Saturday, December 13, 2014

STATS: Enyeama v Okala v Rufai

Many Nigerians are beginning to put Vincent Enyeama's name at the forefront of Nigeria's All-time best goalkeepers based on Enyeama's performances for Nigeria. Clearly, Enyeama belongs in that conversation. Not only is he approaching a record number of appearances for a Nigerian national team player, but he has been regarded as Africa's best for some years. However, it is best to also look at comparative data to find support for any claim of being Nigeria's all time best. In this piece, we compare Enyeama to two other goal keepers who frequently come up in those conversations -- Emmanuel Okala and Peter Rufai.

This is one of such comparisons that we intend to make going forward. In the future, we will compare Kenneth Omeruo (as leader of his defense) against other previous defensive leaders and we shall also compare Emmanuel Emenike against previous top strikers as well as Mikel Obi and Ogenyi Onazi against others. Though both Omeruo and Emenike do not have the repetitional stature of Enyeama, they are well regarded among the current top Nigerian players in their respective positions. Let me know if there are other comparisons that you wish to see. 

It is important to note that in these comparisons some of the minutes assigned to the players may be off because of lack of precise minutes data. In such cases, we make statistical imputations for minutes in order to adjust data. However, cases requiring adjustments are well below 5% of all available cases.

In comparing the goalkeepers, we look at Competitive v Non-competitive games and we also compare the players on number and percentages of clean sheets kept as well as multiple goals conceded in games.

Below we use four graphs to provide a visual descriptor of career performances comparing the three goalkeepers. The first graph shows percentage of games in which each goalkeeper conceded multiple goals i.e at least two goals. A more detailed data can also be found in Table 3 where the goalkeepers are further compared in terms of conceding two, three, or four goals each game. The graph shows that Okala has conceded far more multiple goals per game than both Rufai and Enyeama. Enyeama has done slightly better than Rufai based on this measure.

The second graph looks at games in which at least a goal was conceded by the goalkeeper. Here, Rufai does better than Enyeama but, again, both have statistically better results than Okala.

The third graph looks at percentage of games in which the goalkeeper keeps a clean sheet. This, as should be expected, reflects data already found in the second graph that we had just described. Rufai has the best result here with Okala behind both Rufai and Enyeama.

The final graph looks at average goals conceded per competitive game. Rufai conceded less, on average, compared to the other goalkeepers.

Table 1 compares the goalkeepers on minutes per game. Of the goalkeepers, only Okala is below 90 minutes per game in competitive situations. However, his minutes per game in non-competitive games is the highest. This is a reflection of Nigeria often using its best players in all games, competitive and non-competitive, during Okala's era. This Nigerian strategy has changed in recent times with regulars playing less minutes in non-competitive games.

Non-competitive games appear on Table 2. Here Vincent Enyeama leads in two areas even though he has played less non-competitive games than both Okala and Rufai. He has conceded in less games and has kept more clean sheets. Okala leads in the number of goals conceded per game.

On Table 3 shows multiple goals (at least two goals) conceded by the goalkeepers. Enyeama has conceded multiple goals in just 17% of games where he has failed to keep a clean sheet. Okala is a whopping 33%. However, Okala leads in that category when non-competitive games are compared. The table also shows the number of games where two, three, and four goals are conceded by each of the goalkeepers in both competitive and non-competitive games.

Concluding Statements
While there are other statistics that one can use in comparing goalkeepers, the statistics used here lead us to the following conclusions: (1) The perception of Okala as Nigeria's best all-time goalkeeper may well be a myth, at least statistically-speaking, and (2) Peter Rufai was a far better goalkeeper than he is given credit. It appears that Rufai's decision to come back for the 1998 World Cup when he was barely in match condition has tainted how Nigerian fans perceive his career. His play at the 1998 World Cup was horrendous and he paid a  huge price for it. Beyond that, his overall career is spectacular. We will be comparing other players at other positions on future dates.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

X-Raying Keshi's Tenure with Focus on Competitive Games….

As it is, Stephen Keshi, may be one of Nigeria's most controversial coaches of all time. After his team's inability to beat South Africa on Wednesday, it appears that the curtain may have closed on his coaching career with Nigeria's national team. Here is a guy who swam against the tide by insisting on inviting home based players for the Super Eagles,  inviting players from little-known leagues, throwing out star players that were previously considered untouchables, battled with his federation bosses, was disengaged and recalled, among others. Yet, he has not only improved the team but won the Cup of African Nations amidst the din. But that is a "century" ago! His final statistics in 31 competitive games appear in graph 8.

This piece is not to look at Keshi’s record as a winner or as a loser nor is it to catalog his eventful tenure on the edge of controversies. Instead, it is about looking at the team, under his tenure, in terms of statistics that are often glossed over. These include analyzing at what point in the game does the team score its goal, at what point does it concede, does the team convert set pieces and how many has it given up,  what percentage of its wins comes when the team scores first or leads at halftime.

It is important to note that the data reflects only competitive games under Keshi. In essence, none of the international friendlies are part of the data. In addition, data from the African Championships (CHAN) is not used as the focus is squarely on the Nigerian “A” team.

