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Ebere Nwankpa: Nigeria Will Not Qualify For the 2018 World Cup In Russia And Here’s Why

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Nigeria Will Not Qualify For the 2018 World Cup In Russia
We Do Not Deserve To, And Here’s Why.

While some might use what I am shortly about to write to aver the opposite, in order to ‘kill the messenger’ as it were, let me state clearly and without equivocation that I am an ardent fan of Nigerian football and particularly of the senior men’s national team, the Super Eagles. Henry Nwosu’s disallowed goal against Cameroon, when the African Cup of Nations was played in Morocco, in 1988 was and is still one of my earliest and most abiding memories of the Super Eagles who were known then as the Green Eagles. Who can forget how close we came to beating Italy in USA ’94? The look on Ariggo Sacchi’s face, the veins in his neck bulging, as he harangued his players during that game still registers. Of course, Nigeria’s improbable AFCON victory in 2013, under the leadership of coach Stephen Keshi is still a source of pride and, as the Super Eagles flounder, some comfort.

Permit me, as I continue this discourse to state a few obscure facts. No foreign coach has ever won the world cup. From Albert Horatio Supicci of Uruguay in 1930 to Joachim Low of Germany in 2014, the world cup has been contested and won twenty times. Every coach who has won it was a native to the nation he led. That fact is as revealing as it is surprising. It suggests for one, that the countries at the top of the game, particularly the ones who have enjoyed consistent success at the highest level, have a policy of hiring their own countrymen to coach their national teams. It would also seem that this deliberate exclusive hiring practice is a major factor for world cup success.

To wit, of the twenty times the World Cup has been contested, three countries have won it a combined total of thirteen times; Brazil with five wins, Italy with four and Germany with four, account for more than half of the total victories on record. It is on the strength of this historical dominance of the game that these countries are regarded and acclaimed, as it’s super powers and best exponents. Lesser known however, is a singular and particular similarity that this accomplished triad, share. None of them have ever employed a foreign coach. Never in the football history of Brazil, Italy or Germany has a foreign coach been hired. This amounts to more than three hundred years combined, when you add up the number of years these countries have kept coaching records.

Nigeria is not without accomplished indigenous coaches. Two of these our heroes recently sadly past, Shuaibu Amodu and Stephen Keshi have demonstrated a high level of competence in the coaching of the Super Eagles. Stephen Keshi in particular has been stellar. He is the first African to ever coach a team in the knock out stages of the world cup. An African Nations Cup winner as a player and coach, he is the first Nigerian and second African to achieve that feat. It bears remembering that Keshi’s Super Eagles went on an eighteen game stretch, almost two years, without losing a game. The longest such streak in the history of Nigerian football. There is more, but suffice it to say, that Keshi has been the best coach of the Super Eagles bar none.

The value of Keshi’s contribution to Nigerian football can also be measured in pecuniary terms. In a hasty agreement to coach Nigeria for about five months in early 2010, Coach Lars Lagerback was contracted for the whopping sum of $1.5 million amounting to about $300,000 per month. Keshi by comparison was paid N5 million a month or about $31,000, at the prevailing exchange rate of the time, almost exactly one tenth of what Lars Lagerback was paid. At that rate, it would have taken Keshi four years, to earn as much as Lagerback earned in five months! Spare a moment to digest the mind-boggling disparity and the obscene affinity and gross overvaluation of all things foreign by our football administrators this comparison unequivocally portends. Then, consider that Keshi’s return on investment was just massive, perhaps the best in the world. As a matter of accidental fiscal prudence, Keshi was a historic bargain.

Given the foregoing, one might ask if there aren’t any more Amodus and Keshis among us. As things stands now, we may never know because the Nigerian Football Federation and its Chairman, Amaju Pinnick are adamant about hiring a foreign coach. On August 9, 2016, the NFF announced the hire of Gernot Rohr as the new Super Eagles ‘Technical Adviser’. The semantic sleight of hand deceives no one. One might even ask why we need a technical adviser since we already have a ‘Chief Coach’ in Salisu Yussuf. Rohr is to be paid $40,000 per month according to reports. Money we are told the NFF went to great lengths to obtain through sponsors. One wonders why Mr. Pinnick would not do the same for Salisu Yusuf, our Chief Coach? Why wasn’t any sponsorship arrangement made for Keshi, Amodu, Siasia or Oliseh? The NFF brass hosted the new FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, at great expense and yet our local coaches including those who have been frustrated from their jobs are still being owed. If fact only a few weeks after that well publicized event, the Under-23 Nigeria Olympic Team was stranded in Atlanta, only to be rescued by an American airline.

And yet again, we are on the familiar path of giving our glory away to foreigners and selling our birthright for a piece of bread. And how long will we persist in this manner? We cannot continue repeating the mistakes of the past and think we will prosper. We are consistently regaled by senior NFF officials of the paucity of funds to run a robust football program. If this excuse is to have any validity, why are we paying Mr. Rohr in scarce and costly foreign currency? And why does it seem like in the midst of avowed want and scarcity the NFF brass seems to always find a way to pay for things like hosting the FIFA President? It would appear that the NFF are quite capable of obtaining short term objectives that is a priority for them while they reserve the oft-used tired excuse for matters and objects not do not directly benefit them. So, they serve themselves and make excuses for everything else. No wonder, our football continues to flounder around the same basic issues with no prospect of progress in sight.

Similarly, and even more damaging, the Amaju Pinnick led NFF views the succession of local coaches the Super Eagles has had since 2010 as a mere experiment. One that can be set aside for assumed expediency. What is standard practice in the most successful football countries in the world is an inconvenience and a limitation on the means for extracting pecuniary advantage in Nigeria. Weighed in the scurrilous scales of the NFF, a time tested long-term strategy will always be crassly jettisoned for one that will confer dubious short-term benefit. One wonders if what we really need isn’t a foreign NFF. I will take the German FA over the current visionless and venal lot. On the merits, having a German FA makes more sense than having a German coach. Seriously though, given this incredibly low bar, I cannot but hope that the next NFF administration will be better than this one. I am confident they are far better administrators waiting in the wings. The NFF class of 2018 is a write-off and so are Nigeria’s chances of qualifying for the world cup to be played that same year.

I have therefore come to the sad conclusion that Nigeria will not qualify for the world cup in Russia. The significant moral deficit implicit in paying sponsorship dollars for a foreign technical adviser (never mind the false distinction) while the entire cadre of local coaches remains unpaid has not escaped the notice of providence. The consistent maltreatment and injustices done to our recently departed coaches – Stephen Okechukwu Keshi and Shuaibu Amodu – will speak when we file out and put our hands on our chest to sing how the labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain, and the prayers of the wives and children of the coaches and staff being owed, past and present, dead and alive, while we pay yet another foreign coach in dollars will surely reach God’s ears. We will not qualify and we do not deserve to.

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Article written by Ebere Nwankpa

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