Littered with Failure

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

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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of their abilities every match, even when the tactics are wrong, they are used wrongly, or played out of position in an outdated and inefficient system that the boss favours despite evidence that it doesnʼt work.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.

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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.

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Shambles (Part Four) – Approach and Insult

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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

Demotion

Shuaibu Amodu was demoted to manage the Super-Eagles B – the home-based side – a month ago, within a week of the African Cup Nations concluding in Angola with Nigeria coming third. Amodus football convinced few, but was effective. They were hard to beat, but probably would not have won the tournament even if they had beaten Ghana in their semi-final as Hassan Shehatas incomparable Pharaohs side had already beaten them in the group stage and would have been their opponents in the final in Luanda.

The search for a new coach began soon afterward. Almost as soon as the tournament ended Shehata revealed to Egyptian media that the Nigeria FA had approached him regarding coaching the Super-Eagles at the World Cup on a temporary basis.

The Egyptian FA was not keen and initially refused, but eventually respected Shehata’s wishes and allowed the Nigerians to talk to him. Shehata is one of the greatest coaches in African history, if not the greatest – failing to qualify for the World Cup remains the one major blip on his CV.

Legend

Nevertheless, Shehata is an African legend. No other coach has come close to winning the African Cup of Nations thrice in a row. Only Nana Kumi Gyamfi (formerly known as Charles) has won it thrice. Gyamfi is the only coach to have retained it or even won it twice apart from Shehata.

He is terrific”, Gyamfi told us exclusively. “I know very well that he knows how to handle them. I was looking at him very carefully with football eyes and during the game also where he stands. I was watching critically whatever he does and taking note. This man is a good coach. He is good with the team if he only gets the time”.

Gyamfi’s approval is important in Africa and Shehata has that. The Egyptian FA eventually allowed their Nigerian counterparts to speak to Shehata on the strict understanding that it was for the World Cup alone. Shehata was keen, but the Egyptian FA took offence on his behalf at the conditions.

Insulting

They believed it disrespectful to a coach that had achieved so much – more than all the other candidates put together – to subject him to the indignity of an interview after the Nigerians had approached him first.

On February 16th the Egyptian FA informed the Nigerians that they had until the 19th to make an offer for Shehata. They spoke to the Egyptian tactician and told him that he could have his own assistants if he wanted. However, they insisted on interviewing other candidates as well. No offer was made by the deadline imposed by the President of the Egyptian FA Samir Zaher.

This meant that despite Shehata’s extensive experience and knowledge of African conditions and football, he would not coach the Super-Eagles at the World Cup. The Nigerian FA had found a way to fail to land the greatest African coach of the last four decades – possibly ever – and insult him in the process. It was a disgraceful way to treat an African football legend.

Shambles (Part Three) – Picking at Scabs

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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?

Shambles (Part One) – Self-inflicted

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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

Growth Pangs

Former Super-Eagles coach Shuaibu Amodu has critics – several of them – especially in Nigeria, but did he deserve his fate? He managed to staunch the bleeding from the Berti Vogts era and did so quickly. The German richly deserved his fate after achieving one of the worst showings that the Super-Eagles had managed in the finals of the African Cup of Nations in 2008.

I think it was the wrong decision, because they had a coach who was successful”, said African legend Kalusha Bwalya. “Iʼm sure they had their own reasons, but from my point of view I think it was not a good decision, because even if he was a good coach in Germany, he does not know African football as well as [Augustine] Eguavoen after everything that Eguavoen has done with this team. If anything it harmed the harmony that Eguavoen had, so they started a new campaign going in with somebody who had no prior knowledge of working in Africa and also his record is not something to marvel at”.

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The African Mentality

The great Ghanaian coach Cecil Jones Attuquayefio goes further. “It is difficult to understand it”, he said about the decision to hire Vogts – the man who turned the Super-Eagles into the Super-Chickens. “I have narrated lots of examples that show we have problems with Africans. It is the African mentality throughout the whole of Africa”.

His denunciation is reasoned and justified. “For too long it has affected the whole of Africa, because if you ask for Bertie Vogts – if you are going to contract a coach – you need to look at his background”, he says. “You want to look at his achievements. You want to look at the work he can do for you – if he has done it before – and if Nigerians were able to gather all this information and still come to the conclusion that he is the right man, then you are searching for the reason and you cannot find it anywhere”.

Older and Wiser

Vogts spell in charge of Nigeria was disastrous to put it mildly. Shortly after they were eliminated by the hosts Ghana in 2008, Vogts resigned. Augustine Eguavoen, who had been demoted to serve as Vogts’ assistant was also sacked, despite having achieved greater success at the African Cup of Nations in Egypt in 2006. Local coach James Peters was given temporary charge before the Nigerian FA turned to Shuaibu Amodu for the fourth time in April 2008.

Amodu – older and wiser – was a safe pair of hands. He was the last coach to qualify the Super-Eagles for the World Cup, but he was denied the chance to lead the team in South Korea and Japan. Festus Adegboyega Onigbinde wasted that opportunity.

Amodu remained his own man and despite a superb record in the first phase of qualification, which helped to eliminate World Cup hosts South Africa from the African Cup of Nations, Amodu was never fully accepted by Nigerian fans and media alike. Eventually, he would pay the price as the African Mentality asserted itself again.