Nigeria sacks assistant Eagle
Barely two months after winning the prestigious Africa Cup of Nations 2013 (after a 19-year wait) you would expect Nigeria's football governing body to embark on a consolidation policy of the positives as the nation strives to qualify for the upcoming 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Unfortunately, the news I heard when I visited Nigeria last week was troubling to say the least!
Stephen Keshi's trusted right-hand man and assistant coach, Sylvanus Okpara, has been sacked and, to add salt to the wound, Keshi's salary is to be slashed. So instead of being upgraded for winning the Afcon, our chief coach is to take a pay cut.
It is further reported that players’ match bonuses are to be cut in half to save more funds for the federation. The NFF (Nigerian Football Federation) cites lack of funds and a dire need to reduce costs as the sole reason for this maneuver.
Ironically, for a federation said to be facing "austerity", interviews are said to be underway to fill the vacant post of a national technical director. An appointment might have been announced by the time you read this.
Ever since the beautiful victory of Afcon 2013, all that has come out of Nigeria's football has been negative and Nigerians deserve better.
Keshi, the winning coach, threw in the towel and retired, only to go back on his decision.
Our most prolific striker at the moment and, in my opinion, the best striker we have had since the legendary Rashidi Yekini, Emmanuel Emeneke, has cried out at the neglect he has had to endure from the federation, regarding his injury. This was an injury he sustained during the semifinals of the won Afcon, playing for Nigeria!
Captain Yobo is said to be angry and feels disrespected for not being invited for the World Cup qualifier v Kenya.
Kenya came to Nigeria and walked away with a draw. One minute less of extra time and Nigeria would have lost and all of a sudden we are no longer runaway leaders in our group (tied first with Malawi on five points from nine available). Kenya now have reason to believe in their chances of qualification and that has now complicated our chances of World Cup football in 2014.
Of course we were the best team at the Afcon 2013 in South Africa but that was 'yesterday stuff' in football. Today we are now in April and have to confirm our new status.
In football you are as good as your last game and, at the moment, be it on the pitch or at the administrative level, we are far from being Africa's best.
It is no secret that Keshi and the NFF are not the best of friends and his winning of the Afcon definitely 'hurt' some, just as many feel that Keshi's ego and his "bigger than all" personality are a problem to cope with. The fact remains that he is an Afcon-winning coach and some pride or ego should be tolerated. The tools have to be made available to him to help him succeed.
Sacking Keshi's assistant, who is a valuable element to Keshi, a close friend and a useful assistant, is in no way helping Keshi, the Super Eagles or the nation at all. In the contrary, it is definitely going to weaken the Super Eagles.
Some critics believe that is the aim of the recent developments but at the detriment of whom really? Keshi? The players? Nigeria?
The Super Eagles deserve more support and unity now than ever before, since our opponents will now be more motivated than ever.
The coach’s choice of players is also being contested and that is out of place. When will we learn? The coach is free and solely responsible for invited players and Keshi owes no explanation to anyone as to his choice of players, unless he fails. At the moment he is doing well. Why the unnecessary questioning? Thought that was why he was employed, no?
A team that wins Afcon cannot be facing austerity! If you cannot, in this golden modern era, market a winning team via sponsors, advertisements, collaborations and money-bringing promotions after winning Afcon, then I do not understand when our administrators can. This excuse of lack of funds is really non-existent. If it is really the case, then it is rather a case of incompetence in football management (once again).
Personally, I feel Nigerians and Africa deserve an end to this 'amateurish' way of operating. The fans deserve to be spared these useless power struggles. If we do not settle this in-fighting, our opponents, though less endowed, could overpower us and qualify for Brazil 2014.
Kenya was a warning and they are our next opponents as the World Cup qualifiers progress in June. We are warned!