I looked forward to the outcome of the NFF’s Executive meeting called yesterday in Abuja discuss critical matters pertaining to Nigeria’s football. However, after reading the meeting’s Communique, it seems to me that the NFF has raised even more questions than answers.
Of course, NFF’s decision to meet yesterday (Wednesday) was laudable considering that the all important World Cup qualifiers begin in ten weeks, Nigeria’s only round of preparatory games is just six weeks away, and the first set of player invitation for Nigeria’s next national coach is four weeks away. Yet, there is no national coach named and with the timelines noted above, Nigeria now is operating under Code Red.
Yesterday, one expected resolution to the issue of a national team coach. It didn’t happen. Instead, Nigerians have been offered another week’s wait to know about yet another recommendation. That one week wait is full of uncertainty as that deadline has created a situation where the federation has boxed itself into a corner. Is there a foreign coach already identified that was not on the list of 20 applicants? Will the federation go back to the pool of 20 to pick its foreign coach? The truth is that any one of the two options is fraught with problems. Take the first option. If there is a coach already identified, would he be screened like others or has NFF jettisoned the transparency policy that it restated as part of the second point of the Communique? If the selection comes from the pool, then why was that person not one of the finalists? Remember, we were all told that the best three coaches were the finalists and while one declined, a second took the Bangladesh job but the third is still out there. Why would he not be the pick? There are questions that then arise if he is not the pick. Was he a mere token named to appease Nigerians that called for a local coach? Does his rejection spark insinuations of parochialism in determining where an effective coach should come from?
But the questions above are not the only ones raised yesterday. There are more. Why did Paul Le Guen’s negotiation fall apart. Yesterday, it appears the federation provided two direct answers: he was unwilling to reside in Nigeria and he desired to have two of his own assistants thereby making Nigerian assistants redundant. A third answer was insinuated i.e. that he may have refused a performance target. Well, none of those answers is convincing, to state the least. Instead, those answers raise further questions.
Unwillingness to reside in Nigeria: The federation’s argument is a patriotic one, which appeals to our emotions but then think again. Which of our recent foreign coaches resided in Nigeria since Westerhoff? Fact is that Vogts and Lagerback, who are the most recent, did not reside in Nigeria. Even the most recent coach, Sunday Oliseh, did not reside in Nigeria (read the last two paragraphs of the linked story). So when did staying in Nigeria become a key piece of appointing a foreign coach? Will it apply to the next foreign coach to be appointed by the Pinnick NFF?
Desire to have two of his own assistants: Was this really an issue? Which foreign coach would take the job without having his own assistants? Let’s see if this applies to the next coach. Note, Nigeria’s coaches, both foreign and local, have had their own assistants. Vogts had Thomas Haessler, Lagerback had Roland Andersson and Thomas Sjoberg, Siasia had Kalika, Keshi had Houdinou and Okpala, and Oliseh had Losciuto. So why would this be an issue with Paul Le Guen? Is it possible that it came down to lack of funds to pay those assistants? Did the federation fail to find a sponsor for the wages of those assistants? Was it possible that the Ministry would have denied the assistants because of no funds to pay them? Where is the federation’s much-vaunted transparency to explain the truth to Nigerians?
Finally, the issue of performance target: This cannot possibly be a sticking point big enough to scuttle negotiation? How could it? With or without a target, it is clear based on NFF’s antecedent that the coach will be relieved of the job if he fails to get the team to the World Cup finals. So what is the value of a target? It just is not a compelling point.
It is obvious that the Communique of yesterday has raised more questions than expected. With the seven day deadline set for recommending a new coach around the corner, it appears that the NFF has set it self up for another round of severe criticisms. However, what matters is that Nigeria must have a substantive coach as the clock is ticking and while the answers to the questions that I have raised may tarry a little, not so with the need to have a substantive coach.