The clamor for indigenous coaches to manage more especially the senior Nigerian national team, known as the Super Eagles, has been around for as long as I can remember. The theme of national pride is always cited as one of the main reasons exponents of this school of thought continued their agitation.
At one point, I was almost seduced into this school of thought, perhaps in sympathy with local coaches who have paid their fair share when it comes to football achievement.
I almost got carried away by our major achievements in the world cup cadet categories, especially in the under 17 category. Nigeria has won that trophy 3 times since the inaugural edition was held in China back in 1985, when an indigenous coach named Christian Chukwu, himself a former captain of the senior national team, brought a group of unexposed youngsters to the Asian nation of China put their names in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first country in the world to win this championship which was later sponsored by Kodak.
Before leaving the shores of Nigeria, no one gave them the slightest chance of success. When they finally returned home with the trophy, much euphoria greeted their achievement. And as stated above, this feat has been repeated two more times since the inaugural edition, ironically on the same continent of Asia. First it was China in 1985, then Japan in 1993, and most recently in Korea in 2007.
On these three occasions, our indigenous trainers were at the forefront of matters, first President Christian Chukwu, then Fanny Ammun and recently the late Yomi Tella, who passed away just weeks after returning from a glorious outing in Korea.
In 1996, Nigeria achieved another feat on the field of soccer in distant Atlanta, Georgia in the United States of America. There, an underrated Nigerian team led by the Dutchman Bonfrere-Jo took the world by storm by winning an Olympic gold medal that has eluded the almighty Brazil since they registered their name as the greatest soccer nation in the world, having won all of that. you have to win at soccer at every level of the game except the Olympics (I’m starting to think they’re cursed). Ironically, Nigeria eliminated them in the semi-finals in an epic match that the bookmakers had already given the Brazilians. The fact that led to the elimination of Brazil in the football event of the Atlanta Olympic Games is a topic for another day.
The problem here, however, is that Nigeria won that football gold under the tutelage of a foreign coach, and it is on record that both times Nigeria have won the African Cup of Nations, the first in 1980 was under a Brazilian known as Otto Gloria. , the second. The second time was in 1994 in Tunisia under the flamboyant and vocal Dutchman known as Clement Westerhof, he was the same man who qualified Nigeria for their first ever senior soccer world cup popularly known as USA 94. It was a double feat for the Dutchman who had won the African Cup of Nations in grand style earlier in the year, thus sending a signal to the world that Nigeria was ready to take its rightful place on the world football field.
Why have foreign coaches been more successful than indigenous ones at senior level?
I would like to offer the reasons in two ways, first the administrative lapses in the Nigerian Football Association. Most of the people involved in the day-to-day of the game of football in Nigeria know next to nothing about the game and its challenges. The Nigerian Football Association is thus politicized and is used primarily as an instrument of political gratification for electoral support. Foreign trainers are successful because they are hired under a well signed and sealed contract, they are offered delicious contracts that help motivate them to give their best.
When it comes to local coaches, it’s a different ball game. They are hardly given a concrete contract and when that happens, a lot of interference from the powers that be in the sports ministry and the ruling house of football makes it difficult for indigenous coaches to make decisions. The issue of job stability is another determining factor. Coaches are hired and fired at will, most of them are owed wages for a couple of months, and they should never talk about these issues, otherwise it would be considered sabotage and an act of insubordination, as these coaches they are treated like ministry workers.
The issue of respect on the part of the players is another cauldron of fish when it comes to training the senior team. Come to think of it, some of these professional players earn up to £80,000 a week at their various European clubs, which translated into our local currency is equivalent to millions of naira that could pay for two years’ salary for indigenous coaches. Now, psychologically, the student here lives more comfortably than the teacher, he has achieved more than the so-called teacher and so it is difficult for him to submit to the authority of a man who has never played professional football in his entire life.
Foreign coaches are more respected by both players and administrators and this tends to give them an advantage over their local colleagues.
Until such time as local coaches are treated with much more respect than foreign coaches in terms of remuneration and a free hand to operate without undue interference, the possibility of an indigenous coach succeeding with the senior soccer team looks like a possibility. mirage for now and the near future.