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Odegbami: The Problem With Nigerian Football!

Odegbami: The Problem With Nigerian Football!

I am watching the ongoing matches in Qatar but all I am thinking about is my country, Nigeria.

As I am writing this, the last of the African teams, Ghana, just played their first match and lost against one of the teams considered favourites to win the FIFA World Cup, Portugal.

It was a close match, one that spoke volumes. Nigeria could have been in Qatar.

Ghana halted Nigeria’s qualification in two qualifying matches that left genuine football persons wondering what to make of both teams. Between them there was little to choose. In both matches, try as much as I can, I am unable to remember a single outstanding moment of brilliance or creativity that lingers in the mind.

Also Read – 2022 World Cup: Ronaldo Makes History In Portugal Vs Ghana Five-Goal Thriller

Meanwhile,  everyone knows that the Black Stars have not been at their best these past few years. They have been, like the Super Eagles, a shadow of the team that was often described as the ‘Brazil of Africa’. In my humble estimation before the World Cup qualifiers against Nigeria, that particular Black Stars team was the weakest I have ever known. In Qatar, little wonder, Ghana are the lowest FIFA ranked team.

So, I have just watched Ghana take on Portugal. It was a rather uninspiring performance, yet they were only narrowly beaten. The difference between the lowest ranked team and one of the favourites is a very thin line, not planets apart. Even in losing Ghana scored two goals. With a little bit of discipline in the organisation of the team, the match could have ended differently. Acquiring that level of ‘discipline’ is the most difficult mountain to climb in world football. That’s what separates the giants from the rest!

I am only using the Ghana/Portugal match as a benchmark for my following academic excursion.


Portugal 3 – 2 Ghana


Bruno Fernandes, the talismanic player in the heart of Portugal’s midfield, described the Nigerian national team’s performance, after they met in Portugal’s last friendly match before Qatar 2022, as weak and of very low standard.

Fernandes’s words hurt and haunt. Yet, they speak the facts. Nigerian football is in a limbo, like a rudderless ship in the middle of the sea. How did Africa’s football powerhouse at a time derail from an ascendancy that was acknowledged by the greatest football player in history as potential World Cup-winning?

In 1989, Pele, the Brazilian football genius, was in Scotland for the FIFA Under-17 Championship. I was there too.

Together we watched a young Nigerian team put up raw, pure and unadulterated football for that level. Without much tactical organisation, they put up a display that portrayed them as uncut Diamonds. Pele predicted that within 10 years (before the turn of the last Century) an African team (referring to the Nigerian team) would win the World Cup.

This is from a man who knows his football, one that comes from the most successful football culture in the world. Pele knew Nigerian football very well. He played four or five  times over a period of 10 years in different friendly matches in Nigeria.

Also Read: ‘Super Eagles Stars Lack The Desire, Patriotism Of Ghanaian Players’ —Etim Esin

Pele saw something special in the young Nigerian lads that evening in Glasgow.

I knew what he was talking about.

I had been a part of that upward rise of Nigerian football, the result of a deliberate architecture put in place to achieve a specific objective to conquer the world.

I cannot forget 1979. The Green Eagles were sent to Brazil for the first time in their history, spent three months in an isolated camp in Rio de Janeiro, were tutored in the Brazilian art of football, and played against various clubs across Brazil. The country hired the most respected Brazilian coach of that era, a professor of football, the coach that took Portugal to the semi-finals of the 1966 World Cup, and headed the Brazilian academy of coaches. Nigeria sent several Nigerian club coaches to Brazilian academies to imbibe the Brazilian football systBrazilian.


Portugal 4 – 0 Nigeria in Lisbon

time the Eagles and Nigerian coaches returned to Nigeria, the players and the teams had transformed. Within a few months of their return, the beauty of their newly acquired style had infected the entire country’s domestic football. Even ordinary warm-up sessions by players all over the country took on the Brazilian style, till this day!!

