With five titles in the kitty, Nigeria remains the most successful country in the history of FIFA U-17 World Cups. However, the huge success at the cadet level does not rub off positively enough on the country’s fortunes at the senior level.
While many factors have been adduced for this seeming anomaly, one of the country’s foremost coaches, Fanny Amun, explains why things are the way they are. Fanny Amun, who coached the world-conquering Golden Eaglets of 1993, also speaks on the continuous debate for the extension or termination of Gernot Rohr’s contract as the Super Eagles’ coach.
Enjoy excerpts of the interview:
PT: Are you in support of the extension of Coach Gernot Rohr’s contract or you think the NFF should look elsewhere for a replacement to handle the Super Eagles Coach?
Amun: On Coach Rohr, I might not be the right person to speak on his case. He was employed and given his mandate. I know that if he has not delivered on his mandate, the issue of renegotiating his contract might not be there.
Every relationship cannot be smooth like that, there will always be issues but if the two parties decide to go ahead and to forge ahead… It is almost more economical and better for Nigeria. As far as I am concerned, it is only the employers of Rohr that can question or query his integrity, so I don’t think I would be too fair to question his integrity. But I sincerely wish them all the best. But one thing I will want Rohr to do is to look inward into the league.
PT: Nigeria is the most successful country as far as the FIFA U-17 World Cup is concerned. You actually won the tournament in 1993 with the likes of Kanu Nwankwo, Wilson Oruma and the likes. What do you think is responsible for the success and then, why has this success not been replicated in the senior team?
Amun: The U17 teams have been very successful as far as Nigeria is concerned and credit goes to the country that has talents abounding everywhere from A-Z. I want to state it very clearly that the success of the team does not belong to the coach alone, it is everybody that has that collective success.
The government who provides the funds, the federation that administers, the fans who support, everyone has a role to play. The way and manner the transition into the various national teams have not been too successful, one of the major reasons but not limited to it is the issue of ego.
Mr ‘A’ won the U-17 Championship, the U-20 coach says no, I need to take them over, he has a new team. U-23 team coach says no, he forms his own team, some use purely home-based while others look for foreign-based within the age range, the national team coach says no, I am not going to use any of the U17, U20, U23 no matter the meaningful impact they have had, he has his own team.
So transition has not been too effective and successful but I am sure with time, the issue will resolve itself. I think I still have the best record today, a lot of my players metamorphosed into the Olympic team into the U20 and Super Eagles. But I believe strongly other coaches are working to achieve the same or even better feat and with time it would.
PT: Your 1995 Flying Eagles is seen as one of the worst the country has had. What happened just two years after conquering the world as the U-17 coach?
Amun: I did all I could. No assignment that has been given to me that I have not been a huge success at all levels. I won the U-17 World Cup in 1993 and I said allow me to use the same players Oruma and others to prosecute the U20 World Cup but they formed a clique against me. The then association and the sports ministry said I wanted to waste funds, that we have already qualified as hosts of the U-20 that I should use home-based players.
I told them It was not possible, we played a lot of friendly matches, too much. I saw the lapses there. The then head of state invited me to meet him because I was reported to him as being stubborn. They gave me money, I took the team to Germany, we played Leverkusen and other teams but I still kept on saying we can’t prosecute the U-20 with that team.
I asked for even five (players) from the ’93 team, Celestine and others so I could be ‘sleeping’ on the bench because these players are now matured because of the exposure they had but they refused, insisting that I wanted to waste funds. You saw the games in Lagos where (there was) Duke Udi, Ebiede, Olumide Harris. They dribbled everybody… and still played the ball over the bar… is it me that did that. For me, I know I did my best.