By Patrick Omorodion

The cry was vociferous in the land. The Super Eagles had just crashed out of the first World Cup on African soil tagged South Africa 2010 World Cup. With two losses and a draw, Nigerians were angry that the Eagles they expected to put up a respectable performances have again failed them, making the dream to equal Cameroon and Senegal’s quarter-final feat a mirage.

After Shaibu Amodu, a home grown coach had been shoved aside despite his bronze medal effort at the Africa Nations Cup earlier that year in Angola, Lars Lagerback, a Swede was drafted in to tinker the Eagles and give them what it takes to play beautiful football and still win.

Lagerback’s failure caused the fans to yell in unison that enough was really enough for foreign coaches because, “none of the World Cup winners have done so with a foreign coach”. And so the search for a capable local coach began.

But trust the managers of the game in the country, being novices in the technical area of the game they claim to know so much about, they based their choice on sentiments, claiming Bayelsa-born gaffer, Samson Siasia was the right one for the job, that he has the Midas touch.

Their reason: He led the Flying Eagles to a silver medal feat at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Holland in 2005 and another silver at the Beijing Olympics in China in 2008, coincidentally, losing both to the same Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina team.

Their sentiments beclouded the fact that the same Siasia failed with another set of Flying Eagles at the Africa Youth Championship in Egypt in 2009 and was also not successful at club level with Heartland Football Club of Owerri.

Siasia was the toast of every football fan because as they claimed, the Eagles were beginning to play free-flowing game and were likened to the Eagles of the Stephen Keshi era who won the !994 Nations Cup in Tunisia and qualified the country for first World Cup same year, losing narrowly to Arigo Sacchi’s Italy in the second.

Siasia

He played strings of friendly matches, winning or drawing them but sceptics never failed to let him and his supporters know that those victories were not the true test of Siasia’s quality as a coach or the Eagles prowess as a football super power.

When the Eagles beat Argentina 4-1 in a friendly played at the Abuja National Stadium in June, Siasia’s loyalists hit roof top with praises of the coach, affirming that he was truly the messiah the game in the country has been waiting for. Not even a reminder by ardent critics that Argentina paraded a third string team without top players like Messi, Higuain, Mascherano and Tevez could dampen the celebration of the die-hard fans.

A sign that Siasia and his Eagles were not yet the dream team Nigerians were yearning for showed in the second leg of their friendly against Argentina in Bangledesh were they lost 1-3 but his fans defended him by saying that his full squad was also not fielded.

Siasia’s mien changed from being a quiet and easy going coach to a stubborn one, trying to prove to the players and even his employers that he called the shots and was in charge. He wielded the big stick, disciplining players at will, sometime taking it to the extreme even after the erring players apologised to him.

First to taste his high-handedness was Osaze Odemwingie who claimed he had approached Siasia to excuse him from the friendly match against Kenya after a Nations Cup qualifier against Ethiopia. Despite apologies from the player who himself is fast turning into super brat, Siasia stood his ground and the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF backed him, saying he was in charge and his decisions were final.

Next was his first choice goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama. His sin was that he complained about the travel arrangement for the team on their way to a crucial qualifier against Madagascar in Antananarivo. Enyeama was dropped from the match and went ahead to miss the all-important tie against Guinea in Abuja. Apart from Enyeama’s apology, Nigerians called on Siasia not to throw away the baby with the bath water but he would not heed their advice, claiming he wanted to exert a measure of discipline in the team.

The Eagles loss, that was what the 2-2 draw against Guinea meant, was aa a result of not only technical and tactical deficiency, but also that of goal keeping error from Dele Aiyenugba whom Siasia chose to replace Enyeama.

Siasia also chose to field unfit players like Odemwingie claiming later that he did so not to incur the wrath of Nigerian fans. He kept Ahmed Musa and Ike Uche on the bench, leaving the likes of Chinedu Obasi and Mikel Obi who slowed the game on the pitch. His changes were done after the Eagles came under serious pressure and despite Musa and Uche bringing in some sense of urgency and seriousness into the game, it was too late as the Guineans  grew in confidence and took the game to the Eagles most of the time.

Siasia promised the NFF on his contract papers that he will not only take the Eagles to the Nations Cup in Gabon/Equatorial Guinea but will get to the semi final otherwise they, the NFF, were free to terminate his contract.

Days after he failed to meet his own part of the bargain and calls for his sack or retention mounted and the NFF was undecided, Siasia became sober, pleading for more time to build a much more formidable team. His loyalists even dropped the name of President Goodluck Jonathan to save him from a sack while some other Nigerians chorused that the time was too short for a new coach since the 2014 World Cup and the 2013 Africa Nations Cup qualifiers are just a few months away.

However, still seeking legitimacy,  the NFF, not wanting to set a bad precedence, stuck to the contract terms and gave Siasia the boot Friday, giving its technical committee this week to announce a new replacement for him.

Failing to qualify for the 2012 Nations Cup may be God’s design for Nigeria to start doing things right, putting round pegs in round holes and not running football on sentiments as has always been the case, a situation that has now led the country to the present quagmire.

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