Spectators that came to watch the Eagles train and play matches could see the difference in the old and new Eagles from a mile away.

The team had added fresh dimensions to the kick-and-follow style of Nigerian football pre-1979. They had added some flamboyance, some rhythm, individual expressiveness and flair to their natural power, speed, physicality, fighting spirit and dribbling.

Thus was birthed a lethal combination of Nature and Art in Nigerian football. Etim Esin, Daniel Amokachi, Benjamin Nzeakor, Jay Jay Okocha, Kanu Nwankwo, Tijani Babangida, Rashid Yekini, Samson Siasia, and whole generation of individually gifted players were no accidents. They were products of a deliberate system put in place.

The only ingredients missing are the organisation and discipline required for team tactics, a technical aspect of the game that belonged to European football.

Nigeria started to churn out exceptional players from the domestic leagues, full of new confidence, and playing with freedom and panache. They started migrating to Europe to become complete and armed to compete with the best in the world.

That’s part of the seed that Pele saw in 1989, blooming!

Less than one year into this new project and realm in 1980, Nigeria won the  African Cup of Nations. The success was not an accident either.  It was not a fluke. Although not mature yet, a tradition had been conceived, designed and executed in the boardrooms of the Nigeria Football Association and the Sports Ministry.

Nine years into the project, Pele saw the product of that scheme in Scotland. 5 years after Pele’s prediction, Nigeria won her second continental trophy, played at the World Cup and was 14 minutes away from qualifying for the quarter finals of the World Cup. Nigeria rose in ranking to 5th in the World.

Also Read: 10 Most Valuable 2022 World Cup Players Who Don’t Play For Birth Nations

A few weeks after that, England played an African team in a friendly on the hallowed ground of Wembley stadium for the first time, a venue reserved only for the highest level of matches in England. It was a clear demonstration of how good Nigerian football had become and the level of respect the country’s football now commanded.

Two years later, in 1996, the country won the Olympic Gold medal in football.

The achievements of that era were not an accident or a fluke. They were the products of a deliberate scheme yielding fruit in a bounty.

A change in football culture does not happen in a day. It takes time. Losing it also is a gradual progression in a Southern direction.

That’s the catastrophe that has befallen Nigerian football in the past two decades, silently and steadily, in the hands of inexperienced leadership, to the point where the Super Eagles and clubs in the domestic league now play without a discernible style and organisation, to the point where a Bruno Fernandes would have the audacity to describe Nigerian football as weak and of low standard.

Nigerian football needs to be rescued from the hands of those with limited knowledge and experience in the deep matters of the beautiful game.

New Sheriffs are required to restore the wandering ship.

They must come up with a plan and a strategy to get Nigerian football back on track. Too many technically limited leaders have led the country’s football astray for too long.

Foreign coaches that do not know Nigeria football’s genesis and trajectory, that only understand the culture of European football and want to convert Nigerian football into the European brand, have only accelerated the destruction of the fabric and foundation of the rich traditions of Nigerian football as reinforced by the 1980s’ Brazilian project.

What we saw of the Eagles against Portugal shortly before Qatar 2022 is Nigerian football at its worst, destroyed by ignorant leaders – weak and of low standards.

Bruno Fernandes is right after all.

The problems can never be solved by outsiders but by ourselves for ourselves. The answer also lies here at home.






