Clemens Westerhof believes NFF made a wrong choice in Sunday Oliseh as replacement for Stephen Keshi as Super Eagles coach, insisting only a foreign Technical Adviser will be an ideal replacement. The ‘Dutch-Gerian’ reasons that Oliseh has no top grade coaching experience to lead Eagles to the Promised Land. He also spoke on the disciplinary dispute between NFF and Vincent Enyeama, concluding that Super Eagles will qualify for the 2017 AFCON in Gabon. Westerhof spoke to Completesportsnigeria.com's SAB OSUJI. Excerpts…
You have always been known to keep a close tab on Nigeria and her football and footballers. Are you aware that Stephen Keshi has been relieved of his position as Super Eagles manager?
Yes, some people have called to tell me, some of my friends there in Nigeria also told me as well. It’s sad that Stephen is no more the manager of Nigeria.
So what’s your take on that development?
I’m not in Nigeria, so I wouldn’t know what reasons specifically led to his dismissal or what went wrong between him and his employers, the Nigeria Football Federation. All I know is that this is Keshi who won the 2013 AFCON, went to the World Cup, got to the second round and played in the FIFA Confederation Cup . He is a good coach, as a player, he played under me, was my captain and has all the leadership attributes. Now, Nigeria Football Federation say they don’t want him because he solicited for the Ivory Coast job, too bad.
But was he right, or is it appropriate for a coach to apply or solicit for another job when you are still under contract with an employer, in this case, the NFF?
FIFA’s rules are very strict on this, if you are under contract you don’t go about soliciting for another job elsewhere. You can be smart to do it and once you are not caught, okay. What FIFA rule says is that if you are not satisfied with your contract, you resign and look for another job. You can also sit with your boss and ask for a review, if such is part of the initial contract.
In other words, Keshi erred in this one?
Has he admitted doing it? Did the Federation (NFF) investigate to find out the truth? Has it been proven he solicited for Ivory Coast job?
NFF Ethics and Disciplinary Committee said they investigated, got copies of documents and correspondences between Keshi and Ivory Coast FA on the job application.
Well, that’s bad but like I said, there could have been room for reconciliation but when you consider Keshi had quarrels with the FA during the 2013 AFCON, several times he resigned, many times he was sacked so the unity between coach and employer is no more cordial. I’ve heard that Shuaibu Amodu has been called in to take over.
That is in the interim. But on full time basis, Sunday Oliseh appears to be the choice of the FA for Keshi’s replacement as Super Eagles new coach. NFF have confirmed they are negotiating with him for the Super Eagles coaching job.
Sunday Oliseh? Did you say Sunday Oliseh to be Super Eagles coach? No, no, no, no! That cannot be, he can’t be Super Eagles coach. Oliseh cannot do it, no, he can’t. If what you just said is correct, if Nigeria Federation is bringing Oliseh to handle Super Eagles, then that is too bad because it is not right, it is not proper, he is not the right man for the job.
But he’ll be unveiled any time next week as Keshi’s successor…
(Cuts in) Before I took over Super Eagles in 1989, I was head coach of Feyenord of Amsterdam and we were champions after many years. I coached other top teams in the first division, Vitese, MVV and came back to Vitese again. I had the experience coaching top teams. Keshi was a top quality player in Belgium with Lokeren, Anderlecht, RC Strasburg in France, Sacramento Scorpions and all that. He coached several other top teams including Togo and Mali. Where did Oliseh coach? What is his coaching experience? Do you want to start learning how to coach with the senior national team? Coaching amateur teams is not enough to get experience of handling top teams like Super Eagles. Players cannot respect him, you know, he cannot command their respect and influence as they loved and respected me, as they also respected and loved Keshi. What the Super Eagles need is a coach who the players will love to respect, who has positive influence on the players and I don’t think Oliseh has these qualities.
So who do you think should do the job now, a foreign coach?
