Nigeria’s first match in the ongoing FIFA World Cup in South Africa was not something that most of us were pleased about. Just before the Nigeria-Argentina match on June 12, I had boasted to my neighbours that we were going to whitewash our perennial rivals, Argentina 2 – 0. I based my prediction on some permutations that I thought were scientific enough to reasonably expect something good from our team. Nevertheless, I must say that all of this is against the backdrop of a piece last week, World Cup: folly of relying on Goodluck. In that piece, I said that I was not happy that we were relying on luck when other nations worked harder in preparing for the games. I also said that one good example that we often throw money at our problems was the case of Amodu Shuaibu, the Moses of Nigerian football. He it was who struggled to take us to the World Cup but didn’t see the Promised Land. Instead, we trusted and thrust our fortunes on a Swede, with a N40million monthly salary.
Therefore, it surprised me even that I was making predictions that Nigeria was going to whitewash Argentina. I would say that a..part of me sincerely wished and willed it to happen, while the other part of me [as I was relying on my so-called scientific formulae] was a bit reluctant and nervous. So what was the ‘scientific’ formula that emboldened me to thump my chest to place a bet that Nigeria was going to beat Argentina? Well, let me say that I took a ‘good’ look at both coaches – the Argentine and the Nigerian. As far as I was concerned then, the one looked like an incompetent drug addict whose belligerent idiosyncrasies sent him out of a World Cup match in the early 90s. When he eventually made it back, he continued with his mago-mago on the field of play by scoring with what is now known as the ‘hand of God’ in a match against England. From his diminutive size and irritable disposition, it was easy for pundits to see our Ibrahim Babangida as the perfect alter ego of the Argentine rascal. In addition, after he successfully prosecuted the World Cup that year, he went into hibernation and semi-retirement, stuffing himself with drugs and food, and hardly striking any reasonable impression with his rotundity. That period presented the stage for arguments among football buffs as to who was the greatest footballer of all time: Maradona or Pele. In fact, even after he became the Argentine coach, most of his utterances exposed him as somebody still suffering the heavy doses of the cocaine that he used to sniff [He said he was going to dance naked on the streets of Buenos Aires if his country won the 2010 World Cup]. In a recent warm up session, Maradona compelled his players to present their bums at the goalmouth to be shot at by fellow teammates.
The man who became the Nigerian coach on the other hand was a successful failure. Quite unlike Shuaibu Amodu, Lars Lagerback could not qualify his country, Sweden, for the World Cup. He and his managers took advantage of our unreasonable clamour for a foreign coach with what his interviewers said was an impressive plan of how to turn the Super Eagles around. The story was that he was interviewed last but he beat other comers like former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson to bag the plum job of coaching the Super Eagles.
So with this kind of background, I believed that if I had a choice between Maradona and Lagerback, I would go for a Lagerback instead of the eternally erratic Maradona. But I was wrong, very wrong. I had taken my analysis a little further by assuming that an erratic Maradona may want to play his greats individually – Lionel Messi, Veron, Tervez, Aguero, and Milito – players who to some extent are the avatars of the maradonic dynasty. So, what I thought was going to happen was that with the absence of these comparative great names on the Nigerian side, we would most likely play a team game as against the individualistic approach from the Argentines. Again I was wrong, very, very wrong because not only were the Argentines a compact team as against our higgledy-piggledy, Maradona stood his ground throughout the 90 minutes that game lasted. Now, now, don’t get me wrong please: I am not saying that it was because Maradona stood at the sidelines for 90 minutes that made his team beat us, no. What this is about is that it would take a Nigerian as crazy and as passionate as a Maradona to take our football out of the woods, rather than any foreign coach would.
Now, look at the face of Africa in the 2010 World Cup. Nearly every African country has a foreign coach. In fact, all of them parade foreign coaches to the extent that we present ourselves as a continent of incompetent people. If indeed the World Cup is a place to highlight a country’s potentials, then parading a foreign coach ordinarily indicates that we are still under colonial rule. A friend of mine who tried to rationalize why we have to have a foreign coach said that it is because of their expertise and tactical specialization. Good talk but how can we rationalize the behaviour of the Ghanaian Coach when the country he coaches beat the country of his birth? He openly refused to celebrate his ‘victory’ with his Ghanaian assistant coach!
A foreign coach, as far as I am concerned, is a carpetbagger. Carpetbaggers are only interested in the money. For the foreign coaches that we have had so far [maybe apart from Clemens Westerhoff], the mentality is the same as that of the colonial master who see Africa as the old Mali Empire where gold is plentiful and can be picked up at ‘sunset’. From Otto Gloria, to Philippe Trousseau, to Bonfrere Jo, and to the current carpetbagger, the emphasis is mostly on a huge monetary contract in exchange for a European style of play that resembles the French colonial policies of assimilation and association. At the end, what these people will succeed in doing is erode our slow rhythmic samba like pattern of playing football with the computerized dotcom speed of Europe.
For God’s sake, let us do away with these carpetbaggers and look for that Nigerian crazy enough to turn our football fortunes around.