The first graph looks at when the team often scored its goals compared to the scoring of its opponent. The data shows that most of the team's goals came in the last 15 minutes of a game and the next highest totals came just after half time. In essence, the team struggled to score early in its competitive games. Fortunately, it was also difficult for its opponents to score early.

Graph 2 shows the team's record on set pieces that resulted in a goal. Set pieces here refer to free kicks or corner kicks. Contrary to widely-held opinion., the team actually converted more set pieces than its opponents, at least in competitive games. However, one must note that the conversion rate per match was 0.26 or 8 in 31 games. On penalty kicks, it also converted more than its opponents.

I have also looked at final results obtained from games when the team took the lead or when the team went behind in a game. Graph 3 shows that the team won most of its games when it scored first. In fact, it lost only one such game i.e. a home game in Calabar against Congo Republic. But it was an entirely different story when the opponent scored first (Graph 4). In such situations, the team struggled mightily, winning only one of such games 2-1 in Addis Ababa against Ethiopia. It lost 50% of such games.

A similar test was to assess the final result after half time. In games where the team led at half time, it almost always won (Graph 5), in games tied at half time, the team won less than 50% of such games  (Graph 6). When it was losing (Graph 7), it never came back to win the game.

Finally, we looked at goalscoring and assists. Almost half the team's goals (49%) were assisted. Mikel Obi led in this category providing assists in above 20% of the games he played. Emenike was second showing that he made contributions even though he may not have scored as much as the fans wanted. Emenike ranked second to Ahmed Musa in terms of goals scored by players under Keshi's tenure. However, he was ahead of Musa when scoring is calculated as proportion of number of games played. Surprisingly, Ike Uche who played in only 12 games under cOach Keshi led in ratio of goals scored per game and was third in scoring behind only Musa and Emenike.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Enyeama Approaches Milestone as South Africa Looms

Nigeria's captain, Vincent Enyeama, is just two games from equaling Joseph Yobo's record 100 appearances. He will get one of those games Wednesday against South Africa in a critical Cup of Nations Cup qualifier in Uyo.  In this piece, we look at Enyeama and nine other players who are likely to reach the century mark in appearances for Nigeria.

That Joseph Yobo, at the 2014 World Cup, became Nigeria's first 100-game player was surprising considering that multiple players have achieved that feat in several countries. First, note that it took Yobo a career spanning 14 years and beginning on March 14 of 2001 to get to 100 games.  In our analysis, all the ten players we have selected will likely get to 100 games, barring injuries. We do not include Osaze Odemwingie who already has 65 games because it will take him a projected 16 years in the national team to reach 100 games. It is possible but unlikely and, thus, we do not list him among our ten players.

Part of our calculation estimates the average number of games that Nigeria plays annually. We arrived at an average of 14 games per year by looking at Nigeria's games in the last five years (2009 to 2013). Of course, the number of games vary widely with just 9 in 2009 to a high of 21 in 2013. Nigeria played a total of 68 games in that five-year span.

The table below lists the ten selected players and provides the following: number of games played so far, year of debut, number of years played, number of years predicted to reach 100 games, and year 100 games is likely to be reached. In addition, we use a + to indicate great confidence that 100 games will be reached, = to indicate some confidence, and - to indicate low confidence. It is important that even though we rate some players with low confidence, these players actually are on a similar pace that it took Yobo to reach 100 games!

Vincent Enyeama has just two games left to match Joseph Yobo's record. He is a cinch to match and then surpass Yobo's record. Notably, he debuted in the same game as Odemwingie in 2002 during an international friendly against Kenya as the team prepared for the 2002 World Cup.

Realistically, Who Will Get To 100 After Yobo?
Though,we have listed 10 players with the opportunity to get to 10 games, the reality is that only a fraction of those players will get there because of several factors including coach's decision, injuries, among others. Therefore, let's take a more realistic look. Of course, Enyeama has the best chance with only two games to spare. Beyond Enyeama, we believe there are just three players on that list with a very good chance -- Oboabona, Onazi, and Omeruo. Those three are likely to continue as national team starters regardless of who the next national team coach is. Though Omeruo has six years to go to be in the range for 100 games, he appears to be in much stronger position compared to a few others with less years to 100 games.

Take Mikel Obi for example. In our calculation, he has just three years. However, Obi has missed some invitations in the past which will impact his ability to get to the 100 game target. Secondly, his style which is slow puts him in danger of quickly being out of favor with a new coach, particularly if he is not playing regularly for a top club in Europe.

Over their career, Musa and Moses have not regularly played 90 minutes for Nigeria which puts them in jeopardy. Emenike, while he plays regularly, often is susceptible to injuries because of his physical style and he appears to be a very streaky striker and with five years to go he is likely to face competition against up and coming young Nigerian strikers such as Isaac Success, Kelechi Iheanacho, and others.

Then Efe Ambrose and Elderson Echiejile who are both strong regulars under Keshi may not be automatic choices under a new coach because both have glaring weaknesses in their play that would warrant competition with several emerging players.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Critical win in Brazzaville with one more to go

Nigeria's 2-0 win in Brazzaville today was critical and keeps hope alive as the team awaits the next game in Uyo against a South African team that has already qualified for the 2015 Cup for African Nations. Nigeria must now be considered in the driver's seat and on the way to qualification.

