Thursday, February 26, 2015

ZOOM IN: Nigeria's Top Local Coaches…..

There is no doubt that Nigeria has produced coaches who have gone on to prove their mettle in the continent as well as the world stages. This is often forgotten because there is a tendency to dismiss their quality because of the ubiquity of foreign coaches that handle many of Africa's top national teams and, thus, are more likely to win laurels on the law of proportionality alone. However, even in the midst of this, some Nigerian coaches have risen above the fray to etch their names in the sands of history. And they are legion -- Stephen Keshi, Samson Siasia, Shuaibu Amodu, Garba Manu, and several others.

However, this article does not focus on those Nigerian coaches who have gained notoriety beyond the borders of Nigeria. The focus here is strictly on those who toil in the premier local league and the Federation Cup and have made their marks doing so. What we do here is to investigate the local coaching scene since the turn of the millennium. Clearly, this is not the easiest comparison because of several problems that surround the league and more specifically allegations that the most corrupt teams often win. The fact, however, is that while there is evidence of match-fixing, the better teams often still finish in the top half of the league.

In any case, our method for investigation compares coaches on the basis of where their team is placed at season's end in two major nationwide competitions  -- the Premier League and the Federation Cup. We allocate points based on the top three placing annually. We have chosen these placings based on the fact that the top three ordinarily signifies positioning with value of medals and qualification for international competition. While winning the League and the Federation Cups are allocated five points each, second place in the league is worth 4 and in the Federation Cup it is worth 3 points. The rational here is that while runners up in the league earns positions a team to play in a continental competition, a similar placing in the Federation Cup earns a place in a regional competition. We then allocate 3 points for third in the league and 1 for third in the Federation Cup. The table below compares coaches since the beginning of the millennium as well as the last five years.

Since the Beginning of the Millennium

We have used the year 2000 as an arbitrary marker. It is a marker that produces eight coaches who have earned at least 10 points since. Coach Okey Emordi is way ahead of the rest! His pedigree is not on winning in Nigeria but he has also won the African Coach of Year after winning the Champions League with Enyimba in 2004. The second placed Kadiri Ikhana is a well known figure in the local coaching scene. He has also won the African Champions League.

The list, however, includes coaches who had not won recently either because they have been out of favor or no longer coaching. For instance, Onyedika and Uwua are no longer coaching at the top level in Nigeria while Musa Abdullahi recently died after a long period of illness.

In order to capture a clearer sense of who is at the top of his craft in much more current term, we have also broken down the data with a focus on the last five years (since 2010). Here, Emordi remains at the very top of his craft winning two league titles with both Enyimba (2010) and Pillars (2014). However, Salisu Yusuf moves ahead of Kadiri Ikhana. It must be noted, however, that Ikhana took a brief break from coaching during the studied period. But it is clear that the likes of Salisu Yusuf now at FC Taraba, Gbenga Ogungbote at Sharks, and Paul Aigbogun at Wolves are among the new masters at the local level.

Exposure at National Team Level

The Nigerian Football Federation (NFF)  has done relatively well in introducing these successful coaches to the national team level. However, Emordi has received only one opportunity at the national team level where he coached the National Team B during the African National Championship (CHAN) qualifiers back in 2008. Since then, he has been ignored in spite of his obvious success at the local levels. Ikhana was appointed to two stints, one with the U-23 team in 2004 and the other with the Female national team. Additionally, he served for a brief period as Technical Consultant for the Niger Republic's Football Federation. He also coached in Bangladesh and Malaysia.

The younger coaches, Yusuf, Ogbungbote, and Aigbogun have not received head coach or manager appointments at the national team levels unlike the case mentioned above pertaining to Emordi and Ikhana. However, Yusuf and Ogungbote were appointed to assist Shuaibu Amodu in the 2015 Cup of African Nations qualifiers but never served before Keshi was re-appointed.

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