“IT is a great honour to be coach of the Super Eagles, but let me state clearly that I am not coming as a Messiah. I am not coming with a promise of turning Nigerian football into Germany over night. I am not capable of doing it alone. I am coming in to do my best and give, if possible, 150 percent all the time.” Those were the words of Sunday Oliseh in July 2015, when he was unveiled as coach of the Super Eagles.
Oliseh, a member of the FIFA technical study group, was considered by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to be vastly travelled and trained for the job. He was handed a three-year contract with the mandate of qualifying Nigeria to Gabon 2017 AFCON and also the group stage of 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The journey was disrupted on Friday morning, when the coach announced his resignation, claiming violations of his contract and receiving too little help from the NFF ahead next month’s crucial 2017 Afcon qualifiers clash with the Pharaohs of Egypt.
Nigeria will host the seven-time African champions and group leaders Egypt on March 25 in Kaduna before a return fixture days later, with only the overall group winners guaranteed automatic qualification to the 2017 Nations Cup in Gabon.
Oliseh also complained of several breaches to his contract with the NFF. He complained he was owed salary and has not received accommodation in Abuja as promised by the NFF. Oliseh was also unhappy over the dismissal of his personal assistant, former international Tijjani Babangida.
Since Oliseh came in as replacement for sacked Stephen Keshi in July last year, the relationship between him and the NFF, especially the Technical Committee headed by Chris Green had fermented.
Things came to a head when Nigeria Home-based Eagles failed to go past the group stage of the recent African Nations Championship in Rwanda. Amid speculation over his future, Oliseh took to social media platform YouTube to vent his frustration by attacking his critics who wanted him sacked, but he would later apologise. The Sports Minister Solomon Dalung waded into the crisis when he advised against sacking the coach.
To some right thinking Nigerians, the environment under which Oliseh found himself as coach of the Super Eagles since last year was unhealthy for football development. They have put blame of his Oliseh’s resignation at the doorstep of the Chris Green-led Technical and Development Committee of the NFF.
If results posted by the Super Eagles since Oliseh took over from Keshi are parameters for measuring success, Oliseh may have won the heart of many Nigerian soccer fans.
Under him, the Eagles played 14 matches, losing two. Oliseh went on a ten-game unbeaten run before leading the Home-based Eagles to defeat against Guinea at the CHAN competition in Rwanda.
Oliseh won his first game as coach of Super Eagles after his men battled to a 2-0 win over Niger Republic in Port Harcourt. Before then the team had recorded a 0-0 drew against Tanzania. In all, the Eagles lost only one official game and one friendly match, scored 19 goals and conceded six.
To some football stakeholders, the race to Gabon 2017 African Cup of Nation appears tight, but the Eagles still stand a good chance of picking the ticket ahead of Pharaohs, who are on top of the group with six points as against Nigeria’s four.
“I am sure Oliseh must have been boxed into a very tight corner by the so called NFF Technical Committee and that was why he came up with the option of resignation,” one football fan who introduced himself as Adekunle said on a radio programme in Lagos yesterday.
Another fan, Olusola said: “Some of the people administering football at the NFF are the problem we have in our football. When Oliseh took over this job mid last year, I remember him saying that he needs the cooperation of everyone to bring our football to the state it used to be in the 1990s. The people (NFF Technical Committee) had not shown their father and child relationship.
They see him as an enemy and nothing good can come from such situation. There are so many ‘green snakes in the glass house’.
“The Technical Committee feels the NFF president, Amaju Pinnick, by-passed them in the emergence of Oliseh as coach of the Super Eagles. That was the genesis of the whole problem. They (Technical Committee members) have not hidden their hatred for the coach since then, and it should not be so. I wonder how the new coach (Samson Siasia) will survive in the midst of these ‘green snakes’ in the glass house,” Olusola stated.
From his playing days, Oliseh’s football career had been shrouded in misadventures. Throughout Nigeria’s golden era of the 1990s, Oliseh was a key component of the Eagles’ midfield.
At France ’98 World Cup, at the peak of his career, Oliseh scored a goal against Spain, a well-struck cracker of a shot from outside the box that reverberated around the football world. It was a pile driver that zoomed into the Spanish goal like a fired cannon. That goal was considered one of the best goals of France ’98. He captained the Eagles to the final of 2000 African Cup of Nation, which Nigeria lost to Cameroun in Lagos.
