Viewpoint

June 15, 2024

Like rookies, like Finidi

Like rookies, like Finidi

File image of Finidi at Enyimba

By FAN NDUBUOKE

I have never loved to be called a prophet. Not because I hate prophets but because I belong to a different realm of calling and I love my constituency.

I love journalism because it is one field that has features of other professions embedded in it. For instance, as a journalist, you investigate stories like a detective or police officer. As a journalist, you apply pure logic in your reports and presentations just like a lawyer… and as a journalist, you balance your stories like the books of an accountant.

So, I partially and reluctantly accept the label “prophet” recently tagged to my person by friends and associates following the happenings around Super Eagles which has sent Finidi George back to assistant role capacity as the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has decided to employ a technical adviser to help navigate the team out of the precarious murky waters it finds itself.

Yes, when Finidi was appointed late April, I did a piece entitled “FINIDI , MAY YOUR ROAD BE ROUGH”. That piece expectedly didn’t go down well with those who didn’t understand my position. I foresaw the present situation playing out now given the factors and issues I will be discussing below.

My previous piece wasn’t suggesting and never implied that Finidi won’t succeed in the job but I simply presented the likely outcome of how Finidi’s tenure may end if he fails to stamp his authority on the job or better still , if he fails to prove that he has the capacity to lead Africa’s most glamorous national team.

FINIDI THE ROOKIE

Indeed, Finidi fell like a pack of cards and failed outrightly. His first sign of failure and incompetence was when he shot himself on the toes by declaring that he won’t be inviting rookies to execute the World Cup qualifiers but established players. One player that Nigerians clamored for is Olise of Crystal Palace, England. There’s no player in Finidi’s Eagles that does what he does in his position, but we insisted we didn’t need Rookies for the qualifiers.

Indirectly, Finidi was suggesting that we didn’t also need a rookie coach at this time but an established one that would see us through the qualifying session. He is a rookie coach who only came into the job in 2021 when Enyimba Int’l FC employed him. So the big question is, how can a rookie coach handle the Super Eagles who have been to six World Cup tournaments?

Finidi’s first step into coaching was when he applied for the Golden Eaglets job in 2017 under the Melvin Amaju Pinnick administration. He obviously knew he wasn’t ready for the Super Eagles job. He has no CAF License nor UEFA License.

Enyimba Int’l FC job offer was perhaps on account of being an ex-international and closeness to his employers then.

Finidi’s post match press conference after the 1-1 draw in the Match Day 3 World Cup qualifiers with South Africa’s Bafana Bafana sold him out. For the head coach of a big team like Super Eagles to say that he doesn’t need formation to play games but requires only the players knowing “when to attack and when to defend” speaks volumes of his competence or otherwise.

In modern football, your team formation for any match immediately conveys your intent for that match. Is Finidi saying once the players enter the pitch they become their own coaches?

NFF DECISION

Going by the performance of the Super Eagles in the four games Finidi was in-charge – talking about two friendlies and two World Cup qualifiers, even the blind could feel that the Super Eagles need help and that Finidi cannot take the team to the World Cup.

Of course, the NFF excused him to remain in the technical crew as they seek to bring in an expatriate coach since they can’t afford to pay him out….otherwise he would have been kicked out.

Given this situation, Finidi should honourably take a walk to save his face rather than remain in the technical crew to act as assistant with the same players he once led as head coach.

INCOMING COACH

I strongly believe in getting a MANAGER like Clemens Westerhorf than a coach. In the era of Westerhorf, he was the manager while Johannes Bonfrere was the coach. Present crop of Super Eagles require a manager of men and resources who can check the excesses of the players.

I hope the NFF must consider this factor while seeking to hire an expatriate or local coach as technical adviser. This team needs a disciplinarian, a strong willed personality and a no-nonsense football expert so to say.

PLAYERS MANAGEMENT

It is good that we have collectively agreed that we have a bunch of undisciplined players currently in the Super Eagles.

The wings of most of the players must be clipped if we want this team to excel. First, we may have to revisit the issue of CODE OF CONDUCT for the players. Secondly, we may need a TEAM MANAGER, a camp Commandant , or a national team Coordinator. Recall when Chief Mike Umeh was Team Manager of Super Eagles, that was when the team soared highest. Thirdly, we may appoint a CAMP COMMANDANT. We once had ACP Akinsola who equally did a good job as Camp Commandant of this team in the past. Fourthly is to appoint a TEAM COORDINATOR. The nomenclature does not matter.

The essence of one of these personnel in the team is to check the excesses of the players. Lately, the Super Eagles players have been very erratic and grossly indisciplined. This attitude has taken its toll on the team. It is very appalling to see players picking games they want to feature in. The present crop of players see invitation to the national team as time for visitation to family and loved ones.

Players strolling into camp two days to a major game is unacceptable and should be tackled headlong. It is either you’re in as a player or you are out. Players feeling they have a permanent first team shirt is equally unacceptable. This trend must stop to shape up the team.

PAST EXPERIENCE

In USA ’94, some would argue that the Super Eagles lost to Azzurris of Italy in the second round due to indiscipline. Some players fell for the trap by the Italian mafia who let loose cheap daughters of eve who invaded Super Eagles Holiday Inn in Boston Camp on the eve of the match.

The daughters of a chieftain of the National Sports Commission didn’t help matters either. They engaged two key players of the team in a marathon of love-chase. The team paid dearly for these escapades. We crashed out of the World Cup despite having a strong team that could have reached the semis.

In France ’98, Super Eagles players went clubbing and partying with cheap girls on the eve of the game against Denmark…and the team was bundled out of the tournament losing scandalously.

In Tunisia 2004 AFCON, the three Super Eagles players (names withheld) brought in girls into the team’s camp. Of course the team officials discovered this and duly sanctioned the trio. They were expelled from camp.

Needless to say, the Super Eagles have a notorious record and standing tradition of lackadaisical attitude which has on several occasions caused the team’s failure. It is about time the players were knocked into shape.

The NFF has promised that some proactive actions will be taken to ensure Nigeria qualifies for the next global football fiesta. We wait.

•Fan Ndubuoke writes from Owerri. He is former Special Adviser to former Sports Minister, Late Comdr Emeka Omeruah. He functioned as Board member of the NFF., served as President, Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN)., worked as Secretary General, Africa Sports Journalists Union., and was the first Executive Chairman Imo State Sports Commission.