The Man Sunday Ogorchukwu Oliseh



HATE or love him, the appointment of Sunday Ogochukwu Oliseh as the new helmsman of the Super Eagles of Nigeria has come to stay!

The combatant and technical defensive midfielder began his illustrious career with Julius Berger FC of Lagos from 1989 to 1990 and then proceeded to RFC Liege of Belgium where he began his professional career. Other well-known clubs he played for include AFC Ajax, Borussia Dortmund and Juventus FC.

The Abavo-born indigene of Delta State fondly remembered for his a 25-yard volley that resulted in the defeat of the Spaniard at the 1998 World Cup group stage, played 54 international matches and scored four goals. Other of his appearances at the world stage include the country’s debut at the World Cup in USA 1994 and the Atlanta 1996 Olympics, where the nation triumphed in the football event, denying the Argentine the gold medal.

Probably, one of the greatest regrets of the no-nonsense midfielder would be his exclusion from the 2002 World Cup, which he and some of his teammates that were also barred, laboured to qualify, for indiscipline. His appearance at the Mundial would have been his third in a roll and an opportunity for the world to see a mature Super Eagles from the 1994 U.S. squad. His exit from the national team undoubtedly affected his club football career.

In March 2004, while on loan from Borussia Dortmund at VfL Bochum, Oliseh was said to have punched a team-mate, Vahid Hashemian and this eventually led to his sack by his employer. In January 2006, at the age of 31, Oliseh quit football after a stint at Belgian club, KRC Agent.

It was no surprise when Oliseh ventured into football commentary both on television and radio where his in-depth analyses gave an inclination of what to expect from him if given the opportunity to translate some of his ideas into reality.

No sooner was the news of Coach Stephen Okechukwu Keshi (Big Boss) sack as the coach of the Super Eagles than the name of Oliseh came up as the likely replacement. And then began commentaries over Oliseh’s inability to steer the ship of the overbearing Super Eagles stars. Some said the midfield maestro lacks enough experience to tinker the team; that his temperament, which was one of the things that failed him in the 2002 Mundial and attitude towards his employer and the players are questionable.

The former Technical Director of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Chief Adeboye Onigbinde, who had some good things to say about Oliseh, however, questioned the rationale behind naming him as the likely person to take over from Keshi in the first place.

According to the Modakeke chief: “Talking about Oliseh, I know he has served this country meritoriously and there is no negative thing I can say about him. I was reading in one of the newspapers that the NFF is discussing with him. No doubt, he is a fine gentleman, but from the background that I read, they said he has something like an advance qualification somewhere but with very little coaching experience, if any at all. And he is being considered to coach the Nigeria national team!

Oliseh, a member of the “golden generation” of Nigerian football stars, alongside Jay-Jay Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu and Finidi George, has been working as a pundit, sport consultant and FIFA technical committee member with little management experience, having coached only a Belgian lower league side, Vervietois, between 2008 and 2009.

But one of the things against him was his several outbursts against the football authorities when he was captain of the national team. One occasion when the issue of winning bonus was to be paid, a source said when Oliseh discovered that the money was less than what was promised by the football authority, he flared up abusing the football officials for reneging on their promise.

A football pundit believes that it is because of the rot in the country’s football management, that is why someone like Oliseh who abhors deceit is needed.

With optimism at the unveiling ceremony of Oliseh, the NFF chairman Amaju Pinnick said: “We have just signed the Pep Guardiola of Africa. And I believe he will succeed. Oliseh has all the necessary knowledge and exposure we’re looking for to take this 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.”

Regarding the task ahead, Oliseh has clarified that: “If you are not playing in the first division anywhere in the world and in Nigeria, you cannot play for the Super Eagles henceforth. However players coming from the under-age teams are the only exception to this rule.

This time around, Oliseh has acknowledged: “I come to serve my country, not to wage a war. I have come to serve and the NFF has promised to give me all the support I need to succeed. They are the employers and I am the employee. That distinction has to be appreciated at all times.”

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