Littered with Failure

by Segun Odegbami © Segun Odegbami (March 20th 2015)

CIMG8139

Over-rated and Over-paid

I admit straight away that I am heading into a minefield of trouble writing today about coaches – for footballers, born ad bred in Africa, those termed managers in England for example are called coaches, so for readers in England especially, I am not talking about the men and women who work with players on technique and much much more, often for poor reward and unsociable hours.

Their work is under-rated and underpaid. I am not talking about them, I am talking about the bosses, gaffers, etc. I do not really like discussing them. I think they earn too much money for the work that they do. In short, I think that their work is over-rated and over-paid as players do most of the work that counts – on the pitch. It is they who must perform to top of their abilities every match, even when the tactics are wrong, they are used wrongly, or played out of position in an outdated and inefficient system that the boss favours despite evidence that it doesnʼt work.

Bluff and Bluster

Coaches dramatise most of the time that the players are playing to instruction when the team is winning, and not playing to instruction when they are losing. They act out their script in the full glare of television, standing by the sidelines, pretending to be taking down notes – those are the smart ones. They scream out instructions that no one on the field hears or understands, and impact little on how the players play.

They ‘pretend’ to those that pay them humongous wages and the fans that ‘hire and fire’ them that they are ‘conducting’ things on the field of play with their sideline dramatisation of moods, and play mental games with referees. From their field-level position by the sideline they have the poorest view of the game and yet they have the final say on their team.

They talk and bluff their way to millions of Dollars, hopping from one failed coaching job to another. They know how to play the media particularly after winning one or two trophies and thereafter earn those outrageously high wages.  

The world of football is full of them – failed coaches!

Extra Dimension

Do not get me wrong, I love coaches. As players we were forced to develop a ‘love’ relationship with them because they held our careers in their hands. That’s why you would hardly ever hear a player criticise or condemn his coach even when he knows the coach may be the worst in the world.

We had a great example in Nigeria. Throughout his coaching stint in the national team none of the players (including those that had trained under obviously much better coaches in Europe) was brave enough to tell the world that the particular coach was so bad he could not even coach himself to control a ball!

Let me admit again that I have never really thought coaches are as important as football makes them out to be, even if I also concede that without them the game would not be the same because of the extra drama and dimension they bring to the game. A successful coach is one who wins championships consistently. His successes are listed in the number of laurels and silverware in his chest of trophies.

A good coach is one who produces teams that often play well, always come close to winning trophies, indeed occasionally win one, but manage to leave their imprint on their teams. There are very few truly successful coaches in the world. You can almost list them on your fingertips. Two excellent examples are José Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson. Another is the recently retired German maestro Jupp Heynckes.

CIMG9334

The Mark of Success

I was actually looking at Mourinho’s records recently and found that since 2000 when he started his coaching career in Portugal he may only have failed to win a trophy twice in the years from then till now, for the different clubs he coached. That is consistency, the true mark of a successful coach who knows how to win trophies and championships.

Good coaches are also few. In this group would be Arsenal’s Arsène Wenger and Manchester United’s Louis van Gaal. They do not win enough trophies consistently to be listed as ‘successful’ in my humble estimation, even if the rest of the world may think otherwise.

Take Wenger. Many of his fans will swear he is one of the best coaches in Europe, if not the world. But his true worth is diminished with the epilepsy of his winning trophies. Until the FA Cup of last season Wenger has failed to win anything for Arsenal in almost a decade!

Successful coaches necessarily double as good coaches! Good coaches are not necessarily successful. Consistently winning trophies makes the difference.

Most other coaches do not fall within either of the two categories above. They are part of the larger population of ‘failed’ coaches! They are the steppingstones for successful coaches! You find them in most teams, hardly ever winning anything, and always been hired and fired during the seasons.

The Nigerian Example

Let me play a dangerous game here and look at the Nigerian experience. I looked through the history of coaches that have handled Nigeria’s team in the past and started to wonder how they ever got there in the first place.

That's Better, Siasia smiles

What made Berti Vogts, Bora Milutinović, Festus Onigbinde, Shuaibu Amodu, Samson Siasia, Lars Lagerbäck, and many others qualified to coach the team? Were they successful, good or failed coaches at the points of their engagement? Take Clemens Westerhof for example. Although he certainly played a part in Nigeriaʼs second success in the African Cup of Nations in 1994, on what basis was he hired in 1990?

He was a nobody in coaching before he got the job. He spent 5 years before he won the African Cup of Nations and led Nigeria to qualify for the country’s first World Cup. By all standards that is a great achievement that should define the man. But it did not.

It has been 20 years since he left the country. In that time he has coached other teams and won absolutely nothing. He has not even remotely come close to his Nigerian ‘achievements’.

Culprits

So who is that coach who would take on any team and transform them into winners? That’s the man African countries need – a coach with records of tangible achievements that can be counted in trophies and cups, and not one that has no records of any sort, or has Pyrrhic records!

By the way, I am just ranting about coaches after watching Mourinho lose to Laurent Blanc in the European Champions League. What a ‘bad’ match that was with the referee, Bjorn Kuipers – referee with previous form of controversies – as the worst culprit on the night.

