There are many good things Pinnick Amaju has done since he became NFF President. Firing Keshi on the two occasions he did were the right decisions on each occasion. His early drive to get referees trained has had a massive impact on the local league. With better trained referees, the quality of officiating has improved and that has led to a season with the most number of away wins. With home wins no longer a foregone conclusion, teams go away and believe they can win and fans –now sophisticated and more exposed- are now more interested in the league. The effort to train coaches on the use of latest football software and systems also was an excellent move and players will certainly be better.
Amaju has also shown a real appetite to attract and entice corporate to back Nigerian football and has recorded some success. With the emergence of a decent crop of young players, an exciting future could be around the corner for the Super Eagles and corporate Nigeria will surely be more than happy to be part of something exciting.
All that said, there are a few things Amaju must do better.
The first is to remember that he is in charge of ALL national teams and not just the Super Eagles. The recent SOS by Samson Siasia about the shoddy preparations for the Olympic qualifying tournament is alarming. For an NFF President who likes to convey the idea that he leads a team that is forward thinking and more organised than former administrations, Amaju must surely feel embarrassed.
The Olympics represent Nigeria’s proudest moment in world football. When Kanu and co won the Gold in Atlanta- the first African team to do so- they kick-started a love affair between Nigerian football fans and the Olympics. Subsequent appearances have not been as golden but the football event at the Olympics still stirs up a lot of excitement among fans here. It is surprising then that Siasia was left with no choice but to let Nigerians know that his team didn’t have enough training equipment and have had to resort to washing kits is deeply troubling.
Another issue is Amaju’s seeming impulsiveness. As a leader, words and action must be clearly thought-out end to end. To publicly announce that he paid Oliseh a three month advance on his humongous salary while Siaisia and other coaches are left unpaid is certainly impetuous and patently unfair. In the final analysis, Siasia himself was a former Super Eagles coach and fully deserves the respect of being paid his wages when due.
The impulsiveness was also shown when the Falcons appeared at the World Cup. After drawing against Sweden, the NFF announced that they girls will be paid full win bonuses to “motivate them.” The plan failed horribly as not only did the girls not win any game, they also didn’t score anymore. The same thing happened with the home based Eagles after the draw against Burkina Faso.
While this gestures were well intentioned, they damage the sense of order and clarity that is necessary to elevate our national teams. A bonus regime should be clear and adhered to strictly and shouldn’t be distorted simply because someone is excited. There is a thin line between order and chaos and actions like these further blur the lines.
Another area Amaju must improve on is his negotiating skills. While he has made a good case for why he took the deal Nike offered when no sportswear manufacturer wanted to touch Nigeria with a long pole, the quality of the kits we have seen so far suggests he might have played a very weak hand in the negotiations. Fact is – the least that should be negotiated with a sportswear manufacturer is quality, well designed kits and what we have seen so far from Nike is unexciting.
The same dodgy negotiating skills showed up with the appointment of Sunday Oliseh. While he looked and sounded exciting before he was hired, there was nothing Oliseh had done to be able to confidently negotiate a 60 million annual salary for the next five years. That was what Stephen Keshi earned and that was a manager that had qualified Togo for the World Cup, managed in Mali and won an AFCON title for Nigeria. That Oliseh earns that amount with no coaching experience of note shows that he got the better of the NFF during negotiations.
Not only was Oliseh able to coax that massive salary from the NFF, he was also able to negotiate staying back in Europe as a manager! Here is a newbie manager of Nigerian descent who has just been given a task of rebuilding the national team project and somehow, Amaju conceded to his request to stay back in Europe. It is a befuddling decision but not entirely surprising. Amaju went into negotiations with Oliseh as if Nigeria needed him more than he needed Nigeria.
Truth is, if the job was declared vacant and candidates shortlisted based on their CVs, Oliseh probably won’t make the shortlist. That he got these concessions from the NFF showed that the NFF did not truly understand that they indeed had the upper hands in negotiations and simply conceded too many things to Oliseh.
All said, leadership is not easy and every leader strives to be a better leader. With Amaju, it is clear to see there is good intent but there has been a lot of missteps, if not mistakes. His job going forward must be to minimize these missteps and ensure that his words and actions are part of a clearly thought out plan, not the product of impulsive behaviour. He might also consider delegating and holding people responsible for ensuring that all national teams are guaranteed all they need to have good preparations.
If negotiation is not his thing, it might also be better to find someone on his board to lead that effort as well. Relatively, he is still new on the job but he won’t be new for too long. While there are good things to point to, there are also many worrying decisions and going forward, he simply must provide better leadership for the NFF and Nigerian football.
Mourinho is not a victim
For the sake of Chelea and its fans, one hopes Jose Mourinho does not truly believe Chelsea are 15th because of dodgy refereeing and a vindictive FA. He is a smart man and should know that the FA or referees cannot be held responsible for having an under-cooked team at the start of the season. The FA did not buy players like Falcao, Pedro and Baba Rahman who have failed to lift and improve a floundering team. Referees certainly had no hand in his reprehensible treatment of Eva Carneiro and his insensitiveness to the fact that Hazard was the player being treated when he suggested that should a win be in doubt late in a game, doctors should ignore players so as not to leave a team short. Redemption only starts with acceptance of responsibility and for someone who has achieved so much, his refusal to accept responsibility and play victim tells very badly on him.
Oliseh must be more excited about Iheanacho
It would seem as if Sunday Oliseh is not too enthused by Kelechi Iheanacho. Since he became the manager, there has been a reticence-if not reluctance- to show any excitement or enthusiasm about the boy’s emergence. It is puzzling that Iheanacho’s name was not on the initial list released by the NFF before it was amended to include his name. One must hope that all these is some overreaction and hyper analysis. Kelechi is the most exciting talent we have seen in 10 years and as such, it is good for the boy and indeed Nigerian football fans that Oliseh shows more excitement at his emergence and play a bigger role in his development as a footballer.
Follow Biola Kazeem on Twitter – @biolakazeem