Columns

June 16, 2024

Coaching catastrophe, by Patrick Omorodion

Coaching catastrophe, by Patrick Omorodion

Patrick Omorodion

Today I tell you why I chose the name of this Column. It was because I wanted to guard Nigeria’s sports from the hands of corrupt and clueless sports politicians in the land. I was able to tow this anti-corruption line because I was a student of two fearless sportswriters who incidentally were my bosses at the Concord Press of Nigeria.

These bosses, Muyiwa Daniel fondly called MD and Dave Enechukwu, are unfortunately both late now.

They belong to the genre of sports journalists dubbed ‘Satanic writers’. A few others belong to this group like Ade Ojeikere of The Nation newspaper and Joseph Omoremi, who was with the Champion newspaper before he relocated to the United States.

Many readers will be expecting me to write on the ‘collapse’ of our once great Super Eagles under Finidi George who reportedly threw in the towel yesterday. I will not delve into that today because I am tired of being what the Igbos call ‘Otimkpu’, that is Town Crier.

Our football administrators run football these days on sentiments. They have introduced favouritism and quota system in players selection and coaches appointment and these have impacted negatively on the national teams at all categories.

The crisis in coaches appointment by our football administra- tors started way back when one man tasted the power and ‘sweetness’ of running football in the country.

That was during the tenure of the flamboyant but loquacious High Chief from Ondo state, late Chief Alex Akinyele who, as Executive Chairman of the now defunct National Sports Com- mission, appointed one Ogbomoso-born but Zuru bred administrator the sole administrator of then Nigeria Football Association, NFA.

Only God knows from where this administrator got the idea that foreign coaches were paid sign-on fees like footballers. During his time, a foreign coach got as much as $300,000 sign-on fees. Nigerians never knew about this until it was blown open by Dutchman, Johannes Bonfrere, better known as Bonfrere Jo.

Bonfrere squealed after he was given only $150,000 from the $300,000 he signed for. Mind you this money is not part of his monthly salary.

His cry made yours truly ask another coach, Jomo Sono, a South African who I met during one of my trips to Switzer- land, whether they pay sign-on fees to Bafana Bafana’s foreign coaches.

Sono was shocked on hearing that coaches hired by Nigeria were paid sign-on fees. He said he wouldn’t know why it is so in Nigeria, disclosing however, that South Africa never pays sign-on fees to coaches.

For the NFF administrators, their love for foreign coaches is not because they love our Super Eagles nor our football but it is an avenue for them to make quick bucks.

That is the reason they go for journey men coaches who are eager to accept any offer to handle the Nigerian team.

Even though the issue of sign-on fees is now a thing of the past, it is still possible these ill equipped foreign coaches col- lude with their NFF accomplices to announce huge pay they almost always can’t sustain and allow the officials have a pinch from it.

It is not profitable for them to hire local coaches who are paid in Naira but they go for them each time Nigerians cry that the foreign coaches they have employed are not delivering results.

Have we paused to ask why the NFF officials never go for high calibre coaches? It is simply because these coaches will never succumb to under the table bargains they usually have with the journey men they go for.

One of such quality coaches once approached was Sven- Goran Erikson. He exposed the administrators who asked that he allows them a share from his salary. He said they actually wanted him for the job but with the proviso that “my salary would be divided into two parts: one that I got into my account and another that would be deposited into another account that was not in my name”. Of course the coach rejected the offer and left.

Each time our football administrators have issues with foreign coaches, they quickly turn to local coaches to fill the gap. Even at that, they never extend to the local coaches the same support they give their foreign counterparts.

All is to create room for them to fail so that they will tell Nigerians that the local coaches are not good enough for the national team. This was the cry of late Paul Hamilton and even Festus Onigbinde at a time.

From Hamilton, Onigbinde to Shaibu Amodu, Christian Chukwu, Austin Eguavoen, Stephen Keshi, Samson Siasia and Sunday Oliseh, among local coaches who have handled the Super Eagles, the story is the same, impatience of the NFF. Finidi has been added to the list now,.

When Jose Peseiro decided to walk away because the NFF couldn’t meet the salary of $120,000 per month he allegedly demanded, the football house actually wanted to go for an- other foreign coach.

They were forced to look inward after it was alleged that the sports minister reportedly insisted on a local coach. Finidi and Emmanuel Amuneke were believed to be on the front burner.

For whatever reasons, the NFF settled for Finidi. After only two competitive matches as the substantive head coach, they want to go back to the foreign coach they had always wanted. Finidi won’t take it and has now thrown in the towel.

Those who clamoured for him feel disappointed now while those who wanted Amuneke are saying ‘it serves them right’. Nigeria’s coaching catastrophe continues. NFF officials are the happier for it. And it is to the detriment of Nigerians who will be the ultimate losers if the Super Eagles fail to make it to the World Cup a consecutive time.