Saturday Feb 13, 2016. 08:41
It was 19 July 2015, in one that I put out on these pages for your reading pleasure, that I aptly titled the first part of this piece. At the time, I did not know that there would be a need for a second part.
And now, I have no way of being sure that this will be the last of the parts because the stories keep unfolding.
In my post of 19 July 2015, I want to remind readers of some of the comments I made – my reservations, my misgivings, and why I had them.
|Let me make it clear that I personally asked questions on the rationale behind this clamour. I told AMP (Amaju Melvin Pinnick) that Sunny has all the qualifications, agreed; but has no experience of coaching. I told him that he may be a pretty face on TV, an articulate analyst loved by both FIFA and CAF, but can he bring it to bear on the field?|
I asked questions. I asked about how Sunny appeared to me to be an arrogant person who tended to look down on people when he was playing. I personally had a slight altercation with him in 2001 when Nigeria was struggling to qualify for the 2002 World Cup, then languishing in 3rd place in our group, behind Liberia and Ghana!
I also heard later, in and around 2009/2011, how Sunny was offered the chance to join the Nigerian coaching setup as an assistant to the then Super Eagles coach, or take over one of the age group teams. I was told that he “walked out” on the powers of the NFF at the time, insisting that it was either the top job or nothing for him. This claim was never refuted but I certainly was not physically present at the meetings.
I warned AMP that there was a possibility of setting a dangerous precedent for our football culture, which could be translated to mean, “the best way to the job of your dreams will be to be rude and arrogant to your superiors and you will get it”.
Fast-forward 7 months, and let’s see where we are.
First game in charge was a competitive away game, an African Cup qualifier against Tanzania early in September. It was goalless, and Nigeria lost ground on group pacesetters Egypt who recorded a 100% start to the qualifying campaign.
From then on, the records are there to see, and Oliseh himself confirmed – 14 games, 2 losses, a few wins here and there (2-0 against Swaziland at home, 3-0 friendly match win vs Cameroon and a competitive 4-1 win over Niger in the CHAN tournament, amidst a few draws).
Obviously after a disappointing outing in the African Nations Championships in Rwanda where Sunny couldn’t lead Nigeria beyond the preliminary stages, people were not happy – understandably. And they expressed it.
Sunny gave it back to them – in measures; starting by blaming the custodians of football in Nigeria (his employers, the NFF) for not motivating the team enough with money.
Then came the bombshell – the now ever so infamous “video rant”. The less said about this video really, the better. Not on here anyway.
But contents of that video seem to confirm some of those misgivings yours truly had 7 months ago, and called the attention of the world to. But it went beyond that.
Now, there’s been an apology – an apology to the employers, an apology to Nigerians.
The technical committee of the NFF met, deliberated on Sunny and gave a recommendation to the NFF hierarchy. Apparently, whatever was recommended was not taken to, and this prompted a mass resignation of the Committee appointed to oversee coaching issues among others in Nigerian football.
The sportswriters of Nigeria have come out fighting because of some spurious allegations made by Sunny in his ‘rant’, which I describe more as a “Presidential State of the Nation” address. They want him to name their colleagues that Sunny allege to have asked to be bribed before they can write complimentary stories about him.
The dust has settled, but I say: there are so many questions that this Presidential address has raised, and it does not feel like a simple letter of apology, and a twitter message is sufficient to douse this matter.
Let it be known that Nigeria did not qualify for the last Africa Cup of Nations; hence were unable to defend the crown that Sunny’s predecessor (Stephen Keshi) won in 2013.
To stand a chance of not missing out on a second one in a row, Nigeria needs to overcome group leaders Egypt, home and away, in March, and not slip up against others – all under this same coach who does not want to be criticised, who feels it was wrong to question his tactics.
The questions mount: who are the agents that have been asking Sunny to include their players and do “business” with him? Which of my colleagues in the media have been asking Sunny to pay them before they write positive things about him?
Surely his work is speaking for him? 14 games, only 2 losses – a statistic that many will be proud of. Why would he need to pay for people to highlight such an achievement?
Oh…and we ask, how will the President of CAF, Issa Hayatou feel, when he hears that Sunny called a tournament which was a brainchild of his (Hayatou’s) and in which he is so proud, the “least important football tournament in Africa”?
Would Sunny extend his apologies to CAF as well?
And finally, can it be true that the NFF actually begged Sunny to take this job? Is it true that he didn’t ask for it, didn’t beg for it and “didn’t even want it”, and that it took the personal intervention of friends before he took the job?
Can this be true? Nigeria – a country of over 180 million people, that many coaches are losing sleep wanting to manage – with abundant talent home and abroad, and most important, with a budget salary that many coaches will kill to earn in Africa – actually begging a reluctant ex-player to come coach its national team.
If it is not true, then we can add that to the questions. Who begged Sunny? Why? If it was a false allegation, then is it not a slap on the faces of all of us custodians of football in Nigeria, that someone will say something this heavy and sweep it under the carpet in the name of a letter of apology?
Questions, questions, questions
What happens from now on? I would not clamour for anyone to lose their livelihood but I will ask - what kind of relationship will exist between Sunny and employers now? The NFF that has a technical committee that is clearly not happy that he is still there, and that will have to preside over his programmes to win difficult matches.
How does he deal with the people he has accused of requesting for bribe?
How does he navigate the country to qualification for a competition that is already very difficult to qualify for as it is, at the best of times?
The NFF needs to look at itself too, and that includes yours truly. This matter will be the making of this regime. If Sunny succeeds to qualify Nigeria, he will go to town saying he did it without support from anyone – that they were prepared to see him sink, yet he swam. If he doesn’t qualify for AFCON, Nigerians will have us for dinner, for not taking action when we had the chance to.
Caught between a rock and a hard place…..is the best way to describe the state that the NFF is in now.
And there is only one person; ONE SINGLE INDIVIDUAL, who knows the best and most honourable thing to do. He knows himself, and I am sure we all do too.
One word, they say………
By ‘Tunde Adelakun