Nigeria opened the game in dominant fashion but it must be said that very few clear chances was created by the team. The only chances came with headers off corner kicks especially one in which Mikel Obi barely missed the far end in the 20th minute. But as Nigeria became frustrated by its lack of clear chances, Mikel increasingly launched long balls which Uche rarely won up front. Nigeria's lack of ideas clearly gave the home team confidence to take complete control of the game in the last 15 minutes. Importantly, Congo was able to create clear chances where Nigeria failed earlier. Three times, Congo miscued in front of Nigeria's gaping goal. The reality was that Nigeria was saved by the half time whistle and the consolation that it was still 0-0.

Congo was on the ascendancy in the opening 15 minutes of the second half. Nigeria's middle had "died" with Onazi making passing miscues and Akpan contributing very little. That Nigeria scored in the 57th minute was a surprise as it was against the run of play. The goal itself was a piece of excellent work with Mikel sending Emenike through, forcing the goalie to foul the latter deep in the box. Uche converted to the goalkeeper's right. But it was always going to be tough for Nigeria to protect the goal, particularly with Congo playing confidently. And so it was. Five minutes later, Oboabona was judged to have handled in the box. However, Enyeama, who had a superb game, stretched fully to punch away the attempt from the spot. As Congo became more desperate, Nigeria increasingly found holes in Congo's defense. Coach Keshi made deft substitutions bringing in two players who were at the core of the second goal. Aluko struck a pass to the much-maligned Aaron Samuel who left footed a shot into the far corner of the net. It was his second goal in the last two games.

Angry Congolese fans began to throw objects into the arena prompting match officials to stop the game. Stephen Keshi had one more day to live after this win and he is proving to be a cat with many lives.

Line-up with rating (1-10, 10 being outstanding)
Vincent Enyeama (cpt-1) 9 - Efe Ambrose (5) 5, Azubike Egwuekwe (6) 7, Godfrey Oboabona (2) 6, Juwon Oshaniwa (13) 6 -- Ogenyi Onazi (17) 6, Mikel Obi (10) 7, Hope Akpan (12) 5* (52nd Sone Aluko (11) 6) -- Emmanuel Emenike (9) 6 (70th Aaron Samuel (4) 6.5), Ikechukwu Uche (15) 6, Ahmed Musa (7) 6 (85th Gbolahan Salami (18)x).

Cautions:  Oboabona (62nd) and Onazi (67th)
* injured

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Interrogating Shuaibu Amodu's Performance Statistics

Last week, Shuaibu Amodu was again asked to manage Nigeria's national team. For the second time, he is asked to rescue Nigeria and earn qualification to the finals of the Cup for African Nations finals. He had previously achieved the feat in getting to the 2002 World Cup finals. This time, he has to win two games to confirm his status as "Nigeria's saviour."

What we do here is provide the reader with a reminder of Shuaibu Amodu's statistical record as Nigeria's national coach. He tutored under the great Alabi Aisien and then coached at BCC Gboko under James Peters. Amodu then made his name at the club level where he won four Nigerian FA Cups in a space of six years with both BCC Lions of Gboko and El Kanemi Warriors of Maidugri and then won a continental trophy with BCC.

Shuaibu Amodu's coaching efficiency in competitive games is outstanding compared to any Nigerian national coach, except Augustine Eguavoen who coached just 12 such games compared to Amodu's 36! Importantly, he holds the Nigerian record of coaching the national team to six consecutive victories in competitive games, including away games. That record is stunning considering that the national team's efficiency record is less than 0.50 in away games! His record is shown in the table below.

***NOTE: Efficiency is calculated using a formula where actual number of points obtained is divided by the maximum number of points obtainable. An efficiency record of .33 is often considered adequate. A .33 is obtained when a team draws all three games in a 3-game set.

If you wish to compare his statistics to those of other top Nigerian coaches then click below:
***To learn more about Nigerian soccer statistics checkout CHUKASTATS at books.***

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The End of Keshi's Tenure and Reading Textual Margins

Earlier today, the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) decided, not unexpectedly, to discontinue with Coach Stephen Keshi's service. After the home loss to Congo Republic and then the loss to Sudan in Khartoum, it was expected that Keshi's tenure as coach was at its end. That Keshi's team got back on track yesterday with a 3-1 win over Sudan was too little and too late. Nigeria was still in danger of missing out of the 2015 Cup for African Nations that Keshi's team had won in 2013.

However, what was interesting is the text that surrounded the decision not to continue with Keshi's services. One was in statements attributed to the NFF at the announcement and the other emerged in Channels TV interview of NFF President Pinnick Amaju. I focus on the two below:

The text at Keshi's dismissal was striking as it included an NFF offer to sponsor Keshi and his assistants to a coaching course.  The question is why and why at the time of discontinuing with his service? Was the intent to re-hire him after the course or was this a way to thank the coaches for their services? It is a shocking gesture and one that could easily be interpreted as a calculated insult. Not that coaches should not go on refresher courses but to make this a fulcrum of discussion at Keshi's dismissal and in the weeks in which the NFF and media have publicly questioned Keshi's tactical knowledge is clearly a back slap at Keshi to accentuate what the NFF claims was Keshi's deficiency.  In reality, Keshi has no reason to depend on the NFF to pay his way to a coaching course if the coach intends to undertake such a course.