Advertisements

Shambles (Part Six) – Vogts Mark Two?

CIMG6619

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (March 6th 2010)

Editorʼs Note

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.

Derek Miller

Insult to Injury

The rejection of Shehata by the Nigerian FA opened the path for the other candidates – white Europeans. The Serb, Ratomir Dujković: Swede, Lars Lagerbäck, Englishman Peter Taylor and Frenchman Bruno Metsu would battle it out in the interview process.

Dujković’s credentials appeared the best suited to Nigeria’s needs at first glance. He had experience in Africa and had led Ghana to the last World Cup, but failed to credit of local coaches including Cecil Jones Attuquayefio. Ghana was the only African team to reach the knock-out stage in Germany.

Nevertheless, his successor Claude le Roy achieved more in the African Cup of Nations in Ghana and compatriot Milovan Rajevac surprised many by guiding Ghana to the World Cup in South Africa and an unexpected second place in the African Cup of Nations in Angola.

The Swede

Lagerbäck progressed through the ranks of coaching in Sweden from 1990 from junior level to assistant to joint coach until he landed the top job in his own right when Tommy Söderberg left to coach the Under-21 team in 2004. Lagerbäck led Sweden to the World Cup in 2006 and European Championships in 2008, but failed to make a great impression in either tournament.

He resigned in 2009 after Sweden failed to qualify for the World Cup – not even making it to the generous play-off system that Europe enjoys where eight second place teams compete for four places.1 Sweden came third in their group.

Lagerbäck took responsibility, but thanks to Nigeria he had a chance to go to the World Cup while Sweden’s players and fans stayed in Scandinavia. Lagerbäck completed his CV with having absolutely no experience of African football, let alone Nigerian.

Inexperienced

But Lagerbäck at least had some relevant experience. Peter Taylor’s international experience was laughable compared to Shehata. He had two spells in charge of England’s Under-21 team and was caretaker manager of the national side in 2000. Apart from that he had plenty of managerial experience in English football throughout the leagues.

He is currently manager of Bradford City in Division Two – previously the Fourth Division.. How this qualified him to be mentioned in the same breath as Shehata, let alone for the Super-Eagles job, is known only to the Nigerian FA.

The Best Candidate

The final candidate, Bruno Metsu, ironically was by far the best suited for the job and consequently was the least known of them outside of Africa. Metsu is the only one bar Shehata to have extensive experience of coaching in Africa. He was in charge of Guinea in 2000 before accepting the job with Senegal, later that year.

He led the tiny West-African nation to the World Cup in 2002. Metsu master-minded the defeat of World and European champions France – the land of his birth by drilling Senegalese players on the weaknesses of the French rather than their own strengths.

Senegal bade a fond farewell to Asia’s World Cup after matching Cameroun’s achievement of reaching the quarter-final. The country’s President Abdoulaye Wade declared a national holiday to celebrate the victory over France. Metsu married a Muslim woman and converted – he is also known as Abdul Karim.

The African Mentality

Metsu left Africa to coach in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and briefly Saudi Arabia. He is currently the national coach of Qatar – a position that he has occupied since 2008. Metsu has experience of both African football and experience of the World Cup with an African team – having led Senegal to the best finish by an African nation in the World Cup in recent years.

Appointing Metsu would have made sense, but he was an outsider and did not get the job. On February 26th the Nigerian FA appointed Lagerbäck. The absurdity of the African Mentality had struck again.

1 Every confederation bar Africa is involved in play-offs for the best teams that fail to qualify automatically. Of those only Europe competes against itself and has four automatic places at the World Cup. Asia, South America, CONCACAF and Oceania have half a place each.

Shambles (Part Three) – Picking at Scabs

CIMG6619

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (March 5th 2010)

Editorʼs Note

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.

Derek Miller

Bitter Pill

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 Asias 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.

African Legend

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”.

Repetitive Cycle

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.

Shambles (Part Two) – Repetition

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (March 4th 2010)

Editorʼs Note

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.

Derek Miller

Restoring Pride

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.

The Circle

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?

Mouthwatering

by Segun Odegbami © Segun Odegbami (October 24th 2014)

Segun at Wembley

El Classico – Another War

This weekend there is going to be another battle of epic proportions. It will be fought between two of the biggest and most powerful ‘armies’ in the world. The battleground is the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, home of Real Madrid Football Club. The invading ‘army’ is, in my humble estimation, the greatest team ever – Barçelona FC!

Leading Real Madrid and Barçelona are with respect to Zlatan Ibrahimović and others the two greatest footballers of their generation – Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. At stake are the crowns of ‘best team in La Liga’ and the ‘best player in the world’. In the past 6 years these players have held the title of the world’s best player in a vice – Messi four times, and Ronaldo twice. 2014 promises to be no different; perhaps it will be the most interesting contest yet as it is far more open than previous contests where one or other seemed the clear winner.

The Battle Lines

This season there appears to be a new edge to the rivalry between the two players. Although they both deny that their rivalry fuels their performances, the truth is that both players have drawn inspiration from each other and have shared the global limelight in almost equal measure because of each other.

