FEATURE ARTICLE

Cyril C. NwokejiMonday, July 15, 2013
cyril.nwokeji@wol.be
Belgium

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FLYING EAGLES OF NIGERIA: ANOTHER FAILED FIFA U-20 CHAMPIONSHIP

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he Flying Eagles have for the second consequetive championship, failed to make a decent impression at the World under-20 championship, that ended recently in Turkey. The second round elimination, was to say the least highly unexpected, considering Nigeria's reputation in soccer, particularly, youth soccer. However, for the critical eyes, the early elimination, was not at all surprising, considering the deficiencies, exhibited by the team, especially during the African Championship. Yours sincerely, in an article, after the African Championship, warned that the Flying Eagles, were not yet World class. One hoped, for improvements, before the World tournament, but after watching their opening match against Portugal, one knew, the Flying Eagles, wouldn't go far in the World tournament. The pertinent question, at this juncture, is what went wrong in Turkey?:

  1. The NFF: The NFF, once again, exhibited it's amateurism, by not adequetly motivating the coach, Mr. John Obuh, by not paying him, for several months. The gentleman Obuh, even went as far as refusing to board the plane to Egypt,with the Flying Eagles players, enroute to the African under - 20 championship, in Algeria, over his grievances, over the unpaid salaries. As a consequence, the NFF, were reported to have paid him, part of the owed salaries, before he jetted out to Egypt. When the Flying Eagles, were nek deep, in the preparations, for the World cup tournament, in Germany, coach Obuh, was reported, in the press, to have complained about numerous phone calls from his family, asking for financial support, which he could not provide. Apparently, the balance in unpaid salaries, had not been paid. The pertinent question in the light of this, is: how could the coach have concentrated properly, on his assignment, while having so much financial worries, more especially, coming from his family? A ready, explanation, by the NFF, is that they are in financial dire straits, but they contradict themselves, time and again, by engaging in unjustifiable, and reckless financial adventurisms: sponsoring multitude of officials to away matches of the national teams and employing a German coach, to assist coach John Obuh, in the World under-20 championship.

    The German coach, certainly,didn't earn peanuts, and moreover, was paid, as at when due. This was in Sharp contrast to the situation with his Nigerian "boss," who most likely, earned relatively, peanuts and worst of all, was owed months in salary arrears! What a way to motivate a coach!

  2. Coach JOHN OBUH's flawed method of building the Flying Eagles : Coach John Obuh, no doubt, was under intense pressure from the NFF, to produce results; under this circumstance, and wanting to keep his job, he resorted to a "fail safe," method of building the Flying Eagles- by recycling some of the Flying Eagles of the 2011, word championship. This method, gave him good results, in the short term,but in the long term, proved to be a flawed policy of building the Flying Eagles. The reason being that, since those players, were members of a team, that was knocked out,at the quater-final stage of the 2011 edition of the World under - 20 championship, part of the reason for their failure, was because they were not good enough, to be World champions, not withstanding, their being African champions. Common sense, should have told Mr. Obuh,that if he wanted to build a team that would do better than the 2011 group, he needed to search further and wider, for more quality players. This method of rebuilding, would have been more developmental and a better way of rebuilding the Flying Eagles. No doubt, this" developmental method, "would have had it's inherent risks, but one should not fear failure, when undertaking any adventure in life; more especially, when the adventure was well thought-out before execution. He should have borrowed a leaf from Mr. Stephen Keshi's method of rebuilding the Super Eagles. Mr. Keshi fearlessly cast his net far and wide in the search for quality players, and not withstanding the initial difficulties, this method, is gradually bearing fruits for Mr. Keshi and Nigeria.

  3. Mr. Obuh's relatively poor tactical ability: One noticed right from his days as coach of Nigeria's under - 17 side, coach Obuh's not -so-good tactical abilty. At that level of soccer, this deficiency,was not that bad, and Coach Obuh, not withstanding, piloted a team that nearly became World champions on home soil. At the under-20 level, however, the game goes professional, and standards are higher. This means, a lot more is expected of the coaches, qua tactics. Mr. Obuh, no doubt did his best, piloting the 2O11 group of Flying Eagles, to the pinnacle of African under -20 championship, as African Champions. At the World stage, his tactical deficiencies showed, and this factor among other factors, accounted for our not-too-impressive showing. The NFF, apparently, noticed this deficiency of Coach Obuh, but only on the eve of the World championship, in Turkey; and hurriedly sent him to a coaching course in Germany. This rather "crashed" method of trying to raise the coaching standards of our coaches can neither be helpful to them, nor to our football. The NFF should instead put in place, a consistent policy of constantly sending our indigenous coaches on refresher courses, both at home and abroad. This re -emphasis the point yours sincerely made in my earlier article:" The near stuntering on the Kenyan bridge: lessons for the future," in which I challenged the NFF, to be PROACTIVE and not REACTIVE, in our soccer administration.

  4. The Team was not balanced: Starting from the goal-keeper, to the defence, to the mid-field and right up to the attack; we had no balanced team = evidence of poor coaching. The goal-keeper, with all due respects, was not ready for a competition of that magnitude. The defensive line was not well organised. They showed lack of character and organization, under pressure. The mid-field, was epileptic, to say the least. By moments they played very well and by other moments they literally went to sleep! The attackers, not withstanding the presence of two highly talented and suppossedly experienced players: Olanrewaju Kayode and Captain Abdul Jeleel Ajagun, were very naive in front of goal. Apparently they didn't get the message that goals win matches and not beautiful, flowery displays in front of goal!

  5. The Inclusion of a foreign assistant coach on the eve of the World championship: This was sheer naievity, on the part of the NFF. They should have included the foreign assistant, much earlier, and so facilitated better integration, with the coaching crew in place. This late inclusion, I believe did more harm than good to the team.

In Conclution, one hopes the NFF, would get it's acts right for the 2015 edition of the World under-20 championship. Our problem for now,isn't doing well in Africa, but on the World stage. To this end, the NFF should appoint a coach, with proven tactical capability, as soon as possible, to start assembling the next group of under-20 players. Hopefully with the necessary encouragement and good luck, the new group of flying Eagles, would do much better on the World stage. One would like to thank Mr. John Obuh, for his meritorious services to his father land and wish him well in his future endeavours. UP FLYING EAGLES, UP NIGERIA.

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