Yes, absolutely yes. What Nigeria needs after Stephen Keshi is a foreign coach; a Technical Adviser who will work with a Nigerian coach. A coach from Holland or any big European country but not Germany with likes of Berti Vogts who will spend one week in Nigeria and spend the rest of the year in their native countries. When I was in Nigeria, I discovered Daniel Amokachi in Enugu when they played a league with Rangers. I walked up to their bus and told him he will be in my (Super Eagles) team, he said which team and I told him right there in the presence of other players, I’m the national team manager but he said he was just 16 years old and I said it doesn’t matter. Finidi George is a great player, I also was at the stadium when he played for his club and I called him to camp. There were many players like that I brought to Super Eagles camp. So whoever the foreign technical adviser will be, he must be ready to see many of the domestic league games and see how the players are doing and how they play. You don’t stay away from the games and players and hope to have a strong Super Eagles team, no, it can’t happen.
Talking about national team players, are you not worried Nigeria seems to lack quality players in top European clubs at the moment because it is speculated to be part of the reasons why Super Eagles are not doing well at the moment?
The Super Eagles did well under Keshi. They won 2013 AFCON after many years. Yes they are not many now but everybody must not be in the top leagues, some, like five or six. But the coach must have a list of all Nigeria players in Europe through the FA. The world has gone digital, so he can have them on his laptop and from there he can monitor their performances. He can then decide to travel and see some of them play in matches. It’s not all the time you leave Agents to do the scouting for you.
The 2017 AFCON qualifiers have started and Super Eagles began their campaign with a 2-0 win over Chad, what’s your take on that?
Did you say Chad? Did they wear boots or played bare-footed? Where was the match played? In Chad or Nigeria?
In Nigeria, Kaduna to be specific
That’s too poor a result by the Super Eagles. Who was the coach?
Stephen Keshi, that was his last assignment for Super Eagles before he was sacked.
In those days, the result would be 6-0, 7-0. Chad is not a team the Super Eagles should sweat to defeat. What’s their ranking by FIFA that they were not well beaten (long laughter).
Now, Tanzania will be Super Eagles next opponent in the qualifiers, so what’s your take on the game?
Where will the match be played?
The match will be played in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, to be specific.
And who will be the coach then?
If there are no last minute changes, I think Sunday Oliseh should have been officially contracted by then.
(Laughs)That means before the game, about three people would have died.
What do you mean by that?
Yes, because of hypertension. Tanzania should not pose any threat to Super Eagles but under Oliseh, I don’t know what will happen there.
Egypt would be our next opponents after Tanzania, of course we know the Pharaohs to be a strong team…
(Cuts in) I worked in Egypt as a coach when I left Nigeria and I know they have unity, they have organization. Yes, for sometime their football went down, but right now they are building up, they are rebuilding. You said the next match will be played in Nigeria, after that the Super Eagles will go to Egypt. With good organization, okay, Super Eagles can get a good result, Oliseh would have settled down to the job to get things better in position after the Tanzania match.
From the foregoing, coach, do you think Nigeria can qualify for the 2017 AFCON?
Yes, the Super Eagles can go to the Nations Cup. Nigeria is too big a country to be out of the AFCON two consecutive times . There must be unity between the coach and the federation. There must be good relationship between the coach and the players. The players must respect their coach; they must play for the coach. The federation must accept the coach’s decision, he has the final say. The federation must provide all that the coach needs to work with including players’ welfare. The coach should have a measure of authority, control over his team and relates well with the bigger authorities like the minister. I believe the Super Eagles can go to the Nations Cup. The players must have good mentality and also see their coach as the boss and love him too.
You heard about the face-off between goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama and NFF over the comment he made regarding venue for the Nigeria/Chad match. What’s your take on that?
I’m not in Nigeria, I read about it in the internet and sometimes some friends and journalists call to tell me. The federation is in charge of the game and teams in Nigeria. They have control of the players too. I don’t know what transpired between them and Enyeama because I’ve known the goalkeeper to be disciplined and gentle. I know people do have their honest opinions on issues but if the federation is not comfortable with some comments, it should be an in house thing so it doesn’t come out in the open to affect the team. Yes, there is need to ensure discipline but there is also need for caution. You can quietly call the player in, talk to him or even sanction him by cutting down his allowances without making it a public issue. When I was there, I did that and it did not distract the team.
It’s been wonderful speaking with you Mr Westerhof, the ‘Dutch-Gerian’.
(Long laughter) It’s okay and I still remember my days in Nigeria. Nothing has changed about my perception of the country, the people and the football there especially the Super Eagles. We won the 1994 AFCON and people were happy, the government was happy too. We played in the World Cup and the nation went crazy, though we did not win the Cup.
Thank you for your time.
You are welcome.