Bad luck: Nigeria may not get to see U17 talent like Lukman Haruna
The move to bring Lars Lagerback on board to coach the Super Eagles did not pan out as planned as the team bombed out in the group stage.
So what does Nigerian president, Jonathan Goodluck do? He reportedly suspends the Super Eagles from international competition for two years.
“President Goodluck Jonathan has directed that Nigeria withdraws from international competition for two years to enable the country to put its house in order.”
There is also a move afoot to extend Lars Lagerback’s contract to five years enabling him to raise a new team in the meantime.
Both are wrong headed moves.
If this is true and FIFA is examining this seriously – they have zero tolerance in government interference into the affairs of the football association. Usually if there are legitimate grounds, the national associations are punished by having the national team suspended. Such is the case in the past with Kenya, Iran, Greece, and Poland. Each time these strong arm tactics have worked- the government has backed off.
FIFA warned Nikolas Sarkozy that France risks suspension if the government goes ahead with an investigation into the FFF after Les Bleus comedy of errors.
The opposite is true in Nigeria’s case – the Nigerian president wants the Super Eagles out of international competition for two years, ostensibly for the purposes of rebuilding. A FIFA ban will suit him just fine- this will be no punishment. But a ban can exclude them for much longer and extend to all teams that come under the FIFA umbrella.
Nigeria’s inability to transfer the immense talent they have on paper into tangible results is not going to be served by a vague sense of “rebuilding”.
Their youth players are excellent – the U17 team reached the finals of the 2009 World Cup. A FIFA ban will punish them too. The youth teams are the crucible of Nigerian talent- they have entered six finals and won three. Some of the class of the 2007 U17 team that won against Spain are already coming into their own with the Super Eagles, for e.g., Lukman Haruna. Rebuilding involves their continued participation in such competitions.
John Obi Mikel, Taye Taiwo, Chinedu Obasi, and Sani Kaita are standouts from the 2005 Golden Eagles team that were runners up to Argentina in the U20 World Cup. They are now mainstays in the Super Eagles.
In a desire to punish the Super Eagles, Jonathan Goodluck is shooting himself in the foot by actually cutting of future Nigerian participation essential to the Super Eagles success- at the U17, U20, and U21 levels.
The opposite debate is occurring in England where the dearth of youth talent is being blamed by Fabio Capello in his tunnel vision of including players who looked old and worn out. They could have done with Germany’s perky elixir of youth.
Nigeria should be thankful for the plenitude of youthful talent at their disposal.
Does Nigeria really believe that Lars Lagerback is the coach to translate all the talent to national team success? His resume boasts four consecutive World Cup appearances for Sweden but the Nigerians really don’t want that, do they? They are past the “we made it to the World Cup” stage. Since 1994 they have qualified for every World Cup except the one in Germany four years ago. Another foreign journeyman coach who is paid wads of money to under perform is not the answer.
Look at the way Shaibu Amodu gets treated every time he takes Nigeria to the brink. Shunted out after taking them to the World Cup in 2002 and 2010. Each time he was ill served by his replacement. Under Faustus Onigbende, Nigeria did not win one match in the 2002 World Cup dismissal from further participation. Lars Lagerback did not accomplish any better this time around losing to Argentina, Greece, and drawing South Korea in a match that they should have won.
Nigeria should rebuild without resorting to these draconian sanctions on the Super Eagles. The NFA should install a homegrown coach and cast aside this easy come, easy go attitude that has proven counterproductive to national team success.
The national association should clean house – cast aside the regionalism, the politicking for votes, and the cushy payoffs that have given so many voices but no stability. That used to be Ghana’s problem in the past – but they have done much better in rebuilding a strong national character. When you mean business, then the overpaid Premiership stars fall in line.