Last week, there were some who insinuated that it was difficult to discontinue with Keshi's services because the coach has grown "too big" for the NFF and that the coach backed by "high offices." Some argued that the coach needed the usual "soft landing" to satisfy such backers. But was the coaching course the "soft landing?" I think not. Instead, the offer smacks of a calculated insult and I do not believe for one minute that the coach will take the offer from the NFF. Instead, Keshi will leave his achievements to speak for him in comparison to coaches that the NFF will hire in the near future.

The second text emerged when Mr. Amaju struggled on television to justify the decision not to continue with Keshi's services. One would think that it was evident that such a decision would be taken considering that recent results pointed to such a decision. Instead, Mr. Amaju struggled to cite the fans who were at yesterday's game. However, it was clear that a majority of the fans at the game supported the team and were overjoyed at victory. It is hard to affirm Mr. Amaju's claims that the fans had attempted to attack the coach. That is a shocking claim and in fact a needless one. It would have been straight forward and understandable to simply cite the recent poor record as justification for not continuing with Keshi's service than trying to conjure or construct an imaginary.

In the end, Keshi's era has come and gone. He had revived Nigeria's football during his tenure in many ways. In the end it came to an expected halt as such tenure often does when Keshi's team hit a bad patch that stretched inconveniently across several games. That NFF took the decision to discontinue was a justifiable end but the text surrounding it must certainly leave a sour taste.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Minister Danagogo played the Fiddle While Nigerian Football was Burning. . ..

Nigeria's Minister of Sport,  Dr. Tammy Wenike Danagogo, became the central focus as Nigerian football was torn apart from inside-out. The former demolition man as Rivers State Commissioner for Urban Development and Physical Planning appears to be out of his depth as Nigeria's Minister of Sport. He clearly was on a mission but the question is who's mission? It certainly did not appear to be a mission in the interest of Nigeria's football.

Dr. Danagogo appeared either (1) a naive zealot receiving very poor advice, or (2) cunning or conning Minister. It is unclear whether it was (1) or (2), but it appeared that his activities were at the cost of Nigerian football's health. Let's examine how he has helped set Nigeria's football on fire and then went into "Pilate-ism" while attempting to play the fiddle while the fire raged.

Naive Zealot
Let's for one moment assume that Dr. Danagogo was indeed focused on setting Nigeria's football on the right path. Assume he was truly enraged about rampant corruption and inefficiencies of Nigerian football management and was determined to reform it. It is a heck of an assumption but let's oblige.

Yes, he acted swiftly by appointing a sole administrator for Nigeria's football following a Jos Court order. He was merely obeying the law of the land. After all, he is a lawyer and he ought to know, right?

Yet, if he was so well informed, how did he forget that FIFA's rules govern all its affiliates and that FIFA's Nigerian affiliate has statutes that clearly outline how to remove the top administrator for Nigeria's football? He was forced later by FIFA to scamper and follow the same statute that he ignored. This was after he assured Nigerians that he knew FIFA's rules and was not violating those rules.

Weeks later, after agreeing to reinstate the NFF President, he again insisted on an NFF board election on August 26 despite FIFA's acceptance of a postponement based on recommendation from the NFF board. Minister Danagogo's Gestapo-sanctioned tactics then culminated in a sham August 26 election that hoisted his friend (Giwa) to power and the Minister quickly hosted his friend in a macabre "victory" reception amid consternation among stakeholders of Nigerian football including the local football league, the referee association, guild of editors, and other voices of Nigerian football. Then the same tactics were used to ensure that one of the contestants -- Shehu Dikko -- could not be at the election on September 30.

Cunning or Conning
Maybe he is cunning or is it conning? (LOL).  What do you make of the fact that he ditched NFF Vice President Umeh by the way side after Umeh was conned into believing that he (Umeh) was the anointed one to replace Maigari. Next was Chris Giwa. At least, Giwa made it to the "NFF Presidency" after a sham election. But as FIFA prowled, Danagogo was no longer sure that Giwa would be the man and as Giwa refused to step down from the NFF Presidency, the EFCC men came around on a shakedown of Mr. Giwa. EFCC's effort was clearly to scare Giwa into stepping down to appease FIFA as Danagogo continued to fiddle for answers. Just may be, he will come up with another fall guy. Who's next in line?