Ronaldo, who always seemed to play second fiddle to Messi before the last season, needs to prove a point. Many people believe that although he was brilliant last season for Real Madrid, but in my opinion he won the title of world’s best player more because the world wanted a change from Messi. The mercurial Argentine had monopolized it four consecutive times. Did Ronaldo win because he was clearly better than the little Argentinian, or for changes sake?.

I have watched Ronaldo play this season. He has not been this sharp and focused in a long time. He is playing with a deliberate single-mindedness that convinces me that he has more than just helping Real Madrid FC to win La Liga trophy on his mind. He has ‘Messi must be beaten’ written all over his game.

Messi, on the other hand, has less to prove, but he has shrugged off the rustiness and casual attitude of the World Cup and is playing now with a lot of physicality and uncommon determination. Surely the avalanche of falling records at club, Spanish, European and World levels is propelling him to even greater heights. The list of his established and near-accomplishment records is very long. What must be noted, however, is that between them they have made goal scoring an art form.

Several great players spend a lifetime chasing after recording one hat trick. Ronaldo is about to break an all time La Liga record in that regard. He needs one more hat trick to beat the late great Alfredo di Stéfano and Athletic Bilbao maestro Tello Zarra (Tello Zarraonandia Montoya) – Marcaʼs award for Spanish scorers in La Liga was named after the Athletic Club great. Ronaldo is already in legendary company, three ahead of Messi.

The Supporting Cast?

But tempting as it is to focus on these two great players, El Classico boasts plenty more great players. Gareth Bale is the most expensive footballer on the planet, Karim Benzema is rated by no less an authority than Ronaldo as the best striker in La Liga. Luka Modrić is the cog that makes Real Madrid tick and while finding his feet in a new league Colombian heir apparent James Rodríguez has immense talent and of course thereʼs Sergio Ramos marshalling the defence too. And thatʼs just Real Madrid. Barçelona had a poor season by the their standards last term. It cost current Argentina coach Tata Martino his job. But the Catalans are no one man team. Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta arenʼt just club legends, they are football ones. Neymar is a precocious talent and El Classico is set to witness the La Liga début of former Ajax and Liverpool icon Luis Suárez. Meanwhile another duel with El Classico dimensions to it takes place this weekend too.

Van Gaal versus Mourinho

No roads lead to Rome this weekend and not all roads that will lead to Madrid either. In England Old Trafford is the place Iʼd like to be at as an almost equally important rivalry between two of the BPL’s great teams will be ignited. Manchester United and Chelsea will face off in what promises to be a match up between the coaches – two of the most experienced and renowned football managers in the world – as well as the teams they select.

Louis van Gaal will test his fledging Man U squad against a high riding Chelsea. In this encounter current form would matter little. It is the team that gets its tactics right that will carry the day. Van Gaal is going through a difficult period with his team struggling to find the old rhythm that made Manchester United the most successful team in the history of the Premiership and him one of the most successful coaches around.

Mourinho has donned his armour of confidence and loquacity, and is daring any other team in the premiership to break down his defensive tactics and, at the same time, stop his rampaging forwards. He has been trophyless for two seasons – he doesnʼt like it and seems set to take it out on opponents this season, although he insists that it is far too early to talk about titles. So, this weekend the battle line is drawn between them.

Chaos Theory

It simply would not be Nigerian football if there were no crisis, or at least one around the corner. I truly believed that with the start of the era of Stephen Keshi as manager of the national team Nigeria has seen the last of a foreign coach handling its national team. While Clemens Westerhof was a great success, letʼs not forget the disastrous appointments of Berti Vogts and Lars Lagerbäck, which cast Nigerian football into the doldrums.

We turned to local coaches, eventually settling on Keshi. I thought that Keshi’s generation, with their experiences in Europe and a little training in the coaching techniques, would kick-start the period when only qualified Nigerians would handle Nigeria’s national teams. It should have happened and it still can.

Keshi may have failed in his human relations, and may also have been slightly deficient in some of his tactics, but he surely did better than most of the foreign coaches that Nigeria hired since Westerhof. Success as a coach is measured only with the results of a team. Keshi delivered the African Cup of Nations – the first Nigerian to do so. For that he has our respect and a lasting place of honour in Nigeriaʼs football history.

It would be interesting to see which foreign coach would be hired of all the names being dangled by the media. We are waiting to see, hoping that if it happens it is not Berti Vogts Mark II. Keshi, with all his failings won laurels and went beyond what any coach, local and foreign, had ever done for Nigeria. Of his generation there are a few that could have been challenged to come ‘try their luck’.

Sunday Oliseh is an interesting proposition. His limited experience in handling a big team notwithstanding, his intellect and analytical prowess, which are acknowledged worldwide, should more than be a compensation. Check out several of the best coaches in the world at the moment led by Pep Guardiola, and you would see a trend that swings away from old, retired and tired coaches, local or foreign.

So, a foreign coach? Without great players any coach would ‘fail’. Unfortunately, Nigeria does not have exceptional players in this era. Mark my words: Nigeria would soon be back to square one, looking for an indigenous coach from amongst our own.