By Onochie Anibeze
I have received calls to repeat the column I wrote on the eve of the 2-2 draw Eagles played with Guinea on October 8, the clumsy game that nailed our hope of qualifying for the 2012 Nations Cup. Prince Osuagwu, a colleague in the office, says it’s a pity that those in charge rarely read. He is among those who feel strongly about the piece on October 7.
I reproduce part of it today for I also feel it is even more relevant now than before that October 8 disaster. Read on and see the comment below:
Ota Agefere is my friend and a regular reader of this column. He is also a great follower of sports especially football. He called me on Tuesday to say the following: Please, tell Samson Siasia to field local players in the midfield against Guinea on Saturday. The match will come up at 2pm. The weather will be harsh to our Europe-based players. I fear that after about thirty minutes many of them would have fagged out.
This is why I’m recommending local players who are used to the tropical weather. They will help in the midfield where they need to run a lot, joining the attack and defending as well. From Enyimba, Heartland and the likes of Sunshine and Pillars don’t tell me we cannot find players who can fit in.”
I told him he had some points although I didn’t know if Siasia had any such plans. In sports you can only ignore the weather factor at your own peril. I told Ota that it is not only in a situation like this that we need the good ones in the local league. Actually, we need them in all national teams. If I were in the federation I would make a case for only local players to form the national Under 17 and Under 20 teams.
And this will be facilitated by the appointment of about two or three scouts by the football federation. I told Ota that Aminu Maigari, the President of the Football Federation appears to be one who listens and embraces good ideas. He seems to have bought the idea of engaging scouts. I have written on this before and also discussed it severally with top football officials. I was impressed when Maigari said that “it will be done.” I hope the federation will be meticulous in selecting their scouts.
There are people who have the talent to fish out potentials. The scouting job should be on merit and the head scouting officer may work closely with the coaches of the national teams. Always, the federation can boast of a pool of players from where coaches can select players for training. It still does not stop the national coaches from going round the country to select some players. But we know that this has not worked lately especially in the Super Eagles. Time is a factor. Each coach appointed vows to look inwards but eventually fails to do so.
They wholly rely on foreign-based players. The Super Eagles coaches rarely watch the local leagues. That’s why we need scouting officers. But the scouting policy would not work if the federation does not attach importance to Home Eagles, the team that competes in the new CAF competition for national teams constituted by players based only in the continent. The coaching job for that team should not just be job for anybody.
A hardworking coach who has ability to transform players and properly guide their transition should be considered. This is where raw materials can be turned to finished products. Great work is needed here. I always prefer coaches who played professionally in Europe for many reasons which I stated in the past. But summarily, they understand the dynamics of modern football better.
The points made above are all geared toward building a strong backup for the Eagles but, in the main, to establish a sound football structure for the national teams. It is building for the future. It will only pay us to do so. Our 2014 World Cup campaign will benefit tremendously from it.
The Home Eagles coach should work with Samson Siasia as one of his assistants or as a liaison staff. Our national team should have a more professional and result-oriented structure than we have now for our football to grow. It begins with putting local potentials to good use and planning for the future. There are a few who can be trained and exposed to be stars. I have seen some Europe-based players who lack the potential some local players possess. By luck they found their ways to Europe and are now preferred because of their status and not necessarily total output.
Let’s truly look inwards to help Siasia in building the Eagles. The federation can do so by appointing scouts, appointing Home Eagles coach on merit and supporting him with good programme that the Super Eagles coach would accommodate. These will address the concern of Ota Agefere if not now in the near future for tomorrow’s match is already here.
I did not consider the calls to repeat this column until I read it again. The points are very pertinent. And that’s why I have run it again because I feel strongly that it is the way forward. I’ll not stand in the way if they want to part with Siasia. But if we do not address the issues I raised, we will continue to sack coaches because they will continue to fail.
After the October 8 disaster, I critically analysed our players and what flashed through my mind was a statement Amodu Shaibu made and which he was vilified. “We don’t have great players any more,” Amodu said while he was still coach of the Eagles. Now take this: What do you say of a country that has Mikel Obi as their greatest star?
A Mikel who doesn’t mark well and never creates anything. A Mikel whose passes are always going back and who rarely mounts pressure on opponents. A Mikel who has played for Chelsea for more than four years and has never scored or even made an assist. A Mikel who walked while the game was on and who played a major role in helping Guinea equalise and oust us from the next Nations Cup.
How can such a person be our biggest name? Truly, we don’t have stars anymore. But we can have a good team. Who were the stars in the Guinea team that stopped us from going to the Nations Cup? That’s why I maintain that we should look inward and resort to our league. If, like Ota expected, we had up to three good home players in that match I don’t think Guinea would have walked their way to our goal the way they did.
At least, they would have marked better than those who were resting their hands on their waists and walking while the game was on. We must return to our league, select good players and begin the real building of a new national team that will not contain players who not only lack the game to be true Eagles but who also lack the heart of patriots.