The first time the Nigeria Football Federation contacted Sunday Oliseh for Eagles’ job, the former national team captain declined on one condition: He was to assist a yet to be employed foreign coach. This was shortly after NFF announced they were parting ways with Keshi when Sudan beat Eagles, one of the defeats that contributed to Nigeria’s failure to qualify for the last Nations Cup.
Oliseh politely turned down the offer even before external forces imposed Keshi on the federation. Oliseh felt his pedigree would earn him the top job and not to assist anybody. He wanted to be in charge and take full responsibility. The Pinnick Amaju-led federation respected his position and left him out and succumbed to the pressure to re-engage Keshi.
And now that they have, again, parted ways with Keshi, the federation has, again engaged a foreign coach to coach the Super Eagles. But the foreign coach, a Dutch, will be under Oliseh who assumes the office of Chief Coach or Technical Adviser.
The deal has already been sealed and Oliseh and his assistant will be unveiled in Abuja next week. The contracts were signed in London Tuesday.
“You can even report that Jay Jay Okocha is the next Eagles coach,” Amaju Pinnick jokingly said when we contacted him for confirmation Tuesday night.
He would not discuss further details but only expressed excitement about the roles the Eagles coaches are expected to play in the development of football in Nigeria. He spoke to this reporter from London and these were his words.
“There will be workshops and coaching clinics for Nigerian coaches. The Eagles’ coaches will be touring Nigeria to watch league matches and not like in the recent past when our national coaches failed to monitor our leagues. We are initiating so many things that will help our football. We will develop the game and also aim to present a good team for the next World Cup. I can see a bright future”.
Keshi was accused of applying for another job while still with contract. The NFF terminated his contract on Saturday.
Oliseh is highly respected at home and abroad. His television soccer analysis earns him kudos. He is now expected to practice what he preaches on television. In principle, he is always firm. And this paints a picture of his character and should, perhaps, educate the federation on the need to make things plain to the new helmsman. This reporter recalls when he refused to cringe before a bullying sports ministry at the 2002 Nations Cup in Mali.
The players ended the group stage without bonuses. Oliseh, as captain, ensured there was peace and no agitation. “We believe that the ministry does not have our money yet. And we believe that they will pay the money when they receive it.
We are here for the matches and we hope to continue to win. We are focused on the tournament and not our bonuses for we know they will surely be paid later,” Oliseh told the then sports minister, Mark Aku, in response to the minister’s plea that they should be patient over their bonuses. Applause followed Oliseh’s maturity and response. But when money was eventually sent from Abuja, the ministry announced changes in flight ticket refunds.
This was midway into the tournament and the players felt that they had stomached enough. It angered them. They downed their boots for a day and went into the semi final match against Senegal with audible grumbles.
They lost and coaches Shaibu Amodu and Stephen Keshi were disengaged from the team. Adegboye Onigbinde was engaged to take the team to the World Cup. Oliseh, George Finidi and a few others were also dropped from the World Cup team. It was the height of injustice in Eagles and the results of the Korea-Japan World Cup possibly added weight to the law of karma.
Thirteen years on Oliseh is back at the national team as coach. This will delight former NFA chairman, Yusuf Ali who, before now, strongly campaigned for the engagement of Oliseh as Super Eagles coach even as Oliseh was yet to take up any known top coaching job.
“He is intelligent and it is on that basis that I want him as coach. If it means Oliseh assisting a foreign coach and eventually taking over they should consider that for he is a brilliant guy,” Ali repeatedly told this reporter who equally published his views on these pages.
“Yes, Oliseh has been signed,” one top NFF member confirmed last night. He also confirmed the Dutch assistant.
Samson Siasia hired Kalika, a Dutch, as his assistant from the Flying Eagles to his Olympic and Super Eagles days.
Clemens Westerhof is generally rated as the best foreign coach Nigeria ever had. He is Dutch also.