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  • Four four two 1 year ago

    Excellent exposition by the legend. This is in tandem with what Mikel obi said in the interview he granted after Nigeria exited from the AFCON. He was asked to pick his best SE coach he had played under and He said without hesitation ” its the big boss” He was then asked to chose between foreign and indigenous which is best choice and he said ” It is always better to go with your own no matter what” That respond pricked my heart because it came from someone who has seen it all as far football is concerned. Mikel must have seen something unique that indigenous coaches offer which foreign coaches do not have. I’m sure that is the reason most( over 90%) countries came to the world cup with their own indigenous coaches. The greatest problem with Nigeria for me is that everyone wants quick results but football is not like that. Imagine it took Senegal Coach cisse 4 AFCON’s attempts to win it. This is his second world cup appearance. To be very honest this is a paradigm worthy of emulation by Nigeria. Sia1 is a very good coach even Mikel summitted to this assertion. He can be handed to the SE for a long period say five years and see whether positive results won’t flow. Even Eguavon is a very good coach . He understands the Nigerian way of playing better. Let’s not judge him using the defeat to Ghana by an away goal rule. Ghana as far as I know has never been an easy opponent . I remember they eliminated SE from 1992 AFCON under the golden Era.

    • Temitope 1 year ago

      I believe too that Sia1 is a good coach. SE were playing good football during the period he coached. One problem SE had then was scoring. Which if he had had more time and opportunity to search for more players, would have been resolved.

  • Sunnyb 1 year ago

    My Brother, sorry to disappoint you, go with our local coaches will never work in Nigeria . Corruption, tribalism, and sentiments will eventually doom them. Siasia is only one that has selected most of his players on merits. 

  • TONY 1 year ago

    Some people come here to disparage Chief Odegbami [MON], but he lived these things. Many of his brilliant posts here are absolutely true. I witnessed some of them. There were times we had Brazilians coaches at various clubs in Nigeria and their technical inputs were evident in our league and players at the time. The level of football technique displayed by players then in league matches were amazing.
    Sadly, our country did not maintain that then-burgeoning football culture. The state of our economy is the main cause of most of our struggles in almost every aspect our endeavor. If we don’t get our economy functioning properly, we will hardly get anything right for a sustained period of time.
    Meantime, thank you, Chief Odegbami [MON], for your service to this country. You and your generation of dedicated players will forever be appreciated.

  • Omo9ja 1 year ago

    I have been saying the same thing almost every year now that we have to go back to our own because, that is the only option we have. Outsiders can not understand us more than ourselves.

    Am I communicating ba?

    We don’t have structure for sports in Nigeria and for us to get it right, we have to scrap everything and start afresh. Can we do that?

    First, we have to replace those in the NFF with our ex players.

    We have to strategize and strengthen the rules and regulations of our sports.

    By doing so, the level of corruption will die down in our sports then we can bring in young coach who have ideas of football as our own.

    Same thing with upcoming election. We are not ready for change as a nation. We still prefer our oppressors to continue when we have the youth that can get the job done.

    If truly we want better Naija, no one should vote for anybody that have tested power or rule Nigeria at any level because they are all the same and they will not bring new ideas.

    Nigerians need a young vibrant who has never be with carbal that can go toe to toe with our oppressors. We need someone with fresh ideas unfortunately kai, Nigerians have turning their back to him.

    Are we truly want a better country? If so then, we have to put religion, sentiment and tribalism aside and face the reality of life by voting for the right person. You and I know the right person to be voting for.

    Nonetheless, as I said before, Nigeria and Super Eagles are twin brothers. Whatever that happens to Nigeria may happen to Super Eagles.

    Currently, Nigeria need a young vibrant leader with vision and determination to turn things around while Super Eagles also needed a leader who care ring changes drastically but are we truly ready for change? I don’t think so because we are still romancing with our oppressors. Hmmm. It is just a pity that Nigerians are the problem of Nigeria. If we don’t get it right soon, my dear country Nigeria, I am deeply sorry for you. Ire o. God bless Nigeria!!!

    • Titus Ige 1 year ago

      Of a truth, why Nigeria thrived in football in those days was because we have a robust system of get the best but today the system is deaded.i intentionally used that word because we are in a grave situation. Then we had the Academicals, YUFSON, NIPOGA, NUGA, All Secondary Schools,etc as sources of getting raw footballers who have the flair and finally become members of the SE. We also had good and robust local league where we source players and not bring in bench warmers from the European leagues.These are preamble before we start talking about foreign daft coaches. Siasia and Oliseh are known disciplined local coaches compared to the rubbish coaches NFF brings in. Let everything about NFF be run by those who played the round leather before please.

