By Onochie Anibeze

The good news is that Nigeria Football Federation has not formally signed on coach, Jose Peseiro.

And can we sing Alleluya with Austin Eguavoen and bid the Portuguese bye? That’s what Nigerians are saying just after Eguavoen’s first outing in Cameroun. Is it proper?

Take this analogy: In one moment of brilliance that produced a stunning goal Kelechi Ihenacho was voted Man Of The Match in Tuesday’s Group D opening match. Moses Simon was energetic on the left and perhaps harassed the Pharaohs more than Kelechi did.

Taiwo Awoniyi was a thorn in the flesh of the Egyptians. Jo Aribo’s flair in the midfield helped Nigeria dominate the game. Analysts have assessed the performance of the Eagles differently and there are many who rated Simon, Awoniyi and Aribo more than Kelechi.

But nobody will question the Man Of The Match award to Kelechi because of that moment of sheer brilliance. His goal that gave Nigeria the 1-0 victory against Egypt was simply classic and, to many, deservedly earned him the award.

In football, only one move can change the whole game. One move can win you the World Cup. One move can earn you a call up to the national team. Let me go personal. I only got noticed when I blocked Block Buster Aloy Atuegbu in training. Their coach shouted “who is this? Where is he from?” Enugu Rangers came for training at Enugu Campus of the University of Nigeria where we played.

They were not complete. We usually yielded the mini-stadium ground to them any time they came there. Central defender, Harrison Okagbue, fondly called Mayor saw me standing by the sideline and beckoned on me to play at the right back to complete his side. Atuegbu who was known for his abilities to shield the ball and earned the nick name of Block Buster for that skill had a through-pass and paced to outrun me.

I intercepted the ball and blocked so stoutly that he fell, prompting the shock expression from his coach.

Injury did not allow me to continue football but I’ll never forget that day I trained with Enugu Rangers of that era. Christian Chukwu and some players were in national camp and the team was not complete. I was young, fresh from school and only trained with the likes of Enugu NEPA and PRODA at the time. It was a moment that earned me attention from PRODA.

One moment can make a difference in a lifetime.

Austin Eguavoen’s moment came on Tuesday and he seized it. And now Nigerians are saying loudly that we don’t need Peseiro again especially after it was disclosed that he has not signed any contract. My friend Idah Peterside says that if Eguavoen leads Nigeria to the semifinal the “plane Peseiro intends to fly to Nigeria from Portugal must not be allowed to take off.” But he advised that we should tarry awhile and see how it goes on the ground that it may be wrong to draw conclusions after just one match. That’s true.

But it’s equally true that many of the foreign coaches we hire are not better than some of our Nigerian coaches. I have tremendous respect for our coaches who played professionally in Europe. They combine the ruggedness of African football and the tactical discipline of Europeans.

African football is different. I doubt if any team in Europe could choke the game for Mo Sallah the way Eagles did on Tuesday. Players who played in our league before moving to Europe always strike a wonderful accord in our national teams.

That African touch and the flair of Europe usually produce good result when the team is handled by a coach who appreciates these attributes and knows how to deploy them. Eguavoen, in one match, has shown that Nigeria wasted resources on Genert Rohr.

I wanted Eguavoen to be appointed full time coach and assigned quality assistants to lead the team to the Nations Cup and remaining World Cup qualifiers. But I argued that if they were insisting on hiring a foreign coach the new man should resume immediately rather than go to Cameroun as an observer. And that’s why I began by saying that the good news is that Peseiro has not signed a contract.

While I agree that it is premature to conclude after one match, the fact remains that some of our coaches, even if they are not highly rated like their foreign counterparts, can produce better results with our teams more than these Europeans. They understand our players better and know how to get the best out of them. Eguavoen should go on as the coach.

I supported the hiring of Samson Siasia by the Ibrahim Galadima board of then Nigeria Football Association. Siasia, with Under 20 World Cup silver medal, two Olympic medals (bronze and silver) remains one of our best coaches ever of the national team.

Two times he coached Eagles were only on interim basis. He is another guy who can fly.

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Sylvanus Okpala is another brilliant coach. Emmanuel Amuneke is there. Keshi reached the second round of the World Cup in Brazil after winning the 2013 Nations Cup. And if not for the politics that led to the disengagement of Sylvanus Okpala after the Nations Cup Nigeria could have possibly gone beyond the second round in Brazil.

Keshi realised what he was missing in Okpala’s absence and publicly begged that he be brought back to the team. That didn’t happen and the performance of Eagles dropped so badly that Keshi was disengaged after South Africa beat us here in Nigeria. But I was happy that Keshi won the Nations Cup with home-based players in the team, one of them, Sunday Mba, scoring the winning goal in the final.

I influenced Siasia’s return to Nigeria after retirement for the Under 20 job and convinced Maigari to hire Keshi. Galadima is in Kano. Maigari is in Bauchi. They respected quality advice and got the results. Can I say same of the present board? The only alibi is the interference that denies them absolute control. Amaju Pinnick board has been excellent in marketing, raising money for the federation. They remain the best in this area but they can do better on technical matters which may rubbish them no matter how rich the federation becomes.

Segun Odegbami launched a campaign for the federation not to renew Rohr’s contract. Nobody listened to him and many others who protested his continued stay in Nigeria because he was not good enough. The board needs to respect some of our coaches and have confidence in them. Eguaoven in one moment of brilliance, has shown that he can do the job if well supported.

It is not because of the victory on Tuesday that I’m calling for his continued stay as Eagles coach. You can play badly and win. Eagles did so a couple of times with Rohr. Did you watch their 4-4 draw with Sierra Leone in Benin? What about the 2-1 defeat in Cape Verde and the 1-1 draw in Lagos?

Yes, they beat Liberia home and away but were you proud of how they played? We can’t forget the defeat by Central Africa Republic in Lagos. Rohr’s team had no character. They were lacklustre even in victory. The federation made a big mistake renewing his contract especially after he showed in Russia World Cup that he was not competent to coach Nigeria.

He was awful in Russia. And he continued until he was sacked. Eguavoen’s interim appointment should be changed after the Nations Cup. He made Nigerians proud against Egypt. The typical style of Nigeria – aggression, wing play, pace – came on display. His game plan worked.

His changes were good, his conduct before and during the match portrayed a confident coach who can only do better. Eagles marked well and attacked superbly. They could still be better if Simon continues his aggressive play but runs only when the space is there. He appeared to always want to run with every ball even when it was not necessary, when the space ahead was blocked.

Chukwueze also did same a couple of times and didn’t look good. And when they run so much as they did against Egypt in the first half they should know when to play deep, conservatively and go on the counter especially if they are leading. Egypt came stronger into the game in the second half because Nigeria’s pace dropped naturally after the energetic first half. The changes Eguaoven made stabilised the game unlike Rohr who on such occasions was clueless.

Remember Russia? Mikel Obi, Ahmed Musa were all tired in the last 20 minutes against Argentina. Rohr didn’t know the changes to make until Argentina scored. Eguaoven has shown that he is a better coach and should lead us to the World Cup. He turned around the team in few days and Nigerians couldn’t believe it was the same team that broke hearts under Rohr.

Let’s have confidence in our own and prepare a contract for Eguavoen to lead us to the World Cup. Not every foreign coach is good for us. Our federation once considered hiring Carlos Queiroz, same coach that fell on Tuesday with Egypt. That doesn’t make him a bad coach. My point is that we must not cringe before every foreign coach. That’s my message to those who run our football and the supervising ministry. For now, we have good news in Eguavoen. Let’s encourage him.

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