Oliseh left the national team two years later, following spats with the administrators at Mali 2002 Nations Cup. Till date, some Nigerians still label Oliseh ‘bad boy’ for voicing out his anger against some NFF and government officials during Mali 2002 Nations Cup.
However, the sports minister, Solomon Dalung, recently shed light into some of the things that happened in the camp of the Super at Mali 2002 Nations Cup.
“I am a victim of all those frauds they do in the sports industry. I went to Mali in the 2002 Africa Nations Cup on a federal government delegation. I was told in Abuja here that I was entitled to an extacode of $7,000 but I was given $400.
“I was given $400 and I have to metamorphose from a refugee in Mali to organising international launch for my friends to safe for me to be able to survive and return to this country. Meanwhile there were children of people in government playing with Dollars.
“Why we lost that match in Mali was because of the tradition of a player making some concession of $2,000 from his allowance of $5,000 to the team before he will be featured. Those who did not comply were denied appearance for that match. I don’t know if Jesus or Mohammed has touched them to change,” Dalung said in Abuja recently.
Shortly after Oliseh’s resignation on Friday morning, his special adviser, former teammate, Tijani Babangida, revealed that the main reason the coach resigned as Super Eagles manager was because the NFF offered former Zambia coach, Herve Renard, $100,000 to takeover the Super Eagles job.
Babangida who acted as a special adviser to Sunday Oliseh in his seven months spell with the team explained that the NFF promised to pay coach Renard $100,000 a month when Oliseh’s salary of N5million a month could not even be paid.
“We saw this coming. Nothing is hidden. Oliseh was reliably informed that NFF went to talk to Herve Renard to take over the job as Super Eagles coach. This is one of the things that violated the contract he signed when he became coach,” Babangida said.
“He believes his employers are not supporting him to succeed; rather, they are planning for him to fail. Especially, with the crucial game coming up against Egypt for the AFCON qualifier. He feels if he is the problem, why will he be a stumbling block? Hence, his resignation.
“He resigned so that NFF can do what they want to do with match bonuses owed, salaries not paid, camping allowances too. The house NFF promised him has not even been secured for him. So, where will he stay when he comes to Abuja? Hotel? ” So, many violations of his contract. No one can work like that. NFF cannot pay Oliseh N5million but they went promising Renard $100,000. This is sad. Why won’t he resign?”
Herve Renard, who won the Africa Cup of Nations with Zambia in 2012 and Cote d’Ivoire in 2015, is now the manager of the Moroccan national team.
Interestingly, Stephen Keshi was sacked as Super Eagles manager for allegedly applying for another job while still the coach of the team. The NFF that fired Keshi were allegedly looking for a new manager while Sunday Oliseh was still in charge of the team.
While unveiling Oliseh in July 2015, NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, tagged the coach ‘the Pep Guardiola of Africa.’
He said: “Today is another historic day in the history of Nigeria football. Today we have been able to present the Pep Guardiola of Africa. We know that Sunday Oliseh can deliver. We are very excited, about his advancement. On the field we have not been able to have a replacement for him. As a member of the FIFA technical study group, he is vastly travelled and trained. I can assure you that we are going to have one of the best coaches Nigeria ever had. On behalf of the NFF we will give him 100 percent support. We will follow all the clauses of this contract,” Pinnick said.
The NFF boss (Pinnick), his first vice President Seyi Akinwunmi and secretary general of the NFF, Mohammed Sanusi were in Zurich for FIFA’s election when Oliseh resigned
Some fans have picked holes in the way the NFF Technical and Development Committee headed by Chris Green came about the choice of Samson Siasia as replacement for Oliseh.
Siasia will work with Salisu Yusuf, Emmanuel Amuneke and Alloy Agu for the upcoming 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Egypt.
Siasia was sacked as Super Eagles coach in 2012 (four years ago) after failing to qualify Nigeria for the African Cup of Nations for the first time since 1986.Then, the Super Eagles was not even in more difficult situation like the build up to Gabon 2017 Afcon.
The Eagles needed just a win to progress to Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, but Siasia-led team bungled it, conceding a last-minute goal from Guinea to draw the final qualifier 2-2 in Abuja.
Though, Siasia won the African U-23 championship in Senegal last year and qualified the country for the Rio Olympics, many fans are of the opinion he (Siasia) still needs time to be coach of the senior national team.
“Why Siasia? Okafor Nwadunagu, a sports enthusiast queried yesterday while speaking with The Guardian. “They should allow him concentrate with the Olympic team. I believe something is surely wrong somewhere,” he stated.
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