By Patrick Omorodion
Our elders say that unless a woman marries two husbands, she wouldn’t know the better of the two.
Not long ago, the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF fell out with the national team Chief coach, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi.
As a result, it refused to extend his contract, hinging its action on the failure of the Super Eagles to qualify for the 2015 Africa Nations Cup which held in Equatorial Guinea.
The decision also got a lot of support from angry Nigerians who were bitter that the Eagles could not qualify from a group which included Congo, South Africa and Sudan.
Many a football fan had called on the NFF to hire a quality foreign coach for the team because, according to them, Keshi who is unarguably the best indigenous coach, has reached his limit.
Nigerians who were once again clamouring for a foreign coach after stints with our indigenous coaches following the unsuccessful voyage of German, Berti Vogts with the Eagles at the 2008 Africa Nations Cup in Ghana were shocked when the NFF hired former Super Eagles captain Sunday Oliseh.
NFF president, Amaju Pinnick, a lover of foreign coaches may have thought along that line but it has been revealed that another influential member of the Board talked him into giving the job to Oliseh.
Pinnick in a move to convince Nigerians that the NFF didn’t make a mistake in hiring Oliseh, described the Delta-born coach as “the Pep Guardiola of Africa”, stressing that they have confidence he will deliver. So he thought.
As if to ensure he doesn’t falter or have any excuse for failure, the NFF reportedly paid Oliseh three months salary upfront, a development that infuriated some of the coaches in the federation’s employ, including Golden Eaglets coach, Emmanuel Amuneke. Amuneke’s angst was that he had been working before Oliseh was employed and owed salary for a number of months but was never considered for payment.
Even Samson Siasia was a victim of unpaid salary and just like Amuneke complained. Rather than assuage these coaches, the NFF queried them for asking for their dues. The NFF and Pinnick in particular must be ruing their choice of Oliseh following his recent vituperations, not only against the NFF but to his critics, including journalists and his former team-mates whom he addressed as “bench warmers” during their playing days.
However, the sweet romance between the NFF and Oliseh seems to have come to an end with both sides spewing hate words on each other. And the last straw that broke the Camel’s back was the failure of the Super Eagles at the Africa Nations Championship, CHAN which ended in Rwanda last Sunday with the Democratic Republic of Congo beating Mali 3-0 to win the top prize.
It was shocking when Oliseh blamed the team’s loss on lack of motivation for the players. He also alleged that he had to spend his personal fund to feed the players who were hungry because the NFF gave them no money.
How come this only came out after the team crashed out of the competition following their 0-1 loss to Guinea in the last group match on a day they needed just a draw to sail through?
Just as the NFF was coming to terms with Oliseh’s accusation of neglect, he posted an interview of self on youtube, lambasting his critics who he described as insane. This got Nigerians infuriated and the NFF thought of calling it quits with him before the Sports minister, Solomon Dalung intervened last Tuesday.
Dalung’s truce came with a condition, that Oliseh must apologize to all those he called names. The NFF on its part may have agreed to put Oliseh’s ‘insult’ on the federation behind but with a proviso that he pays a fine of N6m. It is not clear whether the coach will accept the fine offer because the BBC hinted the day after that Oliseh may consider consulting his layers to contest it.
As the crisis of confidence between Oliseh and the NFF simmers, Nigerians are worried on the effect the strained relationship could have on the Nations Cup/ World Cup qualifier between the Eagles and Egypt especially the claim by Oliseh that players may boycott future calls to play for the country.
This is a subtle blackmail which if not nipped in the bud now could spell doom for our World Cup appearance in Russia in 2018. If Amuneke and Siasia’s teams could play with delayed allowances and bonuses and still went on to win their competitions, Oliseh had no excuse for failing in Rwanda and should desist from inciting the players. That is what his statement that players may not answer national call is.
This is also not to absolve the NFF from the brewing crisis because as a federation that gets support from the corporate world outside the ‘pampering’ they get from government, state and federal, they should not complain of lack of fund or frustration because of the Treasury Single Account .
The constant call on sports men and the technical officials to make sacrifices is welcome. This however, should go side by side with the provision of an enabling environment for them to prepare properly for competitions to be able to post podium performances.
This is why the saying that to whom much is given, much is expected should be reversed to read to whom much is expected, much should be given.
It on this ground that I want to thank the House Committee on Sports for taking a bold step towards making other sports have a sense of belonging. During the week it invited the sports that have qualified for the Rio Olympics to come before it to defend the budget for their activities like football does. That means these federations, like football, may get direct appropriation of funds to prosecute their programmes like participation in the Olympics and other international engage-ments.