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Between Finidi’s World Cup Shockwave, Osimhen’s Outburst and NFF’s Challenge

Finidi George

By Saidu Abubakar

The shockwave occasioned by Finidi George’s resignation as Super Eagles’ Head Coach and Nigeria’s “tightcorner” position in the African qualification for the 2026 World Cup are twosome topics that have preoccupied the nation’s soccer space. Finidi may have resigned to “uphold his honour and glory; “so help him God”! To some observers, it would have been unwise of him not to resign at that point. For so doing amid economic hardship in the land when coaches abound who would have undermined taking such honorable pathway, Finidi deserves a pat on the back, for dumping a lucrative job laced with a N15m monthly pay, or doesn’t he?

It will be foolhardy of any keen follower of Nigerian football to be coaxed into believing that Finidi is deficient. Prior to his resignation, there wasn’t any seemed intent by the NFF against Finidi. The former Nigerian winger’s stance not to beg any player to play for the Super Eagles was absolutely the right position Finidi, who prides himself with tangible achievements took.

One cannot completely rule out the possibility of Finidi having encounter(s) with certain forces within the football house while in charge as Head Coach regarding whether he enjoyed free hands to operate or not. Unveiling such vital information will not only lay credence to his honourable resignation but also absolve him from future blames.

After his exit, the news of the NFF searchlight for a foreign coach is gathering momentum. As late as it may seem to be, the “kalo-kalo” situation is that of “where-is-a-hungry-coach” for a whole acclaimed Giant of Africa, whereas we have all the resources to have done the needful from the onset. This has exposed the recklessness of the NFF or its lack of cohesive and sustainable plan.

Serious nations have since had their roadmaps right after the blast of the final whistle of Qatar 2022, if not as far back before then, and which they are pursuing rigorously. South Africa, Benin, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Lesotho, all in Group C with Nigeria, are doing better than Nigeria, except for Zimbabwe. After four matches, Rwanda has seven points in their kitty alongside South Africa and Benin Republic, also with seven points each, while Lesotho has five points, leaving Nigeria in the 5th position with three points ahead of Zimbabwe who have two points. Can Nigeria qualify from Group C where South Africa is supposedly not unbeatable?

Bad as the situation is, a major flop in World Cup has landed us in how somewhere else’s indigenous coach not worth his salt in his own country will end up being contracted “To Chop on Eagles”. The technical ability to qualify Nigeria by any foreign coach at this critical stage remains a mirage when Nigerians are already sitting on the edge of their seats with high expectations.

Regrettably, things have turned badly for Nigeria in recent times. The resilience, commitment and traditional fighting spirit the Eagles are known for, are gradually fading away in the midst of our rivals – Cameroun, South Africa, Senegal, Ivory Coast Tunisia and Algeria, to mention but few. Shouldn’t this serve as an antidote for Eagles to struggle and regain their lost glories?

However, it is a MUST for Nigeria to go ahead with preparations for the remaining qualification tasks to the last match. There’s no hiding place. Some pundits are of the view that Nigeria should rather forget about qualifying for the 2026 World Cup, having garnered only three points from four matches so far played. Other schools of thought believe that the Eagles can still qualify for the fiesta. All of that is left to destiny. Since 1980’s through to 2012 when the Keshi-led Super Eagles won the AFCON trophy in South Africa, the Super Eagles have maintained the status of one of the football powerhouses in Africa, until recently.

After Finidi’s resignation, Victor Osimhen made an unnecessary outburst in the social media that went viral and has portrayed the promising fine player as far from civil. Many have described his comments as perfidious, and opined that he ought to have kept mute over whatever may have caused him to miss out of the qualifier matches that eventually slowed the Eagles down. Being controversial cannot take him anywhere. And the question being asked is, why must it be Osimhen that should lose patience? Unfortunately, those in support of his outburst have also not helped the young man’s career.

It should not be lost in Osimhen that as a potential upcoming world star, he has just begun and shouldn’t allow himself to feel as having arrived. Discipline is the secret of success in football. Banging in goals has been the art of numerous past Eagles’ strikers and it never stopped at them, so shall it not stop at Osimhen. Finidi, no matter the situation underscoring his short stint as Eagles’ Head Coach, deserves some degree of respect. If Osimhen is riding on the back of any godfather within or outside the system to warrant the outburst, it’s certainly only for a while.

