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Desert Warriors, Algeria 5; Super Eagles, Nigeria 1!

That was the comprehensively humiliating result of the opening match of the l990 African Nations Cup in Algiers. The Nigerian team, under the tutelage of Dutchman, Clemens Westerhof, was thoroughly outplayed, comprehensively outclassed and decisively outscored. That was one of the high points of this foreign coach whose muchtalked-about achievements winning the 1994 Nations Cup, qualifying for and posting an impressive performance at same years World Cup came only in the injury time of his ve-year reign as commander-in-chief of the Nigerian national team. If that disgraceful show had been put up with an indigenous coach in charge, under whatever excuse, he probably would have had to immediately seek asylum in or around the desert nation. But the self-styled Dutch-gerian who too often had been assessed in comparison with Nigerian coaches on a grossly non-level playing eld, not only survived but actually reigned for another four years. In fact, he was canonized until he felt compelled to sack himself Over a period of about three decades that I have been following Nigerian football with a nose for informed, even if eagletic analysis, a number of indigenous coaches have at one time or another, handled the national team. They include, among others, Paul Hamilton, Adegboye Onigbinde, Christian Chukwu, Austin Eguavoen and the incumbent, Shaibu Amodu. Never, within the period, did the Eagles, under any of these coaches, post a calamitous result of the Algiers 90 magnitude in a competitive match of significance. The Dutchman won the Nations Cup for Nigeria only on his third consecutive attempt. No Nigerian coach has had the luxury of more than one attempt. On Westerhofs second attempt at Senegal 92, he wan a bronze medal; he had red carpet laid for him at Aso Rock, given national honour and, wait for it, his failed Green Eagles team was rechristened Super. Then Vice President, Augustus Aikhomu even lampooned the Nigerian press for being so unpatriotic to nd fault with Westerhof. Amodu, Chukwu and Eguavoen all won the same bronze medal on only their first attempts; they were cursed, abused and humiliated. Eguavoen, in his full charge of the Super Eagles, accomplished and intimidating competitive match record of eight wins, one draw and only one loss to the starstudded, world-class Ivorien team at CAN 2006, yet he was humiliated. He lost a mere friendly match against Ghana in London and all hell was let loose. Serbian Bora Milutinovics Eagles team, on the way to France 98, was scandalously beaten 5-1 by the Netherlands and 3-0 by the disintegrating Yugoslavia in friendly matches, yet he remained a hero. The white man can never be wrong; the local coach can never be right! Imagine the shame of a nation. It seems convincing beyond doubt, therefore, that only the colour of the skin of the local coach constitutes his own cross of crucixion at Golgotha. That is why the avoidable distraction, occasioned by the recent curious and amusing outbreak of foreign-coach-mania in our football discourse, even in high places, could nd the fertile ground to foul the atmosphere when all hands should be on deck towards consolidating our gains so far. The prevailing problem with Nigerian football, manifesting in dwindling performance and results, had its genesis in 2002 when Amodu and his team were unjustly but characteristically, disgraced just because they failed to win that years Nations Cup. By practically preventing them from going on to correct their mistakes

en-route the World Cup, for which they had laboured to qualify in spite of Westerhofs compatriot, Bonfrere Jo, the continuity was broken. And, not surprisingly, we posted our worst performance ever at the global show. In our quest to excel at the 2010 continental and global shows, this denitely is not the time to lose concentration by means of any such avoidable distraction. The foreign coach rub-a-dub music is one big distraction capable of rubbing blinding pepper in our eyes only for them to open after we have again returned to square zero. The 1992 Nations Cup in Senegal was won by Cote DIvoire with a set of average but committed players under one ordinary, bloody local coach called Yeo Marshial. There were at least half a dozen hot foreign coaches, including Nigerias Westerhof, in that competition. Let Guus Hiddink, Trapatoni, van Gaal, Maurinho, Ferguson, Ancelloti, Terim and Co stay back at their bases. If all stakeholders here administrators, coaches, the media, analysts, supporters and especially the players get possessed of the right attitude and accord national interest the position of primacy, we can very well do without those messiahs. Berti Voghts, world and European champion as player and as coach, was here! ; Published:: The Guardian, Monday November 30, 2009, Opinion page, (full text) Note: In reaction to this piece, a fuming reader of The Guardian engaged me in a crossfire on the pages of the newspaper. It went thus: Setting the records straight SIR: I write in response to the article: "Foreign coach distraction" by Dele Akinola in The Guardian, Monday November 30, 2009. The author was quick to proudly inform us that he had been following Nigerian football for about three decades but may I say that some of his analyses were jaundiced and outright incorrect. The author rightly stated that Clemens Westerhof won a bronze medal at Senegal '92 which was his second attempt but did not tell us that prior to that edition in Senegal, the African Nations Cup was an eight-country tournament. Senegal '92 was the rst edition in which 12 countries participated after which it became a competition for 16 teams in South Africa '96 though Nigeria withdrew for political reasons. It is just that competition for honours became more intense in Senegal as a result of increase in number of teams which is a justifiable reason for the Eagles taking a step downwards from the second position they achieved in Algiers '90. I addition to his biased prognosis he stated the red carpet was laid for Westerhof on his return from Senegal. Christian Chukwu equally received a red carpet treatment when he returned with a bronze medal from Tunisia '04. Finally, the analyst who wants all to know that he has been an ardent football follower for 30 years was totally o mark when he wrote that the former Green Eagles were renamed Super Eagles after they came back from Senegal '92. Super Eagles became the ocial nickname of Nigeria's senior soccer team in 1988 after the German Manfred Hoener led Nigeria to second place in the 16th edition of the

