Oliseh: ‘Not a Messiah’ But ‘Ready’ to Serve Nigeria

Former Nigeria skipper Sunday Oliseh has been officially presented as the new head coach of the Super Eagles in Abuja.

The 40-year-old succeeds another ex-international, Stephen Keshi, at the helm of the national team. He is the fourth player from the class of 1994 to take over the coaching job of the Super Eagles after Augustine Eguavoen, Samson Siasia and Keshi.

Oliseh, who played as a defensive midfielder in his days, has signed a three-year contract and has been charged to meet several quotas, most importantly; guiding the three-time African champions to the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Gabon in 2017.

He will be assisted by Belgian coach Jean Francois Losciuto, former Kano Pillars and Enyimba boss Salisu Yusuf and former Nigeria second-choice goalkeeper, Alloysius Agu, who will serve as goalkeeper trainer.

Sunday Oliseh Says He is Not Coming as a Messiah. Image: NFF.
Sunday Oliseh Says He is Not Coming as a Messiah. Image: NFF.

‘Not a Messiah’

That football in Nigeria has been left in abject state of disorder is an euphemism for a system headed for its ruins and in need of drastic revival, which- with much kudos to the leadership of the Nigeria Football Federeration- is not an end far beyond the horizon but a jump start with better enhanced checks and balances along the track.

Many critics have likened the appointment of Oliseh to putting a square peg in a round hole judging by his trifling expertise in management but there has never been a good coach without the will and support, and the NFF has declared it will give the new Eagles coach “100%” backing, with the former Ajax Amsterdam, Juventus and Borussia Dortmund holding midfielder pledging “150%” of his commitment- sounds like a winning team is already in process.

“We have just signed the Pep Guardiola of Africa. And I believe he will succeed,” beamed Amaju Pinnick, president of the NFF. “Oliseh has all the necessary knowledge and exposure we’re looking for to take the country’s football to a great height.

“He shares our vision, received the approval of our sports ministry, the blessings of the NFF technical committee and executive board.”

And with the country’s FA president reposing such huge faith, there is hardly doubting this project has been afforded a good foundation, with strong hopes on the part of the players who as expected begins another journey in care of a new charge.

Change we can subscribe to

Problems which have bedeviled Nigerian football in the past two years includes logistics, administration and discipline. Oliseh has in his own independent but inconsequential ways as a pundit waged in on several matters concerning the national team, ranging from the large chunk of domestic players on parade at the 2013 Confederation Cup to last year’s NFF leadership saga, which, more-or-less, turned Nigerian football inside out and most probably cost the country a place at the 2015 Afcon in Equatorial Guinea.

He now has a better vantage point than back in the picture-perfect studios of Super Sport TV, and one question which very often has been asked in the previous days, is: ‘Will Oliseh budge or weigh in.’

He will only consider players who feature in top flight leagues wherever in the globe- be it the Glo Premier League or the Chinese Super League. So it would be very unlikely to have as much as eight home-based players in the national team squad for a tournament as significant as the Fifa Confederation Cup again.

“If you are not playing in the first division in anywhere in the world and in Nigeria, you cannot play for the Super Eagles henceforth,” Oliseh, who won the 1994 Afcon and an Olympic gold medal in 1996, said.

“However players coming from the under-aged teams are the only exception to this rule.”

The new coach was not willing to start delving into a lengthy but technically-bereft discussion, when quizzed on his favourable team set-up, but stressed that each position will be filled by players with fitting qualities.

“Gone are the days we have individual players who can single handedly win a match for you. But we have the potential and that is our belief and the players must know that it’s an honour to be invited to the national team,” Oliseh explained

A happy beginning

And with praises and encomiums blaring from every nook and cranny of the tightly packed press room of the Abuja National Stadium on Wednesday, it is wrongful to judge that Oliseh and his employers have not began on a resounding note, which spares us the thought of ‘when the going gets tough’, as we expect ‘the tough to get going’.

To crown it all, it is with “great honour” that Oliseh has accepted the same contract as his predecessor (N5m). He will be paid three months wages in advance, with his next remuneration due for October, after which Nigeria would have faced Tanzania away in an Afcon 2017 qualification match.

The Super Eagles defeated Chad 2-0 in their opening Group G match of the Afcon 2017 qualifying series.