      • Dammy 1 year ago

        Baba Mathematical7, please remove fake news about Bruno Fernandes from your write-up. He never made those comments and it distracts from your excellent write-up.

  • Chima E Samuels 1 year ago

    Siasia was a light but FIFA had their own ideas and funny to say some bizarre people on this forum are enemies to this much achieved Siasia that they count his only loss over his many wins. Even in hard situation how he was able to achieve at the Olympics. I feel Siasia and Garba are two coaches who have not been given the much respect they deserved.

  • Tristan 1 year ago

    Those who are pro the motion including the writer have been vocal on this thread. Only we know ourselves others have asserted.
    Yet in knowing ourselves in the macrocosm beyond football what do we see? Where do we see areas of managerial excellence? In our universities, in our bureaucracies in our legal and economic institutions? What many of us see is the deviation from excellence and merit when a Nigerian takes charge.

    We see objectives subsumed by personal considerations and emotions. Unsurprisingly even our failure to properly manage our national airline has seen us bring foreigners from Richard Branson’s Virgin to the currently anticipated Ethiopian airlines.

    The best-managed economic entity in Nigeria is the NLNG because Nigeria and Nigerians have been prevented from obtaining a majority shareholding and corrupting its operational management with pettiness, tribalism, and subsequent corruption.

    How does this relate to football? The issue here is the coaching and management of the SE, an institution dear to the heart of many Nigerians. When Odegbami was a player did he ever hear of a non-playing captain?
    A captain that is rarely fit and no longer has the pace or skill to be in the squad let alone a starting line. Captaincy of any national football team is an operational role, not an administrative one, and yet the writer and his fellow travelers have watched in silence as the most successful northern Muslim player has turned prevailing football logic on its head to permanently assign himself captaincy as if it were a chieftaincy title.

    Not only that, commentators that yearn or make paens to the influence of “the big boss”, forget his sordid involvement in a jersey-for-cash relationship with agents. That is the Nigerian I know, always ready to sabotage national objectives for personal gain. Clearly, the Nigerians in the writer and his supporter’s planet are not on the same earth I experience.

    The writer writes at length about the influence of Brazil on Nigeria’s playing style, personally, I can’t recall this influx of Brazilian influence, but I take the writer at his word. Anyway what about coaching? When have we set structures in place to ensure our coaches are world-class?

    Portugal’s – and indeed Spain’s, current football excellence is not by accident, it is by design. In which decisions were made to set in place structures that elevated both player skills and tactical style. The US performance at the current world cup coached by an American is also not accidental. Structures were put in place to reap a harvest of both footballing and coaching talent.

    Nigeria has a problem implementing structural and institutional excellence. Firstly because of over politicisation, secondly because we always appoint the wrong talent to lead the process.

    I was recently reading a case-study about one of the most successful technology company in the world called TSMC. This company makes computer chips and outcompeted Intel its American rival. It was set up with the assistance of the Taiwan government, firstly that country did not make it government-owned and subject to the whims and caprices of bureaucrats, secondly like Ghana as I describe below, they found one of their best engineers working in the US, familiar with both the US culture of excellence and the productivity tools involved, to create the structure for their industry.

    In Europe, their academies push the boundaries of understanding the game with data and performance analytics. Here just like our universities trail advanced countries our coaches are not even educationally equipped to exploit such technologies. Comparatively, Ghana did not just appoint a Ghana-based coach, they appointed a man that was assistant manager at Borussia Dortmund, a man familiar with the changing tactics and advancement in productivity tools our modern age offers.

