he walked out on the team”. It was expected that a call to the Eagles coach would end it all. But as at three days ago when I contacted the football federation and Siasia, Osaze had not called.
While I call for the return of Osaze after this, he should know that nobody is indispensable and he should submit to discipline. Big players are sometimes benched. It is not every time that they are in the best of shape. They could even be benched for other reasons. A player must not feel bigger than the team. Osaze should strive to change from the picture the stories about him are painting. I know that he can for he has always been one of the loved players around.
My take on this is simple. I’ll not waste space on what I think constitutes nuisance, what Mitchell Obi calls comedy. But I insist that the authorities must abide by what the law recognises. NFA Congress changed the name from Nigeria Football Association to Nigeria Football Federation without recourse to the law that recognises them as NFA.
The proper thing should be done and not forming a parallel body. But what goes around, they say, comes around. Some of those who are now trying to broker peace had hand in the creation of the nuisance.