Japan/Korea 2002 World Cup star, Christopher Justice, is worried that the Super Eagles stand the risk of not qualifying for a second successive Africa Cup of Nations, after coach Sunday Oliseh’s recent rant on
Youtube caused an uproar in the country.
After shockingly crashing out of the 2016 African Nations Championship with the Eagles in the driving seat, Oliseh rather than concentrate on the Eagles’ March double-header against Egypt in a Gabon 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, slammed his critics on
Youtube, labelling them insane.
The uproar generated from Oliseh’s outburst seems to have torn Nigerian football apart and Christopher is worried that it might affect the Eagles’ 2017 AFCON chances if not properly managed.
“Oliseh needs to be careful of what he says because as a coach or player, you will always face criticism. In fact, criticism and football are inseparable,” the former player said.
“The parties concerned may be hard to please and this may affect their contribution to the team’s performance during the Nations Cup qualifier against Egypt. Some people may not want him to remain because they may not be convinced about his ability not to repeat such in the future,” he added.
Oliseh’s outburst is the latest in a line of controversies in his seven months at the helm of the Super Eagles job. His appointment was greeted with mixed reactions as some questioned the ability of the 41-year-old to handle the team.
While some threw their weight behind him, citing his expertise in football analysis, others looked at his inexperience in handling teams despite his UEFA Pro License. Yet another set believed Oliseh’s precedence in his playing days would make his reign as the Eagles coach one to be filled with drama.
The coach took the job with the first task of assembling a team for Nigeria’s 2017 AFCON qualifier away to Tanzania. The Eagles had struggled to beat Chad 2-0 at home in their first match of the series — under Stephen Keshi – and expectations were high ahead of the Dar es Salam clash.
When Oliseh released his list of 18 overseas-based players for the match, played on September 5, 2015, he rebuffed critics, who questioned why he left out three in-form players – Odion Ighalo, Victor Moses and Mikel Obi.
“Let’s not start with controversies, we can only play 11 players, we have two strikers now and we’ll call in everybody eventually,” Oliseh said. “We have no choice but to hit the ground running, let’s just hope that we get the best result.”
The critics were silenced by the response and the coach was praised for having becoming a different person in attitude from his playing days. The Eagles played a barren draw in the game and the road to Oliseh’s first controversy as Eagles’ coach was paved.
After the Tanzania match, the Eagles beat Niger 2-0 in a friendly match in Port Harcourt before heading to Belgium in October, 2015 for two friendly matches against DR Congo and Cameroon.
In Belgium, Oliseh stripped Nigeria’s most-capped footballer, Vincent Enyeama, of his captaincy of the team after a face-off with the ex-Enyimba man and chose CSKA Moscow forward, Ahmed Musa, as his new captain. The drama that followed led to Enyeama unceremoniously retiring from the national team.
“I want a captain who is disciplined; a leader who can motivate other players; a player who comes to camp early. I want a young player not a retiring player as captain. And Ahmed Musa is that player. He is my captain,” Oliseh said on Brila FM when asked about the captaincy issue.
“The fact is that I would like to have somebody (as captain) who is thinking of playing now and not somebody who is preparing for retirement or thinking of life after football. And I think it’s time we had peace and quiet around the Super Eagles.
“That is why I am glad that most of the players here are finding ways to work as a team because I get the feeling now that they are aware that they are representing 170 million people,” he added.
Enyeama, who had 101 caps for Nigeria, had earlier in 2015, said he would be with the team till the end of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, if Nigeria qualifies.
Oliseh received knocks and kudos for the way he handled the Enyeama saga, which affected the Eagles as they lost 2-0 to DR Congo in their first friendly in Belgium. They bounced back with a 3-0 defeat of Cameroon on October 11 but the coach was embroiled in another drama when another senior player, Emmanuel Emenike, retired from the team.
The West Ham forward wrote on Instagram , “After five great years, I am happy to announce that I have put a full-stop to my national team career for the sake of national peace.
“It’s a pleasure for me to have played for this great country. I never regretted it and I think it’s the best time to end it… Super Eagles is a camp not a family house, and it shouldn’t be a threat zone for any individual.
“All my dreams came true in the national team, I dreamt to win the Nations Cup for Nigeria after 20 years, I dreamt to play at the World Cup as well as to make a name for myself… In the space of five years, I got them.”
In reaction, Oliseh said, “I have made him a part of our rebuilding process; in fact, he has had more playing time than any striker we have had, so I am very surprised that he has decided to retire.
“He is a man. If a man chooses to retire, it should be his decision; if you force him back it could be counterproductive. Be that as it may, I have always said only one thing is irreplaceable and that is Nigeria itself we are all replaceable and that is it.”
