No to Foreign Coach!

This is one issue that I am very clear about – Nigeria does not need any foreign coach now.

Do not get me wrong because I have nothing against hiring any nationality to handle the Super Eagles of Nigeria provided he can deliver.

What I am against is hiring a foreign coach for the wrong reasons, particularly as has been presented by the leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation as a short cut to an unlikely success.

The Nigeria Football Federation wants to hire a foreign coach in order for Nigeria to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. That’s my problem!

That target is too shortsighted and overladen with consequences that do not augur well for Nigerian coaches and Nigerian football beyond chasing such a limited, uncertain mandate.

Who does not know that even the best coach in the world would depend on several complex factors working together favourably for him to stand any chance of success in football? There is no magic formula in coaching.

Even if Pep Guardiola were to come to Nigeria today, he would be stupid to even dream of winning the next World Cup. That would be a very unrealistic expectation because the country does not have the depth and pool of players yet to win the World Cup. That’s why only a few countries always win the World Cup. That’s why the best football in the world is still limited in a few countries. No country wins the World Cup by taking the short cuts.

In Nigeria’s case been presented by the NFF the target is to qualify for the World Cup. What is so special about qualifying for the World Cup that the country cannot achieve without mortgaging its pride and destroying a whole generation of authentic football heroes that can actually lead her to ultimate success if well harnessed?

There should be little challenge in Nigeria qualifying for the World Cup under normal situations. At least two Nigerians have achieved that feat before.

Winning the World Cup should be the country’s ambition and target given its potential.

It is the administration to carefully navigate Nigerian football through the sea of ignorance, greed, selfish interests, mediocrity and limited experience that is needed to make Nigeria’s qualification to the World Cup a birthright, as in the case of Brazil that has never failed to qualify for every World Cup since its inception.

Merely hiring a foreign coach and expecting that he will change Nigerian football is pulling wool over the people’s eyes and designed to achieve other agenda different from qualifying for the World Cup.

Indeed our last few experiences under foreign coaches totally negate taking this route again.

Take Clemens Westerhof.

Why was he hired at the time Nigeria did? He had no credentials or records of any substance. It was more the fact that he came from a football advanced European culture, plus, of course, the interest some Nigerians had in the ‘arrangement’ that gave him the job.

Short term, he failed, missing out on the World Cup qualification of 1990 and losing in that years’ finals of the African Cup of Nations.

He needed 4 more years, using his initial failures and the fact that he was not sacked immediately, as stepping-stones to shepherd a new generation of players migrating to Europe (significantly under his guidance) to lead Nigerian football to what has now become a watershed.

Beyond Nigeria he never made any headway again, living today still under the glare of that period, and resurrected in occasional spurts to comment on Nigerian football, particularly when the Super Eagles are on a campaign or in some kind of crisis. Those Nigerian exploits have become his legitimate claims to fame.

No foreign coach has succeeded like Westerhof since then even though very many have come, promised the world and left without ever delivering anything. That list includes Westerhof’s trainer, another unknown Dutchman, Bonfrere Jo, who had absolutely no pedigree in coaching, and yet was packaged by some interest group in Nigeria (with the support of a section of the media) as the one who did all the work on the field whilst Westerhof took all the credit.

That was how, Jo, without any previous accomplishments anywhere, was ‘sold’ to Nigerians as a great European coach. He was a dummy.

Since leaving Nigerian football Jo has also disappeared into obscurity.

Since Jo Bonfrere’s exit the backside of foreign coaches has been exposed to Nigerians. In Nigeria’s experience it has been a litany of failures, from Bora Milotinovic, Phillip Trousier, Berti Vogts, to Lars Lagerbeck.

They were all hired for short-term interventions to qualify or take the country to the World Cup. They were all a disaster leaving us holding on to straws of failed promises.

That’s what the NFF now wants the country to return to without justifiable cause?

The NFF’s discomfort with ex-international players of the 1994 era, a generation with deep and varied experiences of training under European coaches, and acquiring relevant coaching certificates to fulfill all righteousness, may be understandable because they have not demonstrated reassuring competency and authority on the subject.

The players did not coalesce into a strong and united technical group, working together to fashion out, with fresh and current knowledge in coaching, a well for the rest of the country to lap and drink from. Instead they are working as individuals and rivals, struggling to get selected to handle anyone of the national teams for survival, and not impacting Nigerian football directly and clearly to etch their place and role within the football system.

Yet they should be the leading light, the ones that can illuminate the path and lead the country in a new technical direction for domestic and national football.

Nigeria has not benefited from the power of their accomplishments as players to impact Nigerian football, to introduce advanced coaching methodology that will produce better technically aware domestic clubs, that will impact the domestic leagues positively and produce higher quality of players for the national teams.

They have just become like the local coaches in the country, mostly disrespected, neglected, underrated and even treated with scorn.

That’s why an NFF leadership in this era can call all of them crap, and turn once again to Europe in search of some journeyman foreign coach to lead Nigeria’s Super Eagles to qualify for the World Cup. What a shame.

Administrators should appreciate the tremendous resources available in this generation of ex-international players.

We have been talking about creating an advanced culture of Nigerian football. These are the players-turned-coaches that can introduce it.

Guided well, they will create Nigeria’s own football philosophy and influence its impartation in clubs and in the national teams all over the country. The first step is to get them together, as Germany did in 2004, guide them to properly articulate a programme and make them lead its implementation.

Nigeria must escape finally from this cycle of psychological imprisonment that the NFF wants to unleash on it again by hiring a foreign coach.

In all other spheres of human endeavor, given a level playing field, the Nigerian has always competed well and excelled.

No foreign coach would love Nigeria better than Nigerians. No foreign coach would understand the traditions, the culture and psychology of Nigerians better than the Nigerian. No foreigner can harness these attributes better than the Nigerian. Nigerians are the ones that can become the coaches to produce the Super Eagles of the country’s dreams – fast, strong, powerful, furious, expressive, hungry-to-succeed, determined, never-given-up spirit, determined, artistic, skillful, elegant and beautiful to watch.

It will only take a little time, better understanding, more collaboration and cooperation with genuine stakeholders, a little restructuring and re-strategising, and Nigerian football will get back on track to becoming one of the best in the world where foreign coaches would come to take lessons.

Hiring one foreign coach, no matter who he is, cannot achieve that.

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