No foreign coach has ever won the World Cup!
If that is a fact I find it totally unbelievable that some Nigerians are actually still suggesting that after the exit of Stephen Keshi what the country needs is a foreign coach to succeed him! Foreign coaches have served their purpose in our football history. Aggregated, the so-called experienced ones amongst them – Bert Vogts, Lagerbeck, Bora Milutinovic – all failed woefully. The few that succeeded, Westerhof and Jo Bonfrere, for example, were nobodies in Europe when they arrived these shores and used Nigeria to shore up their credentials and garner ‘experience’. Having had these foreign coaches with very limited results and started a new experiment with only Nigerians to handle the national team, the only reasons to go back would be either because the Nigerians have failed also or the country finds a foreign coach willing to guarantee to win the World Cup, or refund the country’s money for his contract. Otherwise why would we choose to go back to a discarded failed formula?
With Keshi Nigeria started the process of developing an authentic culture of Nigerian football. It will have its failures and shortcomings but those should not derail the cause! Through the decades, helped by exposure to professional football in Europe, Nigerian players have developed and several have become ‘giants’ in the game. What the country needed was to develop its coaching and administration next. Coaching was easier to start with because players with vast playing experience were coming through the ranks and acquiring coaching certificates that would put them in good stead to take over from the foreigners. With the entry of Keshi’s generation Nigeria arrived at that point and all Nigerians were in agreement that the era of foreign coaches and the siphoning of foreign currency under that guise were over! Keshi was to be the start of the evolution, not its end. He came, he saw and he conquered with a record of successes unmatched by any previous coach, foreign or local, even if his methods were not fully convincing. The next logical step should be to build upon Keshi’s foundation, to look for another Nigerian who can take Keshi’s experiment to a new level, and not a return to that which the country had discarded for good. Looking around the landscape of retired players, at those with the right background, experience and intellect to take Nigerian football to the next level, one image and name looms large. The only foreign coach Nigeria needs now is the young Nigerian that the NFF hired this past week. Those who claim he has no experience in coaching should examine the following facts and figures!
Without question, as a player, his credentials are impeccable – a successful domestic career, a successful European career, plus a very successful international career! At the end of his playing career he went back to school in Belgium to obtain a diploma in Management to shore up his academic credentials. Thereafter, he enrolled and passed through the various cadres of coaching in Europe. In the final stage of his Uefa Professional License programme three of his course mates were Gianfranco Zola, Roberto Di Matteo and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Zola, of course, is the Italian legend that played with Maradona in Napoli in the early 1990s, and later in England with Chelsea where in 2003 he was declared Chelsea’s greatest player ever! He was also part of the Italian national team that narrowly defeated the Super Eagles in the second round of USA’94 World Cup. Immediately after his playing career Zola became coach of Italy’s Under-21, before spending time at West Ham and Watford. His last coaching assignment in 2015 was with Cagliari in Italy.
Roberto Di Matteo is also an Italian legend. Like Zola he played in Italy (for Lazio) and in England for Chelsea. He was a member of Italy’s 1998 team to France ’98 World Cup! Immediately he retired from the game he coached Milton Keyes Dons and West Bromwich Albion before guiding Chelsea to the 2012 Uefa Champions League victory! His last assignment was with Schalke FC in 2014.
His third mate was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the great Norwegian whose last minute goal in the 1999 Uefa Champions League for Manchester United earned the team the trophy and gave the team a treble that memorable year. When Ole retired from football his first managerial assignment was as a coach in Manchester United FC. He later went to coach Molde FC, a Norwegian club, and Cardiff City FC in Wales.
The three players were course mates for their Uefa Professional Coaches’ License. It was easy for them to gather experience in coaching! Zola, Matteo and Solskjaer were offered coaching appointments into major clubs in Europe. What happened to Sunday Oliseh? Even with his superior professional results and lengthy stay in Belgium, he struggled to get a job as the coach to a third division Club in the Belgian league. Come to think of it, even that ‘small’ appointment was a giant leap for African coaches. How many Africans have ever had the opportunity to coach a European Club, small or big on the continent? You can count them on one finger! Oliseh and his ‘small’ coaching assignment were monumentally symbolic, after all the standard of third division football in Belgium could be as high if not higher than the highest standards in most African countries whose poor leagues provided even some former national coaches the limited ‘experience’ they dangle as their own credential and demand of Oliseh. I ask therefore: where is Sunday Oliseh supposed to have got the ‘experience’ his critics now tell us he requires when Africans never get the opportunity to coach clubs in Europe? Nigeria must not succumb to the vestige of a ‘dead and buried’ colonial mentality that portrays everything White or foreign as better! Nigeria has progressively moved through the generations in its football evolution – foreign coaches, Onigbinde, Amodu and Keshi. Onigbinde took the country to the African Cup of Nations. Amodu qualified her for the Nations Cup as well as the World Cup. Keshi took Nigeria to the Nations Cup and won it, to round two of the World Cup to equal Westerhof’s record. These are monumental achievements that should not be diminished by some people’s narrow vision of the future of African football. It makes sense for Nigeria to continue on that route. In that regard Sunday Oliseh stands tall as the ‘foreign’ coach Nigeria needs now!