Many critics have made reference to the coach’s temper and attitude as his major source of troubles. This was evident in the next controversy the coach would be embroiled in.
In the match against Tanzania, Oliseh substituted Lukman Haruna after 15 minutes in the first half. The coach cited the player’s disobedience as a reason for the change. Oliseh did the same for AS Trencin midfielder, Rabiu Ibrahim, in the World Cup qualifier against Swaziland in Lobamba, pulling him out after just spending 26 minutes on the pitch as a substitute.
The action drew the ire of fans but the coach explained that the player hid an injury from the doctors, adding that it affected the team’s tactical plan in the match. Both players have yet to make a return to the Eagles since their last invitation by the coach.
The coach had his first clash with his employers, the Nigeria Football Federation, when his job entered its sixth month. Nigeria had exited the African Nations Championship in the group stages despite a bright start. The Eagles beat Niger 4-1 before playing 1-1 with Tunisia in Group C. They however, crashed out after a 1-0 defeat to Guinea in their last group match. Their four points placed them third behind Tunisia and the Guineans.
Angered by the exit, Nigerians called for Oliseh’s dismissal as coach of the Eagles but in his usual style, the coach came out to defend himself and his team saying the NFF was responsible for the team’s early exit as they failed to motivate the players adequately.
“Personally, I’m very proud of the boys, they have given a good image of themselves in as much as that we did not go through. This is an adult tournament and there are certain things which must be present if you want to go far and win the tournament, and that is what my players see is existing in other teams that we don’t have in our team,” he stated.
The NFF queried the coach demanding a reason for his outburst about the team’s condition in Rwanda. But the issue was not sorted out before Oliseh enmeshed himself in another crises, when he labelled his critics insane in a Youtube rant.
He said, “I want to speak on the insanity that has befallen some of our national team critics. I call it insanity because you must be insane to start seeking a plebiscite on the future of the national team coach of Nigeria because we lost the CHAN.
“The contract is made out. We signed a contract, me and the NFF. If they aren’t happy with the performance, it is okay, we go over it and we shake hands. But I will like to remind you that this is the 14th game I have been in charge of the Super Eagles and we’ve lost only two; and only one official game.”
The NFF went on to fine him N6m for the derogatory remarks, with NFF president, Amaju Pinnick, describing his comments as a distraction, even after the coach had reportedly apologised.
Pinnick said, “Actually we received a letter from Mr. Sunday Oliseh, apologising for his outburst, which was quite needless, quite unnecessary and rather very unfortunate.
“It’s not just about receiving a letter of apology because a lot of people were hurt, a lot of people are very upset about his outburst, which they feel is a major distraction considering the fact that we have a major two-header against Egypt; one of the top teams in Africa.”
Although, Oliseh has also apologised on Twitter, former Nigeria international, Christian Nwokocha, believes Oliseh should do without further controversies.
“Oliseh was a good player and is turning out to be a good coach save these controversies he has had. He doesn’t need any further drama till he ends his tenure if he really has the love of Nigerian football at heart. He should focus on the job and seek advice before taking some decisions,” Nwokocha said.
But former Nigeria coach, Adegboye Onigbinde, believes the coach is still an accident waiting to happen.
Onigbinde told Goal , “Talking about his experience, has he not shown inadequacy in this? For instance, see the way he handled Enyeama’s case. If Oliseh was intelligent enough, he could have commiserated with him first on the loss of his mother and Enyeama would have been worshipping him but he wanted to be a boss.
“Have Nigerians forgotten that the national team broke down in Mali as a result of gross indiscipline under his leadership and now that is the kind of person NFF feels is good enough for the Super Eagles job.
“You can imagine a coach coming out a day to the commencement of the African Nations Championship that his players are not well fed and all that, what kind of result do you expect from that kind of coach? The question now is, will this not affect our chances in future competitions? Now we are causing more confusion and destroying the team further.”
Former Nigeria international, Segun Odegbami, believes Oliseh would learn from these controversies and lead the Eagles to success but needs more time.
“I am one of the biggest advocates of Sunday Oliseh to become the national team coach not because I have seen him coach but because I had read his write-ups and watched his analysis of the game. I was his manager to the Tunisia ’94 Nations Cup and also the USA ’94 World Cup, so I know him very well,” Odegbami said.
“I felt that the years would have tempered him and all his good qualities will make him succeed as a coach. That was why I supported the call for him as the Eagles coach when Stephen Keshi left the team. He was made the coach and I am happy he started well but now he has stumbled. He should pick himself up again and justify the confidence reposed in him.
“Nigeria needs at least two years with Oliseh – if the proper things are done – before we can have the Super Eagles of our dreams. The right things to be done include looking inwards at the local league – developing it – supporting the players to go to the right environment for training and adequate motivation for the team,” he added.