Nations Cup held in Morocco in 1988. ) Mayowa Akinsola, Lagos. (The Guardian, Monday, December 07, 2009) My response: Playing games with the records In reaction to my article, "The foreign coach distraction" (The Guardian, Monday November 30, 2009), one Mayowa Akinsola embarked on a mission of "setting the records straight" in the issue of Monday, December 07, 2009. In doing so, he strayed from the main thrust of my piece which centred on the local/foreign coach comparisons going on in our football discourse being made on a non-level playing eld. Rather he, not surprisingly, played around with masked insult and the literary treachery of dubiously putting in my "mouth" coinages I never employed in my piece just because I refused to make dubious excuses for the white man. As a Nigerian, I felt compelled, on behalf of my compatriots, to cover my face in dreadful shame that a fellow citizen would proudly attempt to convince the millions of world-wide intellectual readers of the prestigious The Guardian that the competition for honours becoming "more intense in Senegal (92) as a result of increase in number of teams" was "a justiable reason for the Eagles (under a foreign coach) taking a step downwards from the second position they achieved in Algiers '90"! Chi-ne-ke me-e!!! So, the white man must be right at all cost and over our dead bodies and intelligence! But was this same "more intense" Senegal '92 edition not won by a country that never even played in the final before under one 'ordinary, bloody' local coach? If my Oga's "analysis" and "prognosis" were not "biased" and "jaundiced," (the words he used to described me) would the competition having become even more intense on account of the further increase in participating teams from 12 to 16 and the phenomenal progress made by other African teams over the years not be justiable reasons for local coach Amodu to take the Eagles even further down from the third position at Mali 2002? If foreign coach Manfred Hoener "led Nigeria to second place in the 16th edition of the Nations Cup held in Morocco, 1988," had local coach Onigbinde not achieved the same feat four years earlier in Cote d'Ivoire with a team made up mainly of boys just coming from the junior team of 1983, losing only in the nal to the dreaded World Cup veterans Cameroun which did not lose a match at Espana'82 even to eventual world champions, Italy? Whether it was Hoener '88 or Westerhof '92, was it not a foreign coach's failed Green Eagles team that was rechristened "Super"? One could go on and on. Our propensity in Nigeria to pay attention to trivialities while ignoring our leprous sores has been our bane in all spheres of human endeavour. That is why Akinsola would rather find a source of nightmare in my mere reference, in passing, to having been following Nigerian football for about three decades which he wrote about with derisive repetitions. And I wonder what records he had set straight with the elementary school information about how many teams played in which edition. I am against neither the foreign nor the local coach. But it is absolutely at variance with my personal orientation to resort to manufacturing dubious excuses in

desperate attempts to craft laughable justications for pre-conceived emotional positions. My piece centred on the sanctity and helpfulness of making comparisons and assessments on a level playing eld. And on this eld in Nigeria, the local coach has fared better. Interestingly, no less a distinguished authority than the "Chief Justice" himself, Adokiye Amiesimaka, virtually echoed my sentiments in his column in the Sunday Punch of December 06, 2009. Thank you. (The Guardian, Tuesday, December 15, 2009) Mayowa again! Not affirming the records SIR: Opinions are like noses, everybody has it but they are all dierent in shapes and sizes. So goes a saying. In the course of justifying his support for an indigenous coach for the Nigerian National Team, Dele Akinola in his letter titled: "Playing games with the records" which was published in The Guardian newspapers of Tuesday, December 15, which was a sequel to the article which he authored and was published on November 30, titled: "The foreign coach distraction" chose to derogatorily label a point I identied in my letter countering his stand published on Monday December 7 titled "Setting the records straight" as an elementary school information. According to Dele, stating that the number of countries that participated in the Senegal '92 and South Africa '96 editions of the Nations Cup were increased to 12 and 16 respectively from 8 and 12 were elementary. I wish to inform him that the information he spuriously carpeted can be found on the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Website as well as on Wikipedia, which is arguably the richest repertoire of knowledge and information on the internet. In the light of the above it is germane at this juncture to examine the "advance level" information as provided by Dele. I concur with him that Senegal 92 was won by the one "ordinary," "bloody" local coach, but this same local coach led the Ivorien National Team to Lagos to face the Super Eagles under Westerhof in a USA '94 World Cup qualifier on Saturday September 25, 1993 lost by four goals to one. That Onigbinde won the Silver Medal at Cote d'Ivoire 84 and he lost to the dreaded Cameroun which did not lose a match in the World Cup that took place two years earlier in Spain are correct but saying that the Nigerian national team that achieved that feat was made up of boys mainly from the Junior team that participated in 1983 FIFA Under- 20 in Mexico is tantamount to extending the truth beyond its limits. The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary published in 2006 denes the word mainly in two ways and they are as follows: The rst denition goes thus: "More than anything else, also used to talk about the most important reason for something" while the other denition also goes thus "used to talk about the largest part of a group of people of things." Only six players out of a squad of twenty one from that Junior team made the team to Cote d'Ivoire namely: Yisa Sofoluwe, Chibuzor Ehilegbu, Ademola Adesina, Paul Okoku, Humphrey Edobor and Tarila Okorowanta. The other 15 members of the squad were players featuring for local clubs in Nigeria at that time. In one world, Dele's statement that the team was mainly made up of