    Am I against a Nigerian coach? No, but we do not currently have that talent. Should we cultivate such talent? Yes, look at Ivory Coast and Yaya Toure, the latter is being cultivated to manage their national team. That is how Nigeria cultivated players from the U-17 level. Why are we not doing this for coaching talent? Instead in the name of national pride, we in effect appoint administrators, and not operational active individuals to coach and captain the team.

    • Dammy 1 year ago

      Well said bro, we have an NFF Executive committee made up of State FA Chairpersons, who have not achieved anything at that level before being propelled to the national level. Many of them had no development program or sponsorship in their States and are only in the NFF as a result of horse trading and vote buying during the Congress.
      This set of people cannot take Nigerian football forward in the 21st century.
      We are all seeing the effect of what success at the international stage is doing for Morocco. The Super Eagles is too big for the NFF to handle and this is evidenced by their inability to pay coaches, players, hotels etc.
      I will suggest that the Federal Government takes over the Super Eagles and ensure that players and coaches are paid on time and also build a training centre for the national teams.

  • Marvelous Sunday 1 year ago

    Mr. Segun Odegbami. Super eagles were producing slow and steady results under Rohr not until you advocated for his sacking and the is in a mess now.

    I still remember one of your articles with the line, “Rohr going going gone”

    But now what is happening? Is it not super eagles going going gone. I thought you had plan B to help Nigerian football become better. But here you are singing old songs for those who care to listen.

    If Rohr was in charge, I bet you we would have been in Qatar. That’s a sure ticket, because he knew how Chun out results and qualify us for major tournaments. And Rohr wouldn’t have have lost 4-0 to Portugal, never.

    We are in this mess because of you too.

  • DeSTAR 1 year ago

    @Marvellous Sunday ; please it is high time you cure ourselvesthis anything white mentality is better than ours ;

    Rohr as the longest ever coach of SE was expectedly monumental disastrous as his employment was product of the usual shameful incurable corrupt practices of NFF that fraudulently employed a coach that was adjudged not having technical capacity to handle African tiny countries as low as Garbon , where he was dismissed in his last 3 jobs with an embarrassing F9s records as low as 17%.

    We warned then , that there is no sane football federations that would ever allowed Rohr to be their feeders team coach , let alone assistant coach including his natives countries France & Germany, but his followers were busy decorating him in a borrowed garment of being in hot demand in the market as Mouriho ; since last year till date, no sane football federation ever attempted to engaged a glorified PE Coach.

    Just as @ Sunnyb, @Chima E Samuels and other have said without any single negative voice ; Siasia is the only local coach that selected players on merit ,noted for disciple , and technically gifted of mass attack mass defence; Oliseh comes also.

    But alas! The notable results ever achieved by Siasia were without tinny support from his employer NFF because of his uncompromising style ; U20 Mikel team ( Siasia was turned to a beggar, just as in the two Olympics  , and other National assignments) , because Siasia has always been a Fans choice and not the corrupt NFF 

    • Dr. Drey 1 year ago

      2 coaches that failed to qualify for Ordinary AFCON are their best coaches.

      The one who qualified for everything qualifiable (even with AFCON champions i our group) with games to spare is the monumental disaster….LMAOoo

      Please which African countries/clubsides have bothered to touch your own Siasia and Oliseh who are the best….?

      The coach who has led Gabon and Niger to their best AFCON placings of all time till date and had the highest competitive win ratios of any Nigerian coach dead or alive is the one with F9 results…..LMAOoo.

      Ladies and gentlemen, please say no to drugs.

      These regressives will just not stop until Nigeria goes back to number 70 on the fifa rankings.

      I hope they are at least enjoying the 40years backwardness they have brought upon us as of this moment.

      • JimmyBall 1 year ago

        Must Rohr coach only in Nigeria? Let him go get a coaching job elsewhere to prove he is good! With the hype about that man under whose watch our SE came to this base level, one will expect Rohr to be coaching a current world cup team but every serious country sees the fraud that his management and style is… the man remains a quack.

