Oliseh… A Pep Guardiola In ‘Hiring And Firing’ Range

Oliseh-1-pg-61-18-07-15-CopyIf in-depth analyses of football on television is the yardstick for measuring success, the new coach of the Super Eagles, Sunday Ogochukwu Oliseh, is the messiah Nigerian soccer fans have been waiting to steer the ship of the senior national team.

For the past three years, many soccer fans have fallen in love with the former Borussia Dortmund midfielder for his analysis each time he appeared on television. One of such persons is former Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) presidential candidate, Lumumba Adeh.

Even before Oliseh was unveiled by the NFF in Abuja on Wednesday, Adeh had passed vote of confidence on the new Super Eagles coach, saying: “He is technically sound and he always impresses me with his analysis each time he appeared on TV.

“His analysis makes me feel that he has the technical depth. More so that he is involved with FIFA technically, no matter what, he must have learnt one or two things. Among former players of the Super Eagles, he is one of the most refined and educated. But how he will flow with the NFF is entirely up to them to decide. I am sure they must have checked their compatibility before they settled for him,” Adeh said.

Oliseh, active on social media, a writer and analyst, has been working as a member of FIFA Technical Study Group since 2013 and holds a Uefa Pro Coaching License.
Despite never coaching a major side, many Nigerians, including Adeh, think he is what Nigerian football has been waiting for. Oliseh communicates in five languages (English, French, German, Italian and a little Dutch). His predecessor, Stephen Keshi, speaks English and French.

Oliseh, who hails from Abavo in Ika South Local Government Area of Delta State, is always at ease, writing about everything, from corruption in politics and sports, to criticism of former teammates.

Immediate past Super Eagles coach, Stephen Keshi, got a bitter dose of Oliseh’s criticisms, especially during the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil, where Keshi’s decision to experiment with some home-based players ended in a disastrous campaign.

Oliseh was always on TV lashing out at Keshi. It soon sparked off a row between the two Delta State born ex-Super Eagles team captains, when the ‘Big Boss’ fought back soon after the championship, describing Oliseh’s comment as ‘shameful.’

“It is a shame that Sunday Oliseh could say a thing like that. He was a nobody when he came to the Super Eagles. He started from home too. When he came to the national team, I took him as a younger brother. I later (as an assistant coach to Amodu Shuabu) made him captain and he became a super star.”

It was followed by another blast from Oliseh, when he asked Keshi to learn to accept constructive criticism and work with it like managers in Europe do rather than slam any professional that raises any issue about the Eagles. “Keshi’s handling of criticism and his inability to differentiate constructive criticisms from destructive ones is a big worry to me.”

He then declared that he was not out to take Keshi’s job. Before the Brazil 2013 Confederations Cup, Oliseh had posted on his blog after Keshi led the Super Eagles to win the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa that managing the Nigerian senior national team was a burden and nightmare very few top coaches in the world want to bother doing. “Not because the talent or prospects are not there, but more or less because working with [these] administrators in the NFF is a nightmare.”

The circumstances surrounding the emergence of Oliseh as replacement for Keshi is said to be making the ‘Big Boss’ and some of his die-hard supporters to sense that Oliseh may have stabbed his fellow Delta brother (from same Igbo speaking tribe) from behind.

Oliseh was unveiled last Wednesday in Abuja, with the NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, describing him as the African version of former FC Barcelona Coach, Pep Guardiola. The NFF boss went further to announce upfront payment of three months salaries (N15 million) for Oliseh.

Oliseh (born 14 September 1974) captained the Super Eagles at the 2000 edition of the African Nations Cup, which was co-hosted by Ghana and Nigeria. The Eagles lost on penalty to Lions of Cameroun in the final played in Lagos.

The Juventus of Italy former star, a physical, technical defensive midfielder, played 54 international matches and scored two goals for Nigeria. He was part of the all-conquering Dream Team that won the Olympic gold medal at Atlanta ‘96.

He was part of the Super Eagles’ squad to USA ‘94 and France ’98 World Cup. He is mostly remembered for scoring the winning goal in the group stage match against Spain at France ’98, as Nigeria prevailed 3–2.

A throw-in deep in the Spanish half was headed clear by a defender, but a never-say-die Oliseh ran and fired an explosive shot from 25 yards and took Spanish goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta completely by surprise.

He went on to captain the Super Eagles to a bronze medal finishing at Mali 2002 African Nations, but Oliseh was omitted from Korea/Japan World Cup squad later that year for disciplinary reasons, after leading what the late Sports Minister, Ishaya Mark Aku, perceived as rebellion against government, over his demand for higher wages for the players. Oliseh retired from international football in June 2002 after missing out on World Cup selection.

Thirteen years after, Oliseh is back in the saddle, this time, as coach of the Super Eagles. His message at Wednesday’s unveiling ceremony in Abuja was: “I come to serve my country, not to wage a war.”

But Oliseh’s ability to analysis football on TV notwithstanding, some stakeholders are worried that he might find it difficult in crossing a threshold – from being the intellectual and critic, to practicing all his lofty ideas on the field with the Super Eagles.

Those who spoke during the week were of the view that the Super Eagles coaching job, which has burnt up many, including Amodu Shaibu, Austin Eguavoen, Samson Siasia and now Stephen Keshi, may consume Oliseh, even before he settles down.

The people were quick to point out that the same NFF Glass House, which is singing praises of Oliseh, labeling him as African version of Coach Pep Guardiola, could turn him into an enemy of over 170 million Nigerians within a short time if he failed to get the results.

“The NFF want quick results, so, Oliseh must be ready to turn his ‘big grammars’ on TV into success, whether or not he has quality players to work with. There will be no room for experimentation,” one football analyst said on a radio programme yesterday. “Every Nigerian is a football coach, so, no one will tell Oliseh about the pressure of satisfying every household in the ountry.”

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