As Nigeria's Football Burns Under Danagogo's Watch. . . .
Clearly, Nigeria's football is burning. Yet, Minister Danagogo pretends that he is the "peace maker" convincing no one of his neutrality. Instead, he is like an Ostritch hiding its head in the sand. Reality is that Minister Danagogo's role is clear for all to see and it is not pretty. His act is no more than Emperor Nero as Rome burned. Sure, Minister Danagogo has held Nigeria to ransom while still maintaining his Ministerial position but it is clear that his act is wearing thin. He has taken Nigerian football to the brink and history will certainly record this for posterity. He has time to begin to right his many wrongs and allow football administration to run as independently as possible. If he is a true zealot for accountability as he has severally claimed, then there are clearly acceptable strategies for bringing financial violators to book without destroying Nigeria's football along the way. It starts from his ability and commitment to understand Nigeria's football statutes and its relationship to FIFA and then seeking reform within those parameters.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Debutants in Competitive Internationals: A rarity but. . . .

When Christian Osagona appeared with 17 minutes left in the Cup of Nations qualifier against South Africa, he came closest to scoring for Nigeria but his presence in that game was a rarity for Nigeria. He had debuted in a competitive international, a feat matched by only 19 other players in the last decade which has featured as many as 170 debutants for Nigeria. Nigeria rarely debuts a player in a competitive international. On many occasions, the preference is to test a player in a friendly international before the big stage.

One may assume that a coach indicates confidence in a player's ability leads to a debut in a competitive international. After all, the risk in debuting a player in a competitive situation is high and thus it is reasonable to assume that players debuted in such an occasion is believed to be a can't miss prospect. But has that been the case?

The data will surprise you. We ran the stats on 19 players debuted in such situations since 2004, the last decade. Note that we did not include the CHAN because of complexity in determining which CHAN games were counted as "A" internationals. We constructed four tables from the data. In one we note that three of the 19 were started in a competitive game while the rest were used as substitutes averaging just 12.75 minutes. The next table is used to identify the average number of games and minutes played by these players subsequent to their debut. The averages give an idea on whether the coaches made the right call in debuting them in a competitive game. We compare players who played at least 10 games for Nigeria to those that did not. The players with 10 or more games were eight (8): Obinna Nwaneri, Yusuf Ayila, Obinna Nsofor, Onyekachi Okonkwo, Ahmed Musa, Victor Moses, Ogenyi Onazi, and John Ogu. Of those, only one -- Obinna Nwaneri -- actually started in his debut game! The result is baffling and calls to question the judgment of coaches. Those who ended up playing 10 or more games averaged 18.63 minutes on their debut and those who later averaged two games in their national team career averaged 26.82 minutes in their debut! The rest of the tables list data on all 19 players debuted in the last decade in competitive internationals.

Just a note of caution, besides Obinna Nwaneri there were two other players who were started in their debut in a competitive game. You may hardly remember the names but they were Mohammed Aliyu Datti who started in an CAN/WC qualifier v. Angola (June 20, 2004) and Sunday Stephen in a CAN qualifier v Guinea (October 10, 2010). Both have not played for Nigeria since!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

NIGERIA: Troubling Statistics and Trends

After Nigeria's 0-0 tie in Cape Town away to South Africa there are things that jump to the mind. Clearly, Nigeria is going through a rough patch and it is not just at the current Cup of African Nations qualifiers where Nigeria has already suffered a historic home loss. There are some notable statistics that jump at you:

1. Nigeria has not won a game in its last four appearances and has only won one game in its last 10!

2. In the last four games, Nigeria has given up eight goals!

3. Nigeria's top striker -- Emmanuel Emenike -- has failed to score in 11 consecutive games for the Super Eagles!

While the above statistics may reflect just a rough patch that affects all teams, it could also reflect a downward trend that may not augur well for the defense of the Cup of African Nations. Let's hope that it reflects the former and not the later. What seems to be clear is that this team reflects the performance of its talisman -- Mikel Obi -- whose form has plummeted during the period in question. Nigeria's inability to take control of the midfield has been a big issue recently.

In any case, next month will be the real test for Nigeria. The game in Sudan will go a long way in determining whether Nigeria qualifies for the 2015 Nations Cup as one of the two top teams in its group or it waits stressfully hoping to be the best third-placed team to reach the Cup finals in Morocco. Nigeria must win in Sudan to hope for at least a second-place finish. A draw may not be enough. Unfortunately, Nigeria is not a team that has historically travelled well. However, it has been capable of winning away when the chips are down as was the case in Omdurman, Sudan in 2001; in Zimbabwe in 2004; and then Nairobi in 2009.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Nigeria's Top 10 Coaches: How they rank in games, friendlies, etc….

It is generally agreed that Clemens Westerhoff and Stephen Keshi are Nigeria's most accomplished coaches as both have won the Cup for African Nations away from home and have reached the Round of 16 at the World Cup. Other coaches to win ultimate laurels at the continental level with the national team are Otto Gloria (1980 Cup for African Nations) and Jorge Penna (1973 All Africa Games gold). Shuaibu Amodu placed fourth with Nigeria at the Intercontinental Cup (now Confederations Cup). 