The promising player is opportuned to be brought to limelight courtesy of Nigeria, and the country’s brand, the Super Eagles team is first before any individual, regardless of one’s background – race, tribe or religion. Importantly, it is a rare privilege to have been invited to don the Super Eagles’ shirt. Patriotic Nigerians put a lot of resources in the spirit of sportsmanship to rally round the country to triumph on the field of play, as exhibited at various times viz: 1985 FIFA/Kodak U-16 World Cup in China; 1994 FIFA World Cup in USA as well as the Olympic football gold medal won in Atlanta 1996.

Osimhen should enquire about the milestones and successes recorded by the Yekinis, Keshis, Olisehs, Finidis, Mutius, Kanus, Okochas, Amokachis, Lawals, Babangidas, Amunikes down to Mikels, Yobos and, of late, Musas among other numerous success stories in football career. None of those mentioned was notoriously disrespectful. They, in their own right, lived luxurious lives which they shunned to step on to the field of play.

Nigerians await the technical committee of NFF to put their trump card on the table and display their technical expertise. The committee’s role in the choice of Finidi as Head Coach and other sundry technical issues shouldn’t be secretive. So, can the committee secure a saviour for the nation? How are we sure another “gambler” is not next on line as the Almighty dollars is capable of allowing for doing just that?

Has there been any technical committee chairman of the NFF who has ever thrown in the towel for disappointing Nigerians? Finidi has opened the way for such. All the technical committees of the NFF known before now, including those whose career voyage spanned Europe in search of a foreign coach for the senior national team, are rarely blamed for failures, it has always been the head coach who bears the brunt whenever the team fails to deliver. It is high time the technical committee’s activities are equally reviewed and probed.

It is noteworthy that Nigeria has qualified for the last eight FIFA World Cup editions, except 2006 in Germany and the last edition – 2022 in Qatar. It remains to be seen what miracle the Giant of Africa will employ to qualify for the 2026 edition or will it be a third miss? The Ibrahim Gusau-led NFF Board must rise to the occasion to justify their being there for the Nigerians.

It can be disheartening that sacked Nigerian coach Gernot Rohr’s Benin Republic is ahead of Nigeria with seven points in Group C. If anything, Rohr is a happy man in Benin where he has justified why he is a coach Nigeria should have kept faith with. Finidi took over from Peseiro, Rohr’s successor as Head Coach of the Super Eagles, after having been certified by the technical committee as qualified for the job.

Next set of matches are slated for March of 2025, when the Super Eagles will travel to Kigali to face Rwanda and subsequently host Zimbabwe, yearning for six points from those two ties, but where would Rwanda, South Africa, Benin and Lesotho stand on the Group C table by then? Nigeria has nine months before those ties to plan how to perform magic before angry Nigerians would conclude to hurl pelts at them for inexplicable disappointment, even as such reactions cannot change unfavourable results. Will heavens fall if Nigeria fails to qualify? It would rather afford the NFF an opportunity to return to the drawing board!

It would be recalled that almost similar scenario crept in towards 2006 World Cup qualifications with Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima as the NFA chairman hitting back at his critics who called for his head following the Super Eagles’ ouster, for saying that “the tournament was not Nigeria’s birthright after all”.

Despite the pressure on Galadima to resign as the Chairman, the Kano-born football administrator said he wouldn’t throw in the towel now that he was at the last lap of his tenure. “It is out of place for anybody to ask me to resign as the NFA chairman. It does not agree with common sense to me. I am not moved by any of such comments because I will stay till my last days in office. Nobody can stampede me into taking such a decision. After all, what is the big deal about the whole thing? I have seen people in this country who have failed in other endeavours and nobody told them to resign. I can’t understand why people are calling for my head,” he declared unrepentantly.

Galadima said NFA did everything within its capacity to secure for Nigeria the World Cup ticket but it did not work out. “And what else could we have done?”

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