Dear Coach Oliseh,
ours sincerely was to say the least surprised, rather pleasantly surprised, at your appointment as Super Eagles' coach. One had thought the NFF would go for a foreign coach after the sacking of Coach Keshi. But rather they went for a hybrid solution, by not only contracting you, and of course the Nigerian assistants, but also allowed you the opportunity of coming with a Belgian assistant. That at first sight looks like a fantastic combination!
You are no doubt an accomplished soccer player of the highest standard. I don't know of any Nigerian soccer player of the recent or past memory who is more successful than you. You played for some of the best soccer teams on this planet, under some of the best soccer trainers, and in some of the best soccer cultures of this world.
Yours sincerely, save for a chance meeting in Brussels, some years ago, doesn't know you in person. One had left the shores of Nigeria, before you broke through on the local scene. But one followed closely your exploits, in Europe.
The journey to international soccer stardom, started for you, at Club Luik, in Belgium; where you trained under Robert Waseige, the erstwhile Belgian national team coach. You performed well in your first soccer adventure in Europe, and that earned you a transfer to the serie A team: Reggiana football club, of Italy. One remembers the image of Roberto Baggio, embracing you and putting his hand around your shoulders, and muttering some words to you, after Nigeria's elimination by Italy, at the 1994 World cup competition, as if telling you: " welcome to the serie A, the Italian league ," since you had been signed before the 1994 World cup competition, by Reggiana of Italy.
The good performance you put up in Italy, immediately earned you the next season, a transfer to FC Cologne of Germany. You were subsequently transferred to Ajax football club of Amsterdam, in the Netherlands; this was after the departures of Finidi George and Nwankwo Kanu, who no doubt did well at Ajax. You kept the Nigerian flag flying high at Ajax, with your numerous five star performances; which earned you and your team a number of Dutch soccer prizes. Your characteristic long distance shots, was named by the Dutch soccer commentators, as the: " Rocket of Amsterdam." The "rocket ," which you used to score Nigeria's third and winning goal, against Spain, at the 1998 World cup competition; and subsequently retired the legendary Spanish goalkeeper: Zubizaretta, not only from the Spanish national side but from soccer, as an active player!
Your 'nomadic' soccer adventure in Europe, continued with your transfer to Juventus football club of Italy, and as a consequence became the first Nigerian and may be the first African to play for this great club, with the nickname of: "the old lady"; under the great Italian coach: Carlo Ancelotti, the immediate past coach of Real Madrid.
After just one season in Italy, a German club came calling again: Borussia Dortmond. This time around, you played under: Bert Van Marwick, who led Holland to the runner's up spot, at the 2010 World cup competition, in South Africa. You were later on, loaned out to VFL Bochum, were you were involved in an ugly incident with an Iranian player, that is best forgotten. No doubt, since that incident, you have grown in patience and maturity, which will certainly stand you in good stead, in your new responsibility, as the new Super Eagles' gaffer.
Your beautifully rich soccer career in Europe, ended at a Belgian side, like it started. This time, at Racing Genk football club. You were given a two year contract, but a few months into the contract, you asked for a termination of the contract, when you came to the conclusion, you were not equal to the challenge. This was highly appreciated by the management of Genk, who described your action, as a " class act!" Many a player would have hung on, not even minding a place on the substitute's bench, as a consequence of dwindeling performance, as long as they continued getting their salary, usually to the financial disadvantage of their soccer team. But the honest and sincere Sunday Oliseh, held his integrity high ,by coming clean with the management of his club. You subsequently retired from the game and moved on with your life, this time around as a soccer analyst, among other endeavours.
Coach Sunday Oliseh's immense love for the Super Eagles and for his country, has not been in doubt. One remembers how you were literally dragged out of your sick bed, when the Super Eagles, were losing 1-0, at the quarter-final stage of the 2000 African cup of Nations on home soil. You decided to help your country, even though, you had not fully recoverd from the bout of malaria you were suffering from, with minutes left to play, by putting on your soccer jersey and boots and coming on the field of play, to help your country, record a come-from -behind victory against Senegal; courtesy of two goals scored by wonder boy, Julius Aghahowa, off two tailor-made passes of yours. This was the reason you were called up to play, notwithstanding you apparent lack of fitness. You were virtually the only one who could give those crisp, accurate and deadly long distance passes!
At the presentation of medals' ceremony of the same Nations'cup competition, you further demonstrated your patriotic fervour, by crying profusely, at the disappointment of having lost the finals to arch rivals Cameroun, in a dramatic penalty shoot -out .
Now you have the ultimate job in African soccer, one expects you to make the most of the opportunity.