However, there are other ways that coaches can be compared and we do so in this piece. First we determine the top ten coaches through two processes before comparing the selected top ten. The first was to only consider those who have coached at least 10 games. This way we have an appreciable number of games to to evaluate the work of the coach. This eliminated some coaches like Bora and Siasia that did not have enough games under their belt. The next step was to compare all coaches on their overall efficiency and then using the outcome to determine the top ten listed on Table 1. It is important also to note that a coach has to coach at least three games in any category under analysis for data to be considered meaningful. We have chosen the three-game threshold based on most tournaments using that threshold to determine group winners.
We also compared the top 10 coaches on results obtained in friendly and competitive games (Table 2). It is important to note that we have counted as "friendlies" a few tournaments where participating teams are strictly by invitation (LG Cup), involve less than four teams (Afro-Asian Cup), or regionally-based (ECOWAS). The comparisons are based on efficiency scores (i.e number of points obtained from games as percentage of maximum points available). Eguavoen leads all coaches in efficiency scores from competitive games. Eguavoen's era is a coaching enigma. He did not win a laurel but he achieved mind boggling victories even away from home and this is reflected on his high efficiency scores.  We have highlighted, by bolding, efficiency scores of the top five in each category. Westerhoff and Keshi are in the middle of the park with .65 and .63 respectively in competitive games. In international friendlies, Westerhoff leads the pack with .77 efficiency score. What is remarkable is that it appears that Shuaibu Amodu did not take friendlies seriously with a poor score of only .28 whereas he had the second best efficiency score in the competitive games (.75). Then we note that we have not entered friendly-game data for Bonfrere as he did not coach up to three (3) such games.

Table 3 shows comparative efficiency scores in home and then away games. Of course, away games often mark the strength of coaches since Nigeria generally wins at home. If we then look at the data for away games, we see that Eguavoen ties for first place with a remarkable .56 score. Bear in mind that a .33 score is considered acceptable as this score is obtained in drawing an away game (i.e. 1 point out of a possible 3 points). Tied with Eguavoen is the current Manager Stephen Keshi at .56. A remarkable result here is Berti Vogts with  a very strong score of .52 which is higher than Westerhoff (.27) or Bonfrere (.20). The scores for Westerhoff and Bonfrere are surprising as they show poor results in away games which is not ordinarily anticipated particularly in most fans' recollection of the Westerhoff era. But then that is why these statistics help in reminding us that not all things were in fact rosy in that era. Notably, Vogts did not have the benefit of a home game throughout his tenure but yet scored .57 to be among the top 10 coaches. Most of the coaches had extremely high efficiency scores for home games as should be expected, with Eguavoen achieving a maximum score (1.00) but he coached just four of such games. Coach Chukwu had the least score at home (.64).

These statistics point to supplementary and quantitative ways to evaluate coaching results that go beyond winning laurels. They do not replace the laurels, understandably, but offer additional evaluative insights. In the data provided above one could look at efficiency scores, particularly in competitive and away games, as critical. Those are usually more difficult to achieve compared to less meaningful results from friendlies or home games for two reasons: (1) friendly results may understate or overstate a team's strength because winning is not always a goal in such situations and teams may not field their strongest team throughout the duration of the game, and in (2) Nigerian home games are usually won and, thus, may not be discriminative enough for coaching evaluation purposes.

***To learn more about Nigerian soccer statistics checkout CHUKASTATS at books.***

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Time to Re-Construct the World Cup Qualifiers

The 2014 World Cup in Brazil leaves us with many questions surrounding representativeness across the globe. Traditionally, the number of berths awarded to each confederation has been determined via political maneuvering even though the larger public naively believes that the number of berths are determined by performance. Sure, performance is usually drummed up as a rationale to justify increase in berths for a confederation but there is no known FIFA formula for determining this increase. Thus, political compromises have often been used to make the determination. That compromise has been reached by merely increasing the number of teams in the finals or in a recent move, denying the defending champion an automatic place in the final.

The difficulty in reaching an agreement on who deserves additional berth and who does not is based on the fact that there is no established formula for making the decision. Importantly, UEFA initially held fast to its domination of number of berths in the final by flaming that berths should be determined by performance and UEFA was far better than teams from other confederations based on World Cup results. Its only competitor was South America (CONMEBOL) that had far fewer ember nations. However, UEFA continues to maintain dominance in berths in spite of the fact that other confederations have rapidly closed the performance gap between Europe and the rest. The table below shows historical efficiency scores of the Rest of the World against Europe/South America.

Efficiency scores of 0.30 or above are considered competitive because a draw (denoting equivalence of strength) leads to a score of 0.33 calculated on 1 point divided by a possible 3 points from a win. We also note that three games against a confederation is required for what we consider an adequate sample. Games less than three are denoted with asterisk. The choice of three games comes from the fact that FIFA uses three games in each World Cup group as an adequate sample to determine the teams that advance to the elimination stage of the World Cup.

The table is subdivided into two parts. The top part of the table compares the Rest of the World (CONCACAF/CAF/ASIA/OCEANIA) against UEFA teams in two ways. First, it compares results against all UEFA teams since the 1970 World Cup and then compares results against UEFA teams taking away results against four perennial UEFA powers (Germany, Italy, Holland, and France). Note that perennial teams are determined by consistent finishes in the top four at the World Cup since 1970. The lower part of the table is a comparison against CONMEBOL (South American) teams. The power teams in this case are two -- Brazil and Argentina.

