May 11, 2024

Finidi George and the burden of history

Finidi George

Finidi George

By Jacob Ajom

The Nigerian Football Federation penultimate week, announced the appointment of George Finidi as Jose Peseiro’s successor. Finidi’s credentials are unquestionable. He played the game to the highest level. Won trophies for both clubs and country. Finidi has remained attached to the game since he hung his boots as a player.

On his return from a very eventful sojourn in Europe, Finidi took up the challenge of tinkering Enyimba International Football Club of Aba, a club with a very rich reputation. He won the Nigeria Professional Football League title with the club in his second season in charge. Enyimba are still in contention for a successful defence of their title.

While with the club, Finidi also served a dual role with the national team, the Super Eagles. Before the NFF announcement, the former Ajax Amsterdam winger served as interim head coach of the Super Eagles. The NFF announcement was only a confirmation of his appointment. Not many were surprised by the NFF’s choice for the job.

However, the NFF seemed to have taken the last step first. The manner the announcement was made belittled the very serious nature of the job. The appointment of a national team coach does not begin with an announcement. No contract, no prio discussion with the coach apart from when he submitted an application for the job. No hint or a private invitation to prepare the new man before the announcement. Not even his employers, Enyimba, were prepared for the development. Even the successful candidate must have been taken by surprise by the announcement.

Given the bitter treatment indigenous coaches have suffered under previous NFF, Finidi must be cautious. An appraisal of NFF’s handling of the coaches they hire, particularly, the indigenous coaches depicts a string of disappointments, failed promises and total disregard for due process on the part of NFF. Examples  abound where coaches were owed their remunerations, poor or non-existent welfare packages, poor training conditions, and so on.

In 2001, late Amodu Shaibu revamped Nigeria’s hitherto tottering World Cup qualifying campaign, qualified the country for the 2002 World Cup but was sacked months to the tournament, under very spurious reasons. Before Amodu, Phillipe Troussier had suffered the same fate, when he was dispensed with after qualifying the country for the 1998 World Cup. After winning the 2013 AFCON as Keshi’s assistant, Sylvanus Okpala was sacked. His case was finally settled by CAS.

The problem is the unorthodox manner the NFF carries out its appointments. Under such loose engagements, it is always the coaches that are the victims. “NFF’s announcement of Finidi’s appointment was a vague statement, scanty and lacked any detail,” a worried football fan said, while expressing fears that what happened to Finidi’s predecessors could befall him as well.

Late Amodu Shaibu said this to a reporter as he was insisting the NFF did the right thing before taking up the national team again. “People have asked me why I am bothered, but my experience in and out of the national team for seven years now has taught me to do things properly.” Certainly, Finidi must be smarter.

Coaches like every other category of workers need job security, good welfare packages, favourable terms of working conditions and residual benefits that bring out the best in them. It is only when there is a standing contract that such could be guaranteed.

There is no gainsaying that the NFF must provide Finidi with whatever he needs to succeed. Give him good salary, a free hand to pick his assistants and give him the tools to work. There is no time. The South African threat to Nigeria’s 2026 World Cup ambition is real. Rhor, with the Republic of Benin are not lying low as the Franco-German tactician will be out to take his revenge on Nigeria. We cannot dismiss Rwanda who are currently ahead of the Super Eagles with a two-point lead.

It sounds good that the NFF and the coach on the one hand, and the NFF and Enyimba Football Club of Aba on the other hand have finally agreed on coach Finidi.

It is hoped that Finidi George will not be given the same treatment meted out to his Nigerian predecessors. He must be armed to do his job. With his antecedents as an ex international and a coach who has at least proven his worth in the domestic scene within such a short time, Finidi is being seen as the new hope for Nigerian football. He is representing the Nigerian coaches and millions of Nigerians who clamoured for the appointment of an indigenous coach as Super Eagles head coach. Although Nigerian coaches have not done badly with the national team, the NFF had not hidden its disdain for indigenous coaches. Finidi, and indeed, the Nigerian coaches are all on trial.

The Rivers state born football tactician must do away with the numerous allegations often levelled against Nigerian coaches. Some have been caught taking bribes in order to field unqualified players at the expense of better placed players, some victimise players who refused them(the coaches) from being their managers, some collect money from academies to invite their players to the national team. All these can be put to rest by Finidi.

No doubt, Nigerians are expecting an exciting new chapter of Nigeria football. The NFF and Nigerians, particularly Finidi’s former colleagues should rally round him so that the Super Eagles may rise again to the pinnacle of African, nay global football.