November 19, 2023

Here we go again, By Patrick Omorodion

Here we go again, By Patrick Omorodion

A popular saying attributed to Albert Einstein has it that it is insane to do the same thing over and over and expect different results. 

Over the years, after the success of Dutch coach, Clemens Westerhof, the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF has never made the right decision on the hiring of sound managers for the senior national team, the Super Eagles. 

The first blunder they made after the exit of Westerhof was the engagement of his compatriot, Bonfrere Johannes, fondly called Bonfrere Jo. 

Even though he led our Olympic Eagles to win gold at the Atlanta Games in 1996, majority of the players were those he inherited from Westerhof. He failed to win the AFCON on home soil when he lost to Cameroon in the 2000 final in Lagos. 

Between Westerhof and the present manager, Jose Peseiro, the football federation appointed different foreign coaches who didn’t make any mark. Some Nigerians were also engaged in-between them as stop-gap measures, because they couldn’t get other foreigners at short notice. 

Among the Nigerians, only two of them who are now late, Shaibu Amodu and Stephen Keshi did remarkably well. 

Amodu qualified the Eagles to the World Cup twice but was never allowed to take the team to the event on both occasions, 2002 in Korea/Japan and 2010 in South Africa. Keshi on his part, became the first indigenous coach to lead the Eagles to an AFCON victory in South Africa in 2013 and also qualified the team to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. 

Keshi, like Westerhof, whom he played under as captain, integrated home-based players in his squad and got a blend which earned him good results. 

The exclusion of home-based players got really bad under Gernot Rohr whose coaching pedigree before coming to Nigeria was not inspiring. 

The Super Eagles under Rohr were always work in progress as he made use of any player agents drew his attention to. The department of the team Rohr really had problems with but never had the courage to rejig is the goalkeeping area. And it has remained so even after his exit.

At the 2019 AFCON in Egypt, goalkeeping error did the Eagles in against Algeria in the semi-final. There was a national uproar and eventual call for his sack but the NFF couldn’t muster courage to sack him. 

When Rohr was eventually sacked few weeks to the 2021 AFCON in Cameroon, his place was taken by Eguavoen who showed promise during the group stage but buckled in the round of 16 when a goalkeeping howler from Maduka Okoye caused the Eagles defeat by Tunisia.

Eguavoen was kept despite the AFCON defeat with the hope that he could help secure the 2022 World Cup ticket. That was again bungled by another goalkeeping error by Francis Uzoho as Ghana drew 1-1 with the Eagles after a barren draw in Accra. 

When Portuguese Peseiro was contracted, many Nigerians felt it was another faulty move as his profile wasn’t inspiring. He inherited almost the same players Rohr worked with and the goalkeeping department remained a pain for the team. 

Even though the Super Eagles qualified for the 2023 AFCON scheduled for Cote D’Ivoire in January 2024, Nigerians still felt that goalkeeping nightmare could derail the team’s aspiration for a fourth AFCON title. 

This may have prompted the invitation of the shot stopper of Bendel Insurance goalkeeper, Amas Obasogie whose performance in the Nigeria Premier Football League has left fans dumbfounded. 

It was however, shocking when days before the 2026 World Cup qualifier against the Crocodiles of Lesotho in Uyo last Thursday, Peseiro said Uzoho remains his first choice in goal. 

Understandably, the Portuguese didn’t want to field the Bendel Insurance goalkeeper he hasn’t tested. But his insistence on Uzoho again proved to be a major error as the Eagles conceded a goal that could have been saved. 

So again the Eagles have started another World Cup qualifier on a very shaky note. Today in Kigali, Rwanda, Peseiro would line his wards in another tie against Zimbabwe who drew 0-0 with Rwanda on the same ground on Thursday. 

He needs to make bold changes if he hopes to restore the team’s pride as well as ensure that the World Cup ticket would not slip away as it did in 2022. 

Like the NFF kept Rohr in-charge despite his inability to tinker the Super Eagles into a formidable team, they have again allowed Peseiro to embark on another trial and error. 

These days Nigerians have their hearts in their mouths whenever the Super Eagles are playing, no matter how weak the opponent may seem. That was what happened at the Godswill Akpabio stadium in Uyo last Thursday. 

As it was with Rohr, so it is now with Peseiro. And our football administrators are expecting a different result? Only God will save Nigeria’s football from this ‘insanity’ as postulated by Einstein.