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Eagles Coach: NFF’s Choice, Oliseh, Sparks Fresh Optimism

Oladipo Okubanjo

Wednesday’s announcement by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) that it was in negotiation with Sunday Oliseh, pending his unveiling as new Head Coach of the Nigeria senior men’s soccer team has received a groundswell of commendation and sparked renewed hope in the country’s football.

Fourty-year-old Oliseh, whose appointment would in a matter of days be confirmed by the NFF Executive Committee, will replace Stephen Keshi who was eased out of the Super Eagles’ dugout after a disciplinary committee said he breached his contract by applying for the Cote d’Ivoire coaching job. Stakeholders, who have kept a tab on events on Nigeria football, are not only awed by the speed with which the NFF had found a replacement for Keshi, but also by the personality and quality of his would-be successor. In recent past, the process of hiring a new coach took the form of a badly choreographed circus show, stretching on for months.

Applications were invited, candidates were shortlisted, high-profile coaching names were dropped with indiscriminate abandon, committees were set up to gallivant around Europe in search of a coach before settling on some underwhelming   appointment. “This current leadership of the NFF seems to know its onions,” said former international, Raphel Ndukwe. “When they announced that (Shuaibu) Amodu will take charge until a new substantive coach is appointed, what I and many people thought was that he was going to be in charge for long.

“But what has happened now is like magic, and it’s like that because we’ve always done our things differently what obtains in other football destinations.” Speaking about the choice of Keshi, the former Bari of Italy striker averred the Super Eagles could be on the verge of regaining their lost glory with Oliseh as gaffer.

“Oliseh comes with an exciting profile though unlike his predecessor, he doesn’t have experience coaching a national team,” said the 2000 Nations Cup silver medal winner. “He was captain of the team, a very good player of the game who played for top clubs in Europe, played at the World Cup and won the Nations Cup. Ndukwe added: “He is a qualified coach with rich background in development football and a member of FIFA Technical Study Group. “I believe he will command the respect of players, he is not the type that sells players and I believe he will instill discipline.

“I think his coming would stop the drift in our ranking by FIFA; we have dropped drastically because we now lose to small teams like Congo, Uganda and South Africa. That I believe would be a thing of the past.” Christian Chukwu, a former coach of the Super Eagles, described the choice of Oliseh for the Nigeria job as merited, stating that the former Ajax Amsterdam and Juventus midfielder is the best candidate for the job currently.

He, however urged the NFF to make working environment conducive enough for him to excel. “I think Oliseh is the best for the Super Eagles for now and I will like to congratulate him in advance,” said Chukwu. “He has played the game before and also knows what it takes to manage our players, so giving him a chance to manage the team will be a welcome idea on the part of the NFF.

“What I can say now is that the NFF should make sure that Oliseh is given condition that will not be too difficult for him to meet, so that he can use his experience to move Nigerian football forward.” Apparently, the current wave of optimism is influenced by Oliseh’s reckoning as one of the most cerebral players Nigeria have produced.

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