The results demonstrate that UEFA's usual argument that Europe maintain the bulk of the teams at the final is increasingly becoming tenuous. Since 1986, the rest of the World have produced increasingly good results against UEFA teams at the World Cup save for two competitions in 1990 and 2006. Importantly, even when you include the TOP 4 UEFA teams in the equation, the results have been reasonable in three competitions in 1994, 2002, and 2010. Results against CONMEBOL teams show less success. However, it is important to note that games against CONMEBOL teams have been too few until 2010 to definitively speak on performance. What is disturbing is that in 2010 and 2014, number of games have been adequate but results dismal.

Nevertheless, UEFA now cites number of teams from other confederations that fail to go beyond the first round as a sign of UEFA's superiority over other confederations. However, that ignores mathematical proportion which shows that the larger the number of teams you have in the competition in the first place provides the larger possibility that your teams go beyond the opening round as is the case with UEFA. Take the most recent World Cup, while in raw numbers Europe had six teams move to the second round compared to Africa's two teams, the actual percentage of success was only 0.46 to 0.40 respectively for both continents. On the other hand, CONCACAF showed 0.75 success, far surpassing UEFA!

One disappointment is that in FIFA's biggest competition attended by 32 countries, not all of FIFA's 6  confederations are guaranteed of being there! This certainly seems unfair when mathematically, each confederation would have had at least five teams each! Using team performance to adjust requirement that all confederations are represented should at least assure each confederation one place at the finals.

A consideration is that there are six teams that perennially finish in the top 4 at the World Cups. These are Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Italy, Holland and France. But is it fair that other UEFA teams should get in under the coat tails of those few teams UEFA teams that finish in the top four? The best case scenario, may be, is to strip UEFA of some berths and award them to other confederations since the World Cup is increasingly competitive among all teams. This surely will be resisted by UEFA. However, if this becomes tough to agree on then UEFA should be open to prove itself deserving of those berths by competing increasingly for the berths. Thus, it appears to me that FIFA should think of ways to politically balance the qualifiers based on a few principles listed below:

1. That each confederation should have at least one automatic berth to the final.
2. That UEFA maintain the possibility of getting the same number of teams in the final.
3. That other confederations receive an opportunity to increase their number of berths in the final based on size of FIFA membership.

The Re-allocation of Berths

Principle 1: Allow Oceania to have an automatic berth.

Principle  2 and 3: UEFA retains possibility of providing 13 teams to the final phase of the tournament. However, five of those teams should qualify via playoffs against teams from other confederations. This will meet UEFA's insistence of having the best teams at the finals. If UEFA's teams are that good then they should prove it in contests against teams from other confederations. UEFA's opponents in these playoff games will rotate in each World Cup against teams from CAF, CONCACAF, ASIA, and CONMEBOL. Number of teams from each of those confederations involved in play-off games will be CAF (2), CONCACAF (2), ASIA (2), and CONMEBOL (1). This will give others, particularly CAF which has the largest number of FIFA member countries, opportunities to increase the number of teams at the final phase of the competition.

Automatic Berths at the Final Phase

UEFA = 8
CAF = 5
ASIA = 4
Host country =1

TOTAL automatic berths = 26

Playoff Berths (An example but will rotate as described above)

1. 1 CAF v 1 UEFA
5. 1 ASIA v 1 UEFA
6. 1 ASIA v 1 UEFA

TOTAL playoff berths = 6

***To learn more about Nigerian soccer statistics checkout CHUKASTATS at books.***

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Central Issues in Persistent Nigerian Football Statute Crises…

Recently, a Plateau state court declared the illegality of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF). However, it is not the first Nigerian court to make such declaration and it might not be the last if changes are not made to the NFF’s existence as an institution. What we do in this piece is to briefly explain what has led to this situation and what are the alternatives for escaping this situation. Please understand that there are several pieces to this issue, some complex and others less complex but the intent here is to be brief and clear without being clouded by minor issues that may distract from a clear understanding of the situation.

The Genesis
By January 2004, FIFA required Nigerian football to comply with FIFA’s statutes requiring affiliate associations to be independent from government interference in local football. Before then, Nigerian football was governed by the infamous Decree 101 which stamped government’s total control over football administration including specifying that the daily affairs of administration was led by a Secretary appointed by the government.  NFA’s Galadima (Chairman) and Ogunjobi (Secretary) met with FIFA in Paris on May 19 to review Decree 101 in an attempt to persuade FIFA of the Decree’s appropriateness with minor tweaking. FIFA rejected this and demanded a new and compliant statute.  The challenge then was how to abrogate Decree 101 and introduce another statute amenable to FIFA guidelines of football administrative independence. However, in Africa this must be noted as difficult considering that most of the football associations depend on government funding to operate.

