by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (March 5th 2010)
We published this series of articles in 2010. With the debate raging over whether English football should implement its version of American Footballʼs Rooney Rule to guarantee black and minority ethnic (BME) candidates an interview for coaching/managerial jobs in the top flight of English football, we decided that the plight of African coaches in their own countries deserved another airing.
Despite achieving the task set for him by the Nigerian FA at the African Cup of Nations, Shuaibu Amodu had a bitter pill to swallow. The third place finish was not enough to save his job. For the second time in his Super-Eagles career as a coach Amodu master-minded the path – albeit rocky – to the World Cup finals only for another coach to make the trip in his place.
It happened to him in 2002 despite achieving third place in the African Cup of Nations in Mali. His previous spells in charge occurred when Nigeria either withdrew from the tournament or were disqualified for withdrawing. Amodu replaced Johannes Bonfrere in 2001, but was sacked shortly after the African Cup of Nations tournament. His replacement, a local coach did a terrible job in Asia’s World Cup.
Bad to Worse
Festus Adegboyega Onigbinde was the wrong choice as coach, but there were other problems as well. Amodu had trained the team – he knew them well. They knew his style of play and it had been far from disastrous. Onigbinde did not know them or have time to develop his ideas with them. It was courting disaster, which to the surprise of virtually nobody, happened. Nigeria departed from that World Cup with just one point in a match that did not matter as their fate had been sealed by two losses after poor performances.
At least Berti Vogts was given time to develop his ideas, but he failed for other reasons. He knew nothing about the country, its culture or Nigerian football. He had his own ideas that he tried to impose on Nigerian football. It failed miserably, as it was doomed to. An African legend detected a bigger problem – one that has infested most of the continent.
“The Nigerians, the Ghanaians and all the other peoples that would rather rely on the white people to do an interesting job – they will not know any other thing,” the only Ghanaian coach to win the African club treble, Cecil Jones Attuquayefio, told us exclusively two years ago. “They will not do any other thing”.
According to Attuquayefio the rot goes deeper. “Let us have the team and they will get the job before they know anything about the football”, Attuquayefio says. “They will go ahead and that is what is happening in Africa. Other than that you have to talk about training. We have to have local experience and better opportunities. We have to have been better than a lot of them, but they come here and the job is there for them”.
He could have been speaking about history repeating itself rather than the dismal record of Berti Vogts as coach of the Super-Eagles and the poor treatment of Augustine Eguavoen. Nevertheless, Amodu saw history repeat itself.
Despite restoring Nigerian pride – making the Super-Eagles soar again after the disastrous reign of Vogts and once again qualifying the team for the World Cup, Shuaibu Amodu will not be in the Nigerian dugout in South Africa’s World Cup either.
After coming third in Angola, Amodu was demoted. He is now in charge of the Super-Eagles B – the Nigeria based players. This is somewhat ironic as Amodu came in for criticism from fans and media alike for ignoring young Nigeria-based players in favour of Europe-based older players, which affected the fluidity of the team’s play.
But Amodu knows Nigerian football and had a team of local coaches to help him. He must be judged on his record and mistakes, but he knows Nigerian football better than virtually any other coach. Amodu’s departure may have been inevitable, but his replacement Lars Lagerbäck shows that the Nigerian FA has learned nothing from the Vogts fiasco.