by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (March 4th 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.
Sexy football it most certainly is not, but that was not Shuaibu Amoduʼs immediate task. He had to restore national pride. The Super-Chickens had to soar once more. Amodu appointed local coaches including former Everton striker Daniel Amokachi, who had walked out of Vogts’ set up accusing the German of treating them like ball-boys.
Vogts knew nothing about Nigeria, its culture, football or local talent when he took over the Super-Eagles. He wanted to impose German organisation onto Nigerian football without the slightest thought of how it would fit.
Farce and Tragedy
Amodu did not make that mistake, but had his own ideas as well. The Nigerian defence was bolstered and became stingy to the point of miserliness as far as conceding was concerned. Nigeria became the Super-Eagles again in the first round of World Cup and African Cup of Nations qualifiers, boasting by far the best record in Africa.
Amodu had restored pride, but as always the Nigerian media was not satisfied. History was about to repeat itself – this time as farce as well as tragedy. He had taken over the Super-Eagles previously from Dutch coach Johannes Bonfrere in April 2001 with Nigeria in danger of failing to qualify for the World Cup in South Korea and Japan.
Amodu avoided that indignity and guided the Super-Eagles to third place in the African Cup of Nations – one place below Bonfrere’s achievement in 2000 when Nigeria co-hosted with Ghana, but controversially lost to Cameroun in the final. Amodu’s reward was the sack in February 2002.
Amodu was replaced by Festus Adegboyega Onigbinde – a local coach who rewarded the faith of the Nigerian FA with the Super-Eagles’ worst performance in the World Cup in 2002 – a first round exit without winning a match, which led to criticism of the coach by Jay-Jay Okocha and Julius Aghahowa. Onigbinde was rapidly sacked.
His replacement Christian Chukwu lasted until 2005 when he failed to qualify the Super-Eagles for the 2006 World Cup. Augustine Eguavoen, Berti Vogts and James Peters came and went, paving the way for the return of Amodu, but he failed to integrate the younger generation of Nigerian players – based in the country – into the national team.
Nevertheless, Amodu just managed to qualify Nigeria for the World Cup. He had made the national team hard to beat, but the football was far from attractive and Amodu was on borrowed time. Even before the African Cup of Nations the Nigerian FA began looking for European coach to lead the Super-Eagles into the World Cup.
Why European? Even if they decided that Amodu could not be trusted at the World Cup – again, why were they seeking a European coach? Why not the best coach for the job, whatever his or her nationality?
Repeating the Cycle of Errors
Despite achieving third place in the African Cup of Nations set by his FA and surpassing Vogts’ finish, Amodu still paid the price of losing his job again. Once again he will miss the World Cup despite qualifying the Super-Eagles for the tournament.
He was demoted rather than fired – almost a worse fate for him – and Nigeria once again turned to European coach who had no experience of African football or knowledge of the country, its culture or even its football, Lars Lagerbäck. Have they learned nothing from the Vogts fiasco just two years earlier?