New Super Eagles manager, Sunday Oliseh, seems to be a magnet for controversy. In just over 100 days at the helm of the Nigeria national football team, Oliseh has had to deal and put out some fires that were threatening to engulf him and his team even before he had fully settled into the chair.
He has lurched from the debacle with Vincent Enyeama at the Belgium camp, where team bonding was on the cards to the abrupt retirement of Emmanuel Emenike, who mouthed that the national camp had become a ”threat zone”.
Now, he has been engulfed by the list of players he released for the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Swaziland. And the major angst against the list is the fact the coach is apparently using different criteria to invite players to the Super Eagles.
At the resumption as coach in July, Oliseh said, “If you’re not playing the first division in any league in the world you will not make the team, and also we need hungry and motivated player.”
“The players in the first division are used to a certain level, tempo and competition standards because of what the first division entails,” he explained. “And because of that, we need the best who are already used to playing at this tempo to serve and play for Nigeria.”
He then amended that statement like this, “there could be some exception for players who are excelling in the second division”.
“Also players that are already in the national fold – from the U-17 to the U-23 are also exempted from the first division rules,” he added.
Football in Nigeria is not all about the Eagles
The story broke last week of Samson Siasia complaining publicly for the first time that he had not been paid for three months. He also revealed that his team – the U-23 national team were being treated like ‘orphans’ as they are starved of simple training equipment – they needed to wash and re-use training materials.
The Nigeria Football Federation are said to have fined the coach N500,000 for making that fact public knowledge but this is the same NFF that pronounced at the unveiling of Oliseh that they would be paying the new manager three months upfront. These two incidences just do not tally!
But one sure way of confusing followers is when the leader is giving mixed signals, or talking from both sides of his mouth.
In the first list of 23 players released for the match against Swaziland, Oliseh exempted Manchester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho.
Iheanacho then put up a five-star performance against Crystal Palace, scoring one goal and assisting two. And suddenly, Oliseh added the youngster’s name saying, “I have been following him”.
But that decision [or indecision in the first place] threw up more questions. Was it the 90 good minutes that Iheanacho had against Palace that convinced the coach or was he forced into making that decision by the groundswell of opinions from Nigerian football fans?
Oliseh is the only one that can answer that but if we concede to him the fact that he is at liberty to change his mind, he will be hard-pressed to explain away the fact that Alex Iwobi – an Arsenal U-21 player, was on the original list as against Iheanacho, who has played and scored in the EPL this season…
Obafemi Martins was recalled to the team after two years, which in the light of Emenike’s retirement is a good thing but why are Brown Ideye, Isaac Success or Anthony Ujah not invited? These three strikers are playing [in the top divisions] and scoring for their clubs, in the league and in the Champions League…
Here I ask for a little digression; the reason referees do not have many admirers in the game and are severely derided by most football fans is majorly because of inconsistency in their pronouncements and in their decisions from game to game and sometimes within the space of 90 minutes.
True leaders, in any sphere of life, know and understand that the ability to build the equity required to make the necessary impact on their followers is clearly hinged on non-duplicity in pronouncements and action.
But Oliseh and the NFF have shown in the past few months that the standards they are using to make decisions are not cast in stone and that will in effect cause a groundswell of disaffection that will sooner or later conflagrate the whole football house.
Edward R. Murrow said that, “To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful.”
Oliseh and the NFF, please play by the rules and stop shifting the goal post when the game has already commenced.