Yours sincerely has the following tips for you in this regard:
Firstly, one expects you to always maintain the usual level of self confidence which usually characterises your television soccer analyses.You are likely to be put to the test in this regard, but be firm and be your usual confident self. Afterall you're are the coach of the Super Eagles, chosen on merit. This fact is buttressed by the wide acclamation and acceptance by Nigerians in general of your appointment and the very warm reception you received at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, on your arrival in Nigeria, for the presentation ceremony.
Secondly, respect and try to work well with your employers: the NFF. Always try to be at the same level as the NFF. Please don't try to supercede the NFF, regardless of whatever connections you may have. Trying to rise above your employers, regardless of whatever priviledges you presently enjoy, will ultimately end up in failure! The NFF, is an institution that cannot be superceded by it's employees. If you think the NFF, is not cooperating well with you, and the situation cannot be improved, one suggests you throw in the towel; instead of being confrontational. They may look for you again some day; this time around without those that frustrated you .
Thirdly, always go for the best legs, no matter whose ox is gored! This is one of the secrets of success of top coaches the world over .This means you should not allow sentiments to becloud your sense of judgement; and off course it means you shouldn't allow your self to be bought over by material rewards of some players and some very 'adventureous ' managers; who will stop at nothing to have their wards in the Super Eagles, even when they are not supposed to be in the team. Acceptance of material rewards in exchange for fielding unqualified players, what one terms "pittance," may in the short term satisfy your materialistic desires, but would certainly backfire in the long term! You will not only lose your job as a consequence of dwindeling performances of the Super Eagles, but will earn for your self a very bad reputation, as a corrupt coach; which might make you unemployable, by other potential employees, or rather employable under very strict and stifling conditions! Regardless of how discreet a corrupt coach goes to work, the secret will always be revealed some how. Remember the popular saying that: nothing is hidden under the sun! You stand to gain much more than the "pittance" you would get through corruption, by being honest and doing your job conscientiously, and that way stand a bigger chance of doing well with a country like Nigeria, that has abundance of talents! This will take your coaching career to never-seen -before heights; with the concomitant material rewards that as certain as day and night ,will surpass the "pittance" gotten through corruption!
Fourthly, you should diplomatically, and with lots of imagination and common sense, manage the egos of your players. As you already know, it doesn't make much sense, suspending or excluding an errant highly talented player, as punishment for his misdeed(s). That way you will deprive the team, your self and the nation of his services; this could back fire! Remember that talent cannot be replaced by mere wave of the hand. The good Lord no doubt endowed such a player with talent, which you should always try to exploit for the team's benefit. Remember that a highly talented player, can decide a bad match played by your team, in your team's favour, by a magical toch of ingenuity! This however doesn't mean you should condone indiscipline, the point here is, looking for other ways to sanction an errant player without depriving your team of his services. Remember the popular saying : there are several ways to skin a cat!
Fifthly, you should hire a publicist to handle your communications and consequently public image. This will enable you concentrate on your job as Super Eagles' coach. As coach of the Super Eagles, you're now in the front line, and there is no hiding place!
Sixthly, be sensitive to public opinion. Don't turn a deaf ear to the yearnings of the greater public as a consequence of some unbridled stubbornness and arrogance. It will certainly backfire sooner or later. Remember you're coaching team that also has 180 million coaches! The voice of the people they say, is the voice of God!
Seventhly, you should throw in the towel, when it doesn't make sense staying on as Super Eagles' coach. Top coaches all over the world, are never pressured to leave, they know when to leave. It doesn't make sense stubbornly hanging on to a job, you don't deserve to keep; such arrogance only demeans you before everybody; and may make it very difficult to be recalled in the future. Remember the job of coaches can be likened to the game of musical chairs: coaches come and go!
In conclusion, my dear Coach Oliseh, like all Nigerians, I wish you all the best, in your latest and certainly most difficult soccer adventure. The job comes with a lot of pressure; but I believe you're equal to the task and hopefully will do well. One doesn't buy the idea your inexperience as a coach will put you at a disadvantage. Coaches like: Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Frank De Boer, Philip Cocu and Franz Bekenbauer, all did well as coaches, without coaching experience, when they got their first major coaching assignments. Franz Bekenbauer, even won the World cup, without a coaching diploma! A lot has to do with one's talent as a coach and of course luck. There are coaches who coached for a 'thousand' years without results!
Here is wishing you all the best and God speed as you try to give Nigerians the Super Eagles of their dreams. I have no doubt in my mind that if you do your job well and with a bit of luck, the Super Eagles would rise again! Iseeeeeeeeh!
Up Coach Sunday Oliseh! Up Super Eagles of Nigeria !! Up Nigeria !!!!!
Cyril C. Nwokeji