Coaching Super Eagles: What they won’t tell you!
Two days after starting as chief coach of the Super Eagles of Nigeria a representative of a major sport website came up to me in Abuja to make me an offer: “Give us privileged access and information to the Super Eagles and in return we will write only positive things about you and the team”.
As you would expect, I declined the offer and today that website has been christened “the anti-Sunday Oliseh’s Super Eagles Website”. Others have made similar offers and some even worse….
I have been in charge of the Super Eagles for five months. So far we have played eight games, won four, recorded three away draws and suffered one defeat. We have only conceded two goals in one match (against the third best African nation, DR Congo) while we have scored nine goals with a relatively new set of players.
The average Nigerian is ecstatic about the results, but those who seek and represent special interests, beg to disagree.
Coaching Nigeria, though challenging, gives one so much joy when one feels as we do, the joy it brings to over 170 million people. There seems to be a renewed interest in the national team.
One would think prior to taking charge of the Super Eagles (as those we refused privileged access try to portray) Nigeria were winning every game and playing champagne football.
The truth is the total opposite though as we only recorded one victory in five games, including a home defeat to Uganda, and were absent from the 2015 Afcon.
The Nigerian Football Federation, under this new administration is actually (to my knowledge) bent on trying to bring about positive change to the county’s football which fortunately falls in line with our philosophy.
It explains why we have personally invested so much time in improving the home based stars by training camps with a defined and well scouted ‘young players scheme’ from the Nigerian local league.
That investment as you may have noticed paid huge dividends as we lined up for our just concluded World Cup Qualifiers against Swaziland, as four home stars decisively participated in our progression.
Nigerian are so passionate about the National team that, rightfully so, they act as analysts and coaches, which really is fun to witness, but it would be wise to accept that Nigeria’s decline in world football, which started way back as 2002 (13 years ago) will not be overturned in a short period of time. This fact is universal, it is up to us to accept it or keep denying it.
Building a team takes time, money and a clear-cut philosophy among others things. Just ask teams that invest over £200 million on player acquisitions, get to coach their players daily and still categorically state that they are still building over a year later.
Should our dear Nigeria be any different?
Moses Simon, Sylvester Igboun, Chima Akas, Paul Onobie, Shehu Abdullahi, Carl Ikeme, Odion Ighalo and Austin Obaroakpo among others are new players that now star for the Super Eagles. That were not the case in the recent past and it is refreshing to see and be part of their team build-up.
One major obstacle that any Nigerian coach of the Super Eagles faces is that there really is no successful precedence at the highest level by a Nigerian to imitate.
Our successful golden era in the 90s saw us blessed with exceptional players who needed little or no coaching to excel, while being coached by Clemence Westerhoff and Bonfrere Jo — coaches who after Nigeria could not repeat that success anywhere else..and the rest you know!
I am quite optimistic about the progression of the Super Eagles and just as we welcome the applause that have been showered on the team by the fans, we also welcome constructive criticisms towards the team that simultaneously offer suggestions at how it could be done better.
Many can tell you what they think is wrong with you, but very few can effectively tell and show you how to do it better! 2008 ushered in a new era in world football: that of a team oriented success over individual stars.
That explains why we rarely see heavy scorelines anymore as was the case in the past due to the fact that even if a team lacks individual, highly talented stars to win, they build their competitiveness around collective schemes and though in the end they might crumble to better talented teams they will not be ridiculed.
Nigeria have no choice in my opinion; we need to build a talented, hungry and patriotic team to serve our 170 million compatriots.
Thanks for your support and Long Live Nigeria