By Adepoju Paul Olusegun
Several days before the senior national football team (the Super Eagles) filed out at the main bowl of Abuja National Stadium to take on the Guineans under the scorching Abuja’s afternoon sun, many Nigerians who followed the evolving dangerous melodrama that transpired between the players and Coach Samson Siasia would have predicted that the aftermath, without serious external interventions, would foretell perdition for Nigerian football in general. And at the blast of the final whistle, they were proven right.
When SiaOne came onboard, many saw him (and still see him) as the panacea to our metastatic sports syndrome; quite understandable for a coach with replete experience and exposure at the highest stage. He started on the right tone until the Enyeama face off which could be described as the major clog in the well oiled wheels of Siasia’s automobile. A fair assessment of the crisis that was an offshoot of the misunderstanding between the coach and the nation’s number one goalkeeper reveals that both parties had valid arguments to justify their respective stances, hence the need for a mediator.
The Coach’s Perspective
Expectedly, the coach of any team is expected to command the respect of his team as well as lead them to victories or guide them through defeats as the case might be. Being the first scapegoat when things go wrong, the coach takes the final decision and selecting who plays is just one of the numerous only me tasks that the coach undertakes. In return, his players ought to listen to him and hearken to his instructions.
In terms of motivation, the coach should know how to encourage his team – collectively, and his players – individually, to attain maximum efficiency. This is often achieved when there is good and effective communication between the players and the coaching crew. But when such communication is severed, there is need for a decisive intervention to restore decorum in the team.
Experienced coaches know how to gain and regain the trust of their players, and they know the right buttons to push to motivate their ensembles to succeed. Jose Mouurinho is one of such great coaches. When he was coaching Chelsea football club for instance, he made it impossible for the team to lose on home grounds, and made hell out of the lives of great players in other teams. Cristiano Ronaldo was one of his numerous targets for disdain comments. But when Jose assumed duty as the head at Real Madrid, and C. Ronaldo’s coach, he became the player’s number one fan.
Everywhere a good coach goes he legendarily transforms the team and makes them a global soccer force to reckon with. I’m not saying we should hire Jose Mourinho, but that our coaches should understudy him and learn as much as possible so that they can fathom how to manage their players.
Something definitely led to the breach of trust between Siasia and his players. But instead of uniting all parties, he adopted Karl Max’s “divide and rule” rule. He pardoned some, and punished some. He chose personal quest for respect over national pride since he paraded the players that kissed his feet.
The Players’ Dimension
Like some sports analysts rightly said, the Super Eagles players might have lost the match intentionally so that the football house would sack the coach. They also had every reason to be mad at the coach. They team has been together for years, several years before the coach came on board. And will definitely be together after the football decides the coach’s services are no longer needed.
As citizens of a democratic nation, they have every right to protest and make known their grievances when dissatisfied without the fear of being kicked out of the team. They’ve also realized that they have the right Nigerian exit button to push that will send any over assuming coach packing without incurring personal injuries except short-lived tirades by writers like Complete Sports’ Mumini Alao. They evidently stuck with the team’s anointed Pastor Vincent Enyeama.
The glasshouse evidently looked on as the team’s internal crisis deepened to the extent that players are possibly losing matches intentionally. To speak in their favor, the decision of NFF stalwarts like Adegboye Onigbinde not to interfere could have stemmed from previous public outcries and media rejection of the glasshouse’s interferences and impositions. It clearly washed its hands off much blames.
The Media Effect
Nigerian sports journalists were also instrumental to the colossal failure of the senior national team to qualify for the continental championship. None of our erudite sports editors saw anything wrong with the team’s imminent implosion although the same set of journalists made hell out of Berti Vogt’s tenure. They saw everything wrong from his resume to his date of resumption.
Why didn’t they subject Siasia to the same thorough scrutiny they gave to past coaches? Siasia evidently had them all on his side. They wrote copiously about him and spoke glowingly of his CV when he was just an applicant. They got him the job and abandoned the major reason for the unusual media interest which was to rebuild the national team.
Every inch of my body is furious – just like that of every football-loving Nigerian. The traditional approach would be to fire Siasia and hire Sunday Oliseh or any other prospective indigenous coach. But we need to stop, or halt this terrible trend that has proven counterproductive for our football. We can’t be hiring and firing every time, hence firing coach Siasia shouldn’t be on the table. I think we should decide to soar or sink with SiaOne.
Assurance of job security is something that would help the coach to focus on the task of cleaning the team’s mess and rebuilding the team. In return, he should set all grievances aside and choose thirty sensational gifted players that he knows will get us laurels in the nearest future and at the highest level. He should then reach out to the players, make them realize the nation needs them. And that he also needs them too to be successful. He should find means of making peace with those who have scores of issues against him. Furthermore, he should stop acting as their dad; many of them are heads of families. His priority should be to ensure that the very best are on the pitch, not on the sidelines because they refused to prostrate before him every morning.
Many are calling for home-based players who are desperate to shine and outshine their foreign-based colleagues. But the truth is that we don’t have much option back home. Our local league sucks and we don’t have a good football talent discovery system in place hence we still have to rely on foreign clubs whose scouts are fishing out Nigerian footballers all over the world and are retraining them to meet international expectations.
Although Nigerians appreciate the football house’s decision to hands off the senior national team, at least publicly, abandoning it during crises is a colossal travesty. They should be fixing problems not leaving them with the coach to fix. The football house should be the emissary between warring factions when trouble rears its ugly head within the team. The house should ensure that inasmuch as they all carry Nigerian passports, members of the national team place the nation above self.
This is the concept that is very foreign, a song that is very unpopular and a message that is stale, not only with the footballers, but almost everyone that has been chosen, elected or selected to represent us as a nation. We lack men who truly love the nation enough to serve it wholeheartedly. Therefore, threatening Coach Siasia with the dangling axe won’t resolve the unfortunate dilemma.