The NFF’s appointment of Sunday Oliseh as the new head coach of the Super Eagles has been met with mixed reactions.
However, the Delta State native’s nomination should have been received with optimism, with no reason for pessimism.
He might not have a lot of managerial experience, spending more time behind the camera in the studio, but who else could have taken the job?
Certainly not Shaibu Amodu, nor ex-bosses Christian Chukwu, Augustine Eguavoen, Samson Siasia or Festus Onigbinde. All these men achieved little success and it’s really not worth going back to one’s vomit.
Nigeria are in dire need of a reawakening following the misadventures of Stephen Keshi.
A position of 57th in the world and 10th in Africa in the current FIFA rankings, behind the likes of tiny island Cape Verde and Congo, is not a good projection for the proclaimed ‘Giant of Africa’.
Oliseh might have played for the glamour teams of Ajax Amsterdam, Juventus and Borussia Dortmund, that each won the UEFA Champions League in 1995, 1996 and 1997 respectively, he might have obtained the necessary coaching batches and might have given sound analysis of the game on Supersport and have fluency in several foreign languages, but that in no way is a prerequisite to getting one of Africa’s toughest jobs.
Will Oliseh's achievements as a player count for anything as national team coach?
There is need for optimism for Oliseh’s appointment, not because he is the rightful person (how he takes the reins will determine that) but there is the need for Nigeria to grow its talent.
If Nigeria are supposed to be the ‘Giant of Africa’ there is nothing that shows more pride of being a giant than when you have your product taking the lead.
The Super Eagles’ past achievements happened under foreign men who were not even Africans.
Stephen Keshi, as a local product, matched the feats of his predecessors, and it’s better that we continue in that trend.
The success of many African teams has traditionally lain in the hands of foreign men; think Herve Renard for Zambia and Ivory Coast after their long quest for AFCON glory, Roger Lemerre for Tunisia, Claude Le Roy for Cameroon and, of course, Clemens Westerhof for Nigeria.
Having these coaches comes at a very huge cost, making the concerned FAs dig deep into their pockets to give them bumper pays they might not have earned in Europe or elsewhere.
And not all foreign coaches have recorded success either, some having ill-fated managerial spells.
Of such was Carlos Alberto Pereira, winner of the 1994 World Cup for Brazil. He was charged with leading South Africa to the 2010 World Cup on home turf but it ended in agony, exiting the tournament from the group stage.
Others include Frenchman Henri Michel who had a short stint with Tunisia after a poor showing at the 2002 Afcon. Another man is American Bob Bradley who, despite the admiration he received for residing in Egypt in the wake of political turmoil, failed to lead the Pharaohs to the 2013 Afcon.
Has Westerhof's early success made life harder for local coaches?
Coming down to Nigeria, Euro 1996-winning coach Berti Vogts achieved nothing meaningful for the Super Eagles. Nor did Swede Lars Lagerback.
These were men all on massive salaries but nothing spectacular to show for them.
Success doesn’t necessarily need to be built on another person’s success. It could start from the scratch and then build on from there.
That is what Nigeria need at this moment. We need to build up its talent to return to the top of football in Africa. Oliseh’s appointment is a starting point, and the whole Nigerian nation should rally round him so he can bring out the best in himself and the Super Eagles. He might be a rookie, but rookie managers have been known to bring instant success.
Pep Guardiola and Garry Monk come to mind at club level. Guardiola led Barcelona to an unprecedented sextuple at the first attempt in 2008/2009 and Monk took Swansea City to its highest position and record-points total in the English top flight last term. At national team level, three Germans in Franz Beckenbauer, Rudolf Voller and Jurgen Klinsmann achieved success in their debuts as managers for Die Mannschaft…such feats are not impossible.
One never knows, but Oliseh could get continental acclaim and be wanted by other African teams just like Keshi is being touted for the Ivory Coast job and has been linked to other top African teams in the past.
Oliseh might be unproven, but it’s worth watching by giving him a chance to see what he can deliver.