The Birth of a New Statute
The Sports Ministry that controlled the Nigerian Football Association (NFA) dragged its feet, understandably, since complying with FIFA directive meant losing its authority over Nigerian football. With FIFA pressure mounting, the Football Association set up a review committee headed by Prof. Gye-Wado that drafted new statutes, which the NFA Annual General meeting approved in Port Harcourt in 2004. The statute received further approval by FIFA. However, at the time Decree 101 remained in the books as the Nigerian legislative assembly was yet to abrogate the decree. Minister Musa Mohammed declared the review committee’s work illegal and instead set up a restructuring committee headed by the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Alhaji Babayo Shehu. Subsequently, the National Council for Sports (NCS) met in a 3-day emergency meeting at Otta voting to repeal Decree 101 and approving a replacement bill drafted by the Restructuring Committee set up by the Minister.  The bill was an amendment of Decree 101 and retained considerable government power over football administration. The Minister forwarded the bill to the Federal Executive Committee (FEC). The FEC approved the repeal of Decree 101 in January 2005, which was then sent to the National Assembly. With this, there was an erroneous belief that the NFF statute was surely going to be the football law and Decree 101 was dead. Note also that a group tagged Concerned Friends of Nigerian Football led by Obienu Nwabufor also drafted and submitted a private bill to the House of Assembly to restructure Nigeria’s football administration.

Refusal to Sign Bill into Law
As FIFA faced Nigeria’s persistent delays in abolishing Decree 101, FIFA announced that “Nigeria is playing a game of poker with its international football future. . . we have come to the end of our patience with Nigeria.” It then issued a fresh deadline of April 30. The reality is that FIFA’s patience exercised since 2004 is still tested today, a decade later! In any case, in May 2005, the Senate acted and repealed Decree 101 while passing a new Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) bill removing government management of the country’s football.

In the next month, the House of Representatives also passed a modification of Decree 101 forwarded by FEC and both legislative Nigerian houses moved to resolve differences in the passed bills.

Nevertheless, FIFA through its Deputy General Secretary Jerome Champagne told BBC in June that it was wrong for Nigerian legislators to draft football laws as it smacks of government interference. Meanwhile in early July, President Obasanjo refused to sign the bill, passed by both the Senate and the House into law noting that it was not the bill he had sent to the legislative houses. The President was reportedly displeased that the legislators not only added more seats to the proposed NFF board but completely removed control that the government wanted.

A Solution and Drawbacks
By March of 2006, the FA Chairman Sani Lulu, facing increased FIFA pressure to ensure abrogation of Decree 101, claimed that the decree had died a natural death and that in any case “there are so many decrees before the National Assembly that by now should have been annulled but everybody knows that it is not easy.” In essence, he was not pursuing fast tracking of legislative action but simply attempting to convince FIFA that progress was being made.

The facts: (1) The NFF is today using the statutes that FIFA approved back in 2004.; (2) The Nigerian President has not signed into law the abrogation of Decree 101 nor has he signed into law the new NFF Act approved by the Nigerian legislative House; and (3) The NFF has not registered legally as a business under the Nigerian Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

The facts stated above have introduced a chaotic situation into administration of Nigerian football that have been exploited through numerous court cases that declare the NFF illegal as the NFF is neither established by law nor is it registered by the CAC.

Ways to Overcome Drawbacks
The Nigerian situation, compounded by the fact that government provides over 90% of funds for football, has intensely made issues complex. Government wants control because of how much it invests and the fact that government maintains an obligation to develop its youth and uses sports as a means for achieving such goals. But FIFA wants its affiliate federations to abide by FIFA rules, which require independence from government. The question is how best for the Nigerian federation to wade through these demands. Here is what to consider:

1.     The football federation must meet FIFA rules or simply cease to be a member. You cannot be a member without the rules being applied to you. If Nigeria wishes to change the rules then it must build a coalition with other FIFA members and press for a change via FIFA Congress.
2.     There is no reason for the Nigerian Legislature to make football rules. This is not only based on the comment made by FIFA’s Jerome Champagne but also on analyses made by several Nigerian lawyers as well as cases elsewhere. Nigerian lawyers point to the fact that the Nigerian National Assembly’s power to legislate is set out in an Exclusive and/or Concurrent Legislative list of which sports is not a listed item. Moreover, the Nigerian constitution does not empower the legislative arm to make laws pertaining to sports. In several other FIFA affiliate countries, a collective of football stakeholders come together to form an association drafting rules that guide sporting activities and management.
3.     Based on the above, it seems clear that the NFF was correct in drafting its own statutes without reference to the Nigerian National Assembly.
4.     However, registration with the CAC is also required to ensure legality of the NFF’s statutes defining management of football business.
5.     It is time for the Nigerian President to promptly sign abrogation of Decree 101 into law. The legislators have done their part. No new law establishing the NFF needs to be signed for running football in the country.
6.     Government should have no ongoing obligation to support the NFF via federal budget. However, government may continue to provide funds to the NFF (as well as other NGOs who meet government’s interest) via grants that will be audited by government. This way, government is assured that its responsibility and obligation to the Nigerian public to develop youth is met via non governmental organizations that would include the NFF. Each of those organizations must formally apply for funding by responding to requests for proposals (RFPs).


Clearly, the unresolved situation in Nigerian football today will continue and will not only distract from goal achievement but may well retard progress. What we have done here is suggest the way forward if concerned parties have the true interest of the country’s football.