Beginning from Nations Cup, World Cup qualifier games to making sure that Nigeria performs optimally in all competitions proper with the quality of players he plans to engage, the stage is now set for brand new Super Eagles Head Coach, Sunday Oliseh, to show the stuff he is made of, writes IKENNA OKONKWO
With the second Nations Cup qualifier encounter between Nigeria and Tanzania drawing near, there are indications that the new Super Eagles handler, Sunday Oliseh has been engulfed in tight selection predicament. Actually, on the day he was presented by the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, Oliseh, former senior national team captain claimed he already have a collection of players to be invited to camp for any immediate team engagement and that any player who would be eventually invited must among those plying their trade in top division leagues around the world.
Though he made it clear that players who grew from Nigeria’s U-17 to U-23 teams are exempted, the Delta-born manager has in less than two weeks after he was sworn in admitted that he would equally make do with goal keepers in second division league because according to him, “they are special breeds”.
Ordinarily, an average Nigerian football follower never expected that Oliseh would eventually become Super Eagles Manager even at the point NFF announced him as Stephen Keshi’s successor. Reason – Oliseh has severally backed out of coaching Nigeria’s Senior National Team whenever he analyses round leather games especially when he talks about African soccer.
Whether he would become the handler of a team he once captained is now a thing of the past after NFF handed the job to him and announced that it has gone ahead to pay him three months’ salary in advance. With the expectations of Nigerians rising by the day perhaps due to the way he has conformed himself to talking deep into football or his antecedent as a player, all eyes are him to deliver.
AFCON’s tough task
The very first challenge before the Belgium-based coach would be to make sure Nigeria qualify for 2017 Nations Cup and go as far as playing till semi-final of same competition.
Should he succeed at AFCON, he would equally need to galvanise tactical initiative that would eventually make Super Eagles surpass their previous performance at World Cup after they might have qualified for 2018 showdown.
Though some of the football pundits who bared their minds on what to expect from Oliseh are of the view that he would succeed, others are of opinion that he could only get things right if sets his priority right. They maintained that as new Super Eagles gaffer, no bias should be noticed in his selection process even when he picks from both home-based and foreign players.
First to speak was ex-Nigerian born international, John Fashanu who remarked “What we are looking for is for Sunday to go in search of Nigerian good players all over the world and in Nigeria and merge them together. That was what Stephen Keshi did.”
On the early pronouncement by the former Super Eagles captain that he would prefer to invite players who ply their trade in top division leagues, Fashanu disagreed saying “When he said he will select player from credible league or clubs, it sounds good but there are some good players who play in the so-called non-credible leagues. So he needs to galvanise a good network that will link up with good players. Big or small clubs, it doesn’t matter. “John fashanu was playing for the smallest club in a premiership but was the highest goal scorer in the league. So it doesn’t matter where you play.
“Technically, things will be difficult for Sunday because there are lots of players who may not understand his formation. These players may be good player but when a player is playing in a position he doesn’t understand, it makes him a bad player.”
`Nigeria missed out of 2015 AFCON after winning 2013 edition and are desperate to regain its place in the continental soccer.
However former Green Eagles gaffer Chritian Chukwu expressed confidence in the ability of Oliseh to restore the Nation’s winning pattern during his reign as Eagles’ handler.
He said “Oliseh and his players should not underrate Tanzania. It’s better to plan better and score more goals against your opponent than to be caught unaware just like what happened during last Nations Cup qualifier against Congo that made us not to qualify.
“Oliseh is more qualified to lead Super Eagles. What experience does he need to get? He has played under top coaches. He has gone for coaching course. He captained the national team. the difference is that People are looking at coaching Super Eagles as when you come in the morning you teach them how to head ball and do certain elementary things, that’s not so.
“A national team requires a good manager and I believe that Oliseh will be one of the good coaches we will produce in this country. The mistake Keshi made like every other coach was that he did not qualify us for Nations Cup. And in his contract it is stated that if you don’t qualify us, you go. There is no other mistake”, he said.
Coach Oliseh, ex-Eagles captain is expected to release the list of players who would prosecute next qualifier match against Tanzania. On the pronouncement by the new Super Eagles gaffer that he would only focus on established players in top division clubs, Chukwu opined “I’m sure he made that statement ahead of the match against Tanzania where he wants to use top players to execute the game. I believe after that he will come back to grassroots. He just has to build a strong team for us from the grassroots.”
On his part, NFF President Amaju Pinnick insisted that “I absolutely feel that we have made the right choice by picking Oliseh to handle the Super Eagles. In this age of technological advancement, we must start doing things differently. We need a coach with sound intellectual capacity and one who has the highest coaching certificate.
“He is working with FIFA at the technical study group. The world recognises him and FIFA even recommended him. He has the passion to coach the Eagles and that is also important for us. “On his lack of experience, Nigerians must realise that he’s not the first to be first named in the world. Berti Vogts and Juergen Klinsmann didn’t have experience when they were appointed, so why the noise about Oliseh”, asked Pinnick rhetorically.
Oliseh will take charge of his first Nigeria game in September when the Super Eagles take on Tanzania in Dar es Salaam in a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match.
Beyond qualifying Nigeria to be at Gabon, venue of 2017 AFCON, he is equally expected to guide the team till the semi-final stage of the competition just as the onus lies on him to make sure Nigeria go pass round of 16 at 2018 World Cup in accordance with the mandate handed over to him by NFF.
Oliseh/NFF: A waiting time bomb?
Like his predecessors, many are of the view that Oliseh could encounter some not too smooth relation with his employers in no long distant time. Their conclusion stems from the fact that virtually no Super Eagles coach in the past managed Nigerian team without one form of altercation or the other.
Fashanu, a former Wimbledon and Aston Villa player believed “If there is problem in the highest level of world football which is FIFA, there will be problem at the lowest level which is NFF. And I keep saying it, there will always be problem in NFF because of the People who are there don’t have soccer knowledge. Most of them are going into administration for the first time.
“Even when they removed Keshi and brought in Sunday, there will still be problem…The new players coming in May like Sunday while the old boys may prefer Keshi.”
Again, there have been instances in the past, when some top officials of NFF were accused of imposing players on National team coaches even as football agents strive to make sure that their players are smuggled into the country’s most rated soccer brand, Super Eagles. But Oliseh who has been known for his blunt approach to issues had dismissed such previous occurrences saying “I don’t want to believe that players and their agents bribe coaches to make the national team, but if it is true that it happens like the media has reported, I will say it is most unfortunate.
“I will not condone that. I am even too big to be bribed by any player. If it was so before, that era is gone because only the best will play for the Eagles,” he said. Oliseh has a UEFA Pro Licence certificate, regarded as the highest coaching certificate in the world but comes with a baggage of no experience managing a top team in Europe, Africa, America and no particular experience coaching of a junior national side