My coach for the Super Eagles!

Super Eagles

I do not like to bring up the issue of coaches, because we forget easily.

Let us talk about a few foreign coaches since Clemens Westerhof, my friend, the acclaimed best coach in Nigeria’s history, was engaged to coach the national team in 1989.

Who was Clemens in the world of coaching when he was hired? Was he a world -class coach? What club or country of renown did he coach? What trophies of substance did he win?

The truth is that he was a nobody. Nobody knew him. How he was hired will make Jose Paseiro’s case look very good.

Clemens started rather poorly but ended after 5 years on a glorious note. Throughout that period, he enjoyed uncommon privileges, access to power and resources arranged by the interest that brought him into the system.

By 1994, at the end of the USA World Cup, so sour was his relationship with some players, some media, and even leadership of the football association that he abandoned the job and did not even bother to return to Nigeria. Thus ended his era.

Then, it was widely reported that he was not even the brain behind the success of the team on the field of play. A section of the media led public opinion in questioning his technical competence, crediting his success to his trainer/assistant, Jo Bonfrere.

That’s how, supported by some media, a trainer was elevated to national coach of Nigeria, in total betrayal of trust unknown in football at that level.

Jo Bonfrere was a ‘nobody’ as well in getting that job. He had no world-class credentials. Yet, he took a team brimming with exceptionally talented footballers to Atlanta ’96 and returned with an Olympic Gold medal. Like Westerhof before him, the Super Eagles were his launch pad to his coaching success and any credible credentials.

Incidentally, he too soon fell out with the authorities, and the cycle of foreign coaches continued intermittently after that, with occasional punctuations by Nigerian coaches for brief periods, until another foreign coach was hired to take the team to the 1998 World Cup.

Bora Milutinovic was the first ‘world-class’ coach to be hired by Nigeria. He was so ‘good’ that he was the only coach in the world at the time to have taken 4 national teams (none was African) to the World Cup. His tenure as Nigeria’s national team coach may probably be the worst in Nigeria’s history. He did not even return to Nigeria from his disastrous outing at France ’98. That much said for a ‘world-class’ coach.

Armchair critics, however, would have colourful answers to defend the tenures of all these White foreign coaches. Yet, Westerhof ‘failed’ at Algiers ‘90 (he did not win the trophy) before, 4 years later, with a team brimming with talent, he won AFCON.

Yet, they would also describe some of the Nigerian coaches that took over the national team on interim basis for a few weeks or months to AFCON (like Westerhof did in 1990), but ended without winning, as ‘failures’, never giving them a chance again.

Therefore, it is preposterous how a national team that was ranked 5th in the World in 1994, that won AFCON twice since then, could actually hire a foreign coach in 2023 and set a target of a semi-final berth at AFCON for him, when Nigeria should be aiming by now to win the World Cup. That’s Paseiro’s case.

Some things do not add up.

It is about ‘experts’ not understanding the dynamics of the world today and Nigeria’s place in it, and the interconnectivity with every facet of life, including football. The future of Nigeria hinges as much with the country’s economy, politics, etc as with its sports.

Victor Oladokun and I exchanged a few messages this week. I do not have his permission to quote him here, so I will not. But the following in my own response:

“There shall be a new World Order in the aftermath of the several wars going on dangerously around the world now. Africa must be ready, and Nigeria must take the lead in creating a united front for Africa, and negotiating from a position of strength. That’s where our soft-power ‘innocuous’ tools come into play to be deployed.

“So, the ‘war’ must be fought cleverly, using unorthodox ‘weapons’. We have used conventional means for over 500 years and failed…time to think and strategize differently”.

The weapons I am referring to above are cultural tools – music, dance, film, fashion, and sports, areas that Africa can dominate, earn respect and relevance.

After 5 Centuries, Africa’s physical and mental enslavement and plundering of its mineral, spiritual, institutional, cultural and even human resources must stop. Africa is not ‘designed’ by other civilisations to succeed and thrive to become an advanced culture.

In the ongoing war of the Civilisations, nothing is exempt as a weapon. Indeed, advanced countries thrive only because they keep Third World countries down. Africa must break loose and be free from this stranglehold.

It has been clear for decades that the most populous Black nation on earth, rich and with some of the smartest and most educated people on earth doing great things in and for other countries around the world, should lead the African continent in negotiate Africa’s place in the new Scramble for Africa.

There is a change coming to the world and Africa must be an integral part of that change and an active participant in its own fate. Professor Patrice Lumumba of Kenya describes it as going to that Table of Civilisations not as waiters this time, but as diners, equal partners with other civilisations.

This must be fundamental to the decisions we all take from now onwards in all the things we do and the decisions we take.

That’s why we must shelve and sheath anything that portrays the Nigerian as inferior to any Race in all endeavours, because the Nigerian is not. He is found everywhere, in the arts and sciences, excelling. Coaching in football is not rocket science!

These days, without ‘foreign coaches’, Nigeria has conquered the once-exclusive world of music and dance. Film, fashion and the arts are fast catching up. Sport, the most powerful of them all, is still on the runway, waiting for the right buttons to be pressed in order to take off.

Nigeria must take the lead in Africa to deploy sport (football in particular) as an essential soft-power weapon to contribute its quota to determining the future of Africa. It is a responsibility that those of us in the sport industry must wear like a cloak every day, and remember in all our dealings with the rest of the world, including who we hire to coach one of our most visible and valuable assets to date in the world.

Nigeria’s ambition should match its talent and size.

Through the decades since 1985, we have seen the evidence that Nigeria can become the first African country to win the World Cup. Even the late legend, Pele, and other renowned coaches from other countries have expressed the same sentiment that Nigeria has the talent to win the World Cup before any other African country. But none of them said the country would do so by using foreign coaches. After all, they know that in history, no foreigner has ever won the World Cup for another country.

So why do we think it will be different with Nigeria? Unless, for selfish reason, we ridiculously and shamefully limit our ambition to getting to semi-final of the African Championship in hiring a foreign coach.

Nigeria is going through very challenging times as a country right now. The challenges are almost overwhelming, yet no one is clamouring for us to bring foreign ‘experts’ to fix the country. Why should sport be different? Why are other countries finding even our ‘poorly’ trained local Nigerian professionals good enough to help develop their own countries?

We underestimate our people and their capacities.

Was it not only a few years ago that Samson Siasia was hailed as best coach of the year by FIFA at a certain level?

In a new World Order, patriotism is a key to national survival. There is no room for inferiority complex, or senseless squandering of resources on foreigners no better than Nigerians.

Nigeria must now place her destiny in the hands of qualified and patriotic Nigerians.

The Super Eagles must carry the banner of Nigeria proudly and without any dilution of its spirit to achieve ultimate greatness in the world. The coach of the Super Eagles must wear the country’s ambition like a cloak.

If the price of the elevation of Nigeria, and the emancipation of the Black Race is that we ‘lose’ now to gain experience and eventual success, we must pay that price. That is the route to go.

No more foreign coaches in Nigeria!

Let us sink or swim with Nigerians, even in football!

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One Thought to “My coach for the Super Eagles!”

  1. Everest Onyewuchi

    Awesome. Big Seg, I doff my hat for you! Nothing to add. A country that has won AFCON thrice, gave a coach semifinals mandate. Who does that? At the last read, I understood the NFF offered Peseiro $80,000 usd new monthly salary, to continue in his position? Peseiro that reduced our Super Eagles to a team that defends from the blast of opening whistle instead of playing offensive football?
    Let’s get a Nigerian coach, swim and sink with him. Period!

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