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  • Sports - Football - Gossips
  • Updated: June 18, 2024

Crisis hits Super Eagles camp amid World Cup qualifiers

Crisis hits Super Eagles camp amid World Cup qualifiers

Nigeria's 2026 World Cup hopes are hanging by the thread after a very poor start by the three-time African champions in the qualification campaign thus far.

When the draws for the group stage of the qualifiers were conducted by the Confederation of African Football, CAF, there was optimism by Nigerians that the Super Eagles would easily secure the ticket from Group C to the World Cup to be hosted by the USA, Mexico and Canada.

However, two uninspiring draws before the end of 2023 against Lesotho and Zimbabwe were warning signs that the path to the tournament will not be easy.
 
After the Super Eagles' majestic performance at the Africa Cup of Nations in January and February this year, many Nigeria football faithful were already casting their eyes on the calendar as games against South Africa and Benin Republic awaited.

The South Africans held the Super Eagles coached by former coach, Jose Peseiro to a 1-1 draw in the semifinals of the Afcon in Cote d'Ivoire but lost on penalties to the Nigerians.

Peseiro led Nigeria to the final of the 34th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations where they lost 2-1 to hosts Cote d'Ivoire in the final.

The South African team accepted their fate that they ran out of luck against Nigeria but were cautiously optimistic that they could get a result against the Eagles this June.

Many Nigerians considered the tough talk of coach Hugo Broos and his players as mere threats. The days ran fast and the crucial game in June was approaching.

The Eagles camp in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom state capital began at the backend of May as the team set out to prepare for the match against the 'boastful' South Africa who must be beaten convincingly.

Head coach Finidi George who had been assistant coach in the team under Jose Peseiro for 20 months was only able to work with 15 of the 23 invited players for three days - excluding the injured players who have been replaced anyway.

The remaining eight players who had also arrived in Nigeria could not join their teammates in Uyo as they were delayed in Lagos and Abuja following the nationwide industrial action by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, over the minimum wage.

Where did the NFF get it wrong?

Before we dive into the dire situation the Super Eagles are in currently in Group C as they are placed 5th in a six-team group, let's revisit the NFF'S process of securing a successor to former coach Pseiro.

The Nigeria Football Federation did not come to an agreement with Peseiro during negotiations over a new contract.

The Portuguese wanted an improved salary after guiding the country to reach the AFCON final having met the target of a semifinals berth in the tournament. But the NFF won't budge as they insisted on handing him an extended contract on the same salary.

That was where the NFF got it wrong.

There was the argument that the coach deployed more defensive tactics at the tournament as the Super Eagles had always been known to be attack-minded, especially effective from the wings.

But that was not sufficient enough reason to jettison the services of the onetime Real Madrid assistant coach who was reportedly recommended by 'the Special One' Jose Mourinho.

The technical department of the Nigeria Football Federation headed by former international and coach Austin Eguavoen could have ironed that out with the coaching crew in a way that does not necessarily mean meddling in the job of Peseiro.

Peseiro is a manager known to prefer the 3-4-3 formation that lays more emphasis on defensive solidity.

Jose Peseiro's achievements

As known already, Peseiro led the Super Eagles to the final of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations even when not many gave him the chance to do so. He surpassed the semifinal target in his contract.

Before his stint and exit as coach of the Super Eagles on 1 March 2024, Peseiro won the Spanish Super Cup at Real Madrid as an assistant coach in the 2002/2003 season, then the Portuguese League Cup in the 2012/2013 season and the Egyptian title with Al Ahly in the 2015/2016 season as head coach.

His time as national team coach of Venezuela was not so successful but Peseiro was nonetheless a good coach.

Finidi's appointment as substantive head coach and the mistake therein

Finidi George as a former Nigeria international was one of the best right wingers during his playing days. He scored the decisive goal in a 1-1 draw against Algeria on 8 October 1993 that ensured Nigeria's qualification to a first-ever appearance at the FIFA World Cup the following year in the USA.

The Super Eagles reached the round of 16 where they lost 2-1 to Italy. In the first game of the World Cup, Finidi provided the assist for the country's first World Cup goal scored by the legendary Rashidi Yekini of blessed memory.

Remember, Finidi was also in the Eagles side that won the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations and got Nigeria ranked as the 5th best-ranked team in the world.

At club level, Finidi, and Nwankwo Kanu won the UEFA Champions League with Ajax in the 1994/1995 season.

There were so many memorable moments of Finidi George while he was a football player.

This writer, as a fan of the national team, personally went to the side of the Super Eagles bus after their win over Morocco in the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations to congratulate him.

I call him 'the elegant winger'

Finidi, who also played at Real Betis after a great spell at Ajax, delved into coaching and started at African CAF Champions League winners, Enyimba International of Aba.

Finidi's coaching style caught the attention of the Nigeria Football Federation and he was named as one of the assistant coaches of the Super Eagles. He also led the People's Elephant to the NPFL title in 2023 at the playoffs.

But the NFF curiously adopted a style of making the assistant coaches take turns in attending games and sitting in the dugout which is quite odd for a national team coach irrespective of whether he was/is an assistant or head coach.

Ultimately, 'Finito' was part of the team at the Africa Cup of Nations early in 2023.