boys from the Junior world cup is outright wrong. In addition, the coach that led Cameroun to Espana '82 World Cup is a Frenchman by the name Jean Vincent while the coach that came out triumphant against Onigbinde at the 1984 Nations Cup is a Yugoslav by the name Radivoje Ognjanovic. It will interest Dele to know that after the Korea/Japan World Cup in 2002, Taribo West dismissed the team put together by Onigbinde as "junk". The then captain of the team Austin Okocha was even more forthright in his assessment of Onigbinde, describing his coaching method as amateurish which involves telling a player to carry another player on his back and run for 100 metres. Samson Siasia is of the opinion that Amodu does not command the respect of his players. He made this known in a television programme: Sports Talk on LTV on Monday December 7 and was reported verbatim by Complete Sports of Tuesday, December 8. On a final note, Ayo Ositelu, a seasoned journalist and sports analyst has stated that for Nigeria to excel at next year's World Cup, she will need to secure the services of a foreign coach. The News Magazine of December 21 reports Ositelu's position. Mayowa Akinsola, Lagos. (The Guardian, Thursday, December 17, 2009) My response: When the records are offiside! Dear Sir, Reacting to my "Playing games with the records" (The Guardian, Tuesday, December 15, 2009), a response to his attempt at '"setting the records straight" (The Guardian, Monday, December 7, 2009), my dear brother, Mayowa Akinsola, in "Not affirming the records" (The Guardian, Thursday, December 17, 2009) again strayed from the main issue raised in my original article to treat us to another delicious course in academic showmanship. In my initial piece, "The foreign coach distraction" (The Guardian, Monday, November 30, 2009), I had moved to make a case for the sanctity and helpfulness of making assessments of and comparisons between local and foreign coaches in Nigeria on a level playing field. I did not and still do not need to consult the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary of Current English to recognize the fatal insincerity in making dubious excuses for the foreign coach when he fails and seeing nothing good in the local coach even when he succeeds. I had the unfortunate opportunity of reading in one of our national newspapers recently that a journalist(!) even went as incredibly amusing as excusing the monumental failure of Berti Voghts (in Nigeria, that is) on the premise that if he had achieved anything meaningful in Ghana 2008, Ghanaians would have attacked Nigerians! Perhaps, if local coach Austine Eguavoen had attempted anything better than his more successful bronze medal show at Egypt 2006, Egyptians would have declared a full-scale war against Nigeria with the support of the United States and Britain. There was nothing derogatory in my reference to some "records" being flaunted by Mayowa to make his own alarmingly unspeakable excuses for the foreign coach as elementary school information. For example, every three-year-old kid in that Ajegunle kindergarten school knows Abuja is the capital of Nigeria. Yet this piece of information can be found in my brother's cherished Wikipedia and occupies some space somewhere on some websites on the net.

In the same vein, in the context of the main thrust of my initial article, which centred on the report cards of local and foreign coaches in Nigeria (repeat, in Nigeria), those records are clearly offside which are all about the jaw-breaking names of certain foreign coaches who led Cameroun or East Timor to whatever competition. All local and foreign coaches I mentioned in making comparisons in my initial article were those who have worked with the Nigerian national team. I sincerely congratulate Mayowa on his rich reservoir of information concerning the records, including, probably, his extra-ordinary ability to recall the strange-sounding name of the foreign coach who led Vanuatu to a friendly against Fiji Island in February, 1926. How I wish I was so immensely talented. But back to my issue of concern, about which I have been consistent: the assessments and comparisons between local and foreign coaches in Nigeria against the backdrop of crucial factors such as the general conditions in which they have operated, the length of time given each to perform and the results achieved, should realistically be carried out on a level playing field. And on this field, in Nigeria, within, say the last two decades and half, the local coach has fared better... Final whistle! I rest my pen.