        He had Victor Osimhen but pushed for Ighalo to return back for rescue mission. He lost to CAR in Lagos… an abomination. He was clearly out of sorts and wits against Cape Verde in Lagos. After 2018 WC and 2019 AFCON which he presided over with certified first round exit and 3rd place finish respectively, Super Eagles never won against any decent team… Ghana will still have qualified ahead of Nigeria whether or whether not, if Rohr was in-charge.

        Let’s stop acting as if the man Rohr was a messiah of some sorts. He was just an average coach with archaic and rigid pattern that gets him draws as best results against average and formidable opponents.

        • With Rohr u guys qualified with easy. 

          Rohr was a defensive first coach and he was not lucky to have good midfielders

        • KENNETH 1 year ago

          You they mind that mumu parrot whose brain is frozen as we speak. The good question is why hasn’t team come his way if he was that good. What they failed to understand was that Nigeria is gifted with natural talent. Never felt his imapact in a game. he had 6 years to give us a formidable team, but no he kept changing left and right. Am happy not that Mikel has spoken that a local coach is needed, not all this yeye PE teachers that keep seeking for jobs. It’s obvious Rorh was parting with his salary to remain that long on the post

  • Babaghana Mamalian 1 year ago

    Stupeey, what do they expect? Everything in Nigeria is rubbish, our non organised attitude reflects everywhere.
    We don’t need someone that will bring the stupid idea of 94 like Egoevan did in the last Afcon, playing a very predictive game, instead we need someone that can turn things around, players invited on merits, well technical and tactical organise team. In this Qatar World Cup, Ghana is well organised team, well arranged team, but not fortunate, the same Portugal that thrashed us. Though am not surprised, Nigeria vs Portugal, having a Portuguese coach on our bench, before WC, makes no sense; he used us to warm his country up.
    People are not sensitive in Nigeria.

    • KENNETH 1 year ago

      And what stupid idea did he bring, is it not your type imposing players on him. Is he meant to come in field and tell Uzobasket how to position himself for a shot from outside. or tell mr know it all dennis how urgent the game was. Honestly in the 3 months i saw a different super Eagles. luck was just not on our side. Why didn’t you let him continue like you always give the oyinbo coaches. Because you know he wouldn’t part with his salary.

  • NFF should go bring back Rohr for the Super Eagles .  Need /Want Rohr truth be told that’s man help our us . Germans are really disciplined, tactical. Rohr started winning when he was first appointed as Nigeria coach. Rohr never brag about winning afcon/wc because in his mind I want to win it but some haters wouldn’t let him be 

    Go bring back Rohr to the Super Eagles  

  • Victor Aniema 1 year ago

    Nigeria Football is dieing steadily and gradually. The earlier we shun foreign coach and adapt to our own the better for us. Hiring a foreign coach simply means we not capable of coaching our team. Infact we know nothing about football. The five African countries that are in Qatar playing world cup, the teams are coached by their indigens. Why is Nigeria own different?

    • Nigerian coaches are tactically deficient, football has advanced more than eyes. Look at the World Cup.

      And that’s why foreign coaches are still good.

      I think we go back to Brazilian coaches

      • onwajunior 1 year ago

        Not only the tactical deficiency. Anything Nigerian that enters any office in that country would be biased and corrupt. The best is to bring an outsider who wouldn’t care about ethnicity or tribe. The truth is that our own knew the right players to field during games, but they were doing business with the team. Rohr came and did the basic stuff…simple and clear things we all knew back then that our own should do… Fielded our best legs and got results. Like, it wasn’t rocket science. Since then….mehn… I’ve been up for an outsider abeg.


  • Sugar Daddy 1 year ago

    Mickel should be handed a supervisory position now in the technical department of nff… He is fresh in ideas, has seen it all, he is young and will be able to give back what is missing now…he understands what the team would need to rejuvenate the coaching and technical input… just suggesting.

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