So after the negotiations with Peseiro broke down, the Nigeria Football Federation bowed to public pressure in appointing an Indigenous coach after making the position open for interested applicants.

Coaches like Antonio Concecao, the former Cameroon head coach, Emmanuel Amunike, Sunday Oliseh, Ndubuisi Egbo etc were said to be coaches who showed interest in becoming the next Super Eagles head coach.

In the end, Finidi got the job, after guiding the team on an interim basis in the two international friendlies against Ghana and Mali. They won 2-1 against the Black Stars but lost 2-0 to the Aigles of Mali.

The Eagles were held to a 1-1 draw by South Africa and scandalously lost 2-1 to Benin Republic. All hell was let loose and Nigeria's World Cup hopes are in jeopardy now.

The NFF erred in bowing to public pressure. They seem to not fully trust Finidi but when most Nigerians expressed their wishes, there was almost a consensus.

Another superstar of the Super Eagles of yesteryear who was a one-time assistant in the national team, Daniel Amokachi was appointed as second assistant to Finidi but he interestingly resigned his appointment ostensibly due to the terms of his contract which stipulates that he is paid only match bonuses and not salaries.

Emmanuel Amunike was thought to be a strong contender but a tribal game was played by some Nigerians who came up with a phoney idea that the onetime Barcelona star would have his preferences in the national team.

So Amunike, who gave the duo of Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze their break as U-17 World Cup winners in 2015, was overlooked.

Finidi was magnificent as a footballer but in coaching terms, he is not a Stephen Keshi and Amodu Shauibu just yet. He could have remained as the number 2 man under any other more experienced coach.

Team performance so far

As stated, the Super Eagles drew two games in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers, then drew and lost in June. The win and defeat in the friendly matches back in March and the latest results in June meant Finidi had a 25% win rate in charge of the team.

The crisis of appointing another head coach

The technical Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation on June 13 rose from its emergency meeting and resolved that they would hire an expatriate coach as 'Technical Adviser' for the Super Eagles with Finidi expected to work as the 'Chief coach' in the new setup.

However, Finidi George resigned from his appointment two days later as his N15M monthly salary is expected to be downgraded to N5M.

The crisis got to a boiling point when a media organisation (not Allnews.ng) reported that Finidi referred to the supposed indiscipline in the camp of the Super Eagles as some players never showed commitment.

The report noted that Finidi found out that some players are regarded as 'untouchables' and belong to some 'big men' who have big influences on the team.

The report went further to state that Finidi said he would not beg any player to play for the Super Eagles and believed that Victor Osimhen who pulled out of the games against South Africa and Benin Republic could have managed to play.

That report drew the ire of the Napoli star who went on an Instagram tirade to dress down Finidi saying he has lost all respect for the legendary Afcon winner.

The current holder of the African Footballer of the Year, Osimhen said: "Everybody knows I play my heart out whether it is [for my] club side or national team. I won't allow anybody to disrespect me. I won't allow that nonsense. I won't allow anyone to stain my name. I don't care if what Finidi said is true or false. But I'll share the video, picture, and screenshot of my conversation with Finidi on my [Instagram] story because some of you believe I would be disrespected because I play football.

"I've lost respect for that man now. I spoke with him [Finidi] requesting that I join the Super Eagles camp to be with my teammates. But he told me not to bother and that I should stay with my family — I have a video of the conversation."

Some of the other things Osimhen said in the backlash were unprintable and not worthy for up-and-coming footballers to see and hear.

But an interesting perspective on the issue was presented by Colin Udoh, former media officer of the Super Eagles and sports journalist.

Udoh said he reached out to Finidi to get his perspective on his resignation and the Osimhen rant.

"The NFF board met on Wednesday and made that decision," Udoh stated.

"But it was when Findi landed in Port Harcourt after that meeting that someone called him and informed him. He [Finidi] had to park his car and read the link to see that it actually was true.

"So, he waited for two days to see if anyone would contact him but nobody spoke to him. So, he felt they didn't want him anymore and so he decided to turn in his resignation letter."

Udoh confirmed from Finidi that he never lambasted Finidi during his meeting with the NFF. He added that there will be a resolution to the issue.

Update on the Finidi versus Osimhen faceoff

Reports in some sections of the media hint that the disciplinary committee of the Nigeria Football Federation will sit in the coming days and decide on possible punitive measures to take against Osimhen possibly banning him from the Super Eagles unless he tenders an unreserved apology to Finidi.

Allnews.ng's opinion

Victor Osimhen may have been right to defend his commitment to club and country whenever he plays. That is never in doubt. It is also not right for him to play with the pain barrier so if he is injured, he should not play in order not to suffer worse conditions.

However, in this part of the world, it is expected that those in authority are revered and respected - as long as they are on the good and moral side of the law anyway.

Osimhen must apologise to Finidi, the Nigeria Football Federation and Nigerians for his unnecessary rant on social media. He must also endeavour to get a sound Public Relations team that would manage his social media accounts.  

On the part of the Nigeria Football Federation, there is a need to have a Code of Conduct for the Super Eagles. However, it has to be fair to all parties - players, coaches, technical crew and the NFF themselves.

It must not be skewed to favour one party over the other.

The incoming new head coach would need the cooperation and discipline of all players, the coaching crew and the NFF to deliver.

 

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