Nigerian football has gone through the ‘acid test’ over the years, most especially in the aspect of the management of its senior national team, the Super Eagles.
Being three-time winners of the AFCON, the Super Eagles have not looked back since they qualified to the World Cup for the first time in 1994, ramping up seven appearances to date.
Besides that, Nigeria has recorded the most silver and bronze medals at the AFCON thereby becoming one of the most successful footballing nations in the continent.
But these successes are the opposite of what transpires at the management level of the senior team, as the Eagles had to struggle over the years for the suitable person to manage them.
From Clemence Westerhoff to Bonfrere Jo to Philip Troussier to Bora Milutinovic to Berti Vogts to Lars Lagerback, the list is endless.
Not satisfied with the foreign managers, the local coaches were tried. They include: Shuaibu Amodu, Austin Eguaveon, Stephen Keshi, Samson Siasia and Sunday Oliseh-who were part of the golden generation of the Super Eagles.
Between 1994 and now when the senior national team experienced a renaissance, it was all debate about who was better for Nigeria-the local or foreign coaches.
In as much as it remains a subject of debate, the achievements of both categories over the years will suffice.
Meanwhile, of all the local coaches, only Shuaibu Amodu and Stephen Keshi made an appreciable impact, with the former qualifying Nigeria to the World Cup twice and the latter doing same once and clinching the AFCON after 20 years.
On the other hand, almost all the World Cups that Nigeria participated were midwife by foreign managers. From the qualifiers and up to the final proper.
The latest Super Eagles gaffer, Gernot Rohr did qualify Nigeria for the World Cup in Russia and took Nigeria to a third-place at the AFCON. He is also responsible for a gradual rebuilding of the squad and a renaissance that may look more promising than the 1994 golden generation.
But this new hope is not without some controversy as the politics of the game is once again trying to rear its ugly head.
The renewing of Rohr’s contract which will elapse in June has been the subject of controversy with even some football pundits trying to frustrate any effort at renewing the Franco- German’s contract.
Were it not for the steadfastness of NFF boss, Amaju Pinnick, Rohr would have sunk into the abyss of Nigerian football ‘dirty politics’ long ago.
Unfortunately, that has been the undoing of Nigerian football at the senior level, with recent revelations showing that acts of impunity demonstrated by especially local coaches, was responsible for its present poor state.
Some ex-internationals have spilt the beans recently.
One of them is Taye Taiwo, the rugged defender who unceremoniously left the national team.
According to Goal.com, he dumped the three-time African champions because he does not want to be associated with dirty glory under Keshi, who guided the West African country to their last Afcon triumph in 2013 and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
“I am someone who doesn’t want dirty glory and in my life, I have never been involved in what is not clean and that was why I packed my bags and left the Super Eagles,” Taiwo was quoted by Legit.
”I cannot work or stay where I see that is dirty because I am serving a clean God, and if I am in an area that is not clean, I will have to leave the place.
”When they appointed Stephen Keshi as a coach, he was acting somehow in which I told myself that it was time for me to leave the Super Eagles.
”I packed my bags and I told my wife and family that I cannot be involved in dirty deals.”
Taiwo’s statement comes in the wake of the latest controversy in the Super Eagles after former Schalke 04 star Chinedu Obasi revealed he was dropped from Keshi’s team for the 2014 World Cup because he refused to pay a bribe.
Goal.com also said the former Schalke 04 star recalled how he was denied selection for his second World Cup tournament after his fine outing with the Bundesliga outfit in the 2013-14 season.
Obasi was part of the Nigeria U-20 squad that finished second at the Fifa World Youth Championship in 2005, scoring the country’s only goal in their 2-1 loss to Lionel Messi’s Argentina.
“I was playing for Schalke, I was playing in the Champions League and I was doing well. Two days before the list came out, I was asked to pay some money if I want to be in the team,” Obasi said in an Instagram Live.
“I felt like I’ve paid my dues for the country, I shouldn’t do this. If I was a young player, maybe I would have done that, but it was a bit personal for me and I felt very heartbroken. I was supposed to move from Hoffenheim to England and I got injured playing for Nigeria at the World Cup [in South Africa].
“After that competition, nobody called me to know how I am doing. I spent a lot of money to get fit. All people talked about was the injury. They don’t care to know what I went through daily making sure I get my body in shape, to stay healthy.
“It takes a lot of dedication, money, investing in myself and my body. I went through surgery, did everything I can. Now the competition is coming up, you’re inviting me to the national team. I’ve exhausted my own money and you want me to pay, which is a slap in the face for me.
“I said I’m not comfortable doing that. They said I should know the system, and I should act like I’m a Nigerian. I said it’s not about being a Nigerian but doing the right thing.”
As if that was not enough with the local coaches, a former coach of the Super Eagles was involved in a bribery allegation which led to his premature exit from football management.
Salisu who led the Nigeria B side to the Wafu Cup of Nations in Ghana was filmed by Anas’ Tiger Eye PI agency in September 2017 collecting cash believed to be $1000 from undercovers, posing as agents to influence players’ selection at the tournament.
Also, the former Kano Pillars handler was promised 15% from the players’ contracts should they get snapped up, with the gaffer, in turn, promising the agents spots for both players at the 2018 African Nations Championship in Morocco.
The clash between former Eagles coach, Sunday Oliseh and one of Nigeria’s finest goalie, Vincent Enyeama is most unfortunate.
The goalkeeper had lost his mother at a crucial period of the country’s preparation for the 2015 AFCON. By the time he returned to camp in Belgium, his position as the captain had already been given to Ahmed Musa. A protest by him led to a clash with Oliseh.
All is now history, but the inability of Sunday Oliseh to manage the situation led to the premature retirement of one of Nigeria’s finest shot-stopper.
Unfortunately, Nigeria is still yet to recover from the loss of Enyeama. Suffice it to say, Rohr’s headache has been the goalkeeping department and his attempts to bring back Enyeama ended up in futility.
It is therefore left for pundits and Nigerians to decide who are the enemies of the senior national team and where the future lies for the team as far as local and foreign coaches are concerned.