There’s definitely a sense of deja vu. Barely seven months after he started, Sunday Oliseh tendered his resignation as the head coach of the Nigerian Super Eagles citing contractual violations by the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) as the reason behind his decision.
His predecessor, Stephen Keshi, might be forgiven for smirking given that he had also left the role of head coach under acrimonious circumstances, despite leading the Eagles to victory at the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in 2013. Samson Siasia, also a former head coach of the Eagles, has now been appointed in an interim capacity.
When will African football federations invest in the long-term progression of their national sides?
There’s no point in getting embroiled in the argument of who is right or wrong in any of these cases. The real question is this: when will African football federations invest in the long-term progression of their national sides?
Most football observers would agree that there appears to be a short term-ism when it comes to the longevity of African national team managers, particularly in contrast to the long-term approach and stability of their counterparts in Europe. In the last month alone, two of the powerhouses of African football have changed their head coaches: Fecafoot appointed Belgian Hugo Broos to lead the indomitable lions (Cameroon) and the NFF has had its hands forced by the resignation of Sunday Oliseh.
Contrast this with the state of play of the two widely revered European teams, Spain and Germany, whose managers between them have amassed over 200 international games, two World Cups and critical acclaims for their style of play during a combined tenure of over 16 years.
It is high time that African football nations restructure their footballing ethos.
This is not to say that nations in Europe always get it right when it comes to appointing coaches, but it is high time that African football nations restructure their footballing ethos. Do African teams have a ‘style’ they are known for?
For some time, there have been justified debates as to why many African football federations had insisted on appointing foreign coaches, even when the dividends of such appointments had been paltry at the very best. So it has been refreshing to see the Nigerian Football Federation among others choosing to appoint former players to lead their national sides. However, this isn’t where the buck stops; simply appointing an indigenous coach does not guarantee success and technical progression.
As the old adage goes, ‘Rome was not built in one day’.
As Oliseh, Keshi and many other coaches on the African continent would attest, coaches need more than just promises from their football federations to get the most out of the group of players that they manage. Among other things, they need time, infrastructure and deliverable incentives.
Time: As the old adage goes, ‘Rome was not built in one day’. And this certainly applies to football. The current ‘all-dominating’ German national side didn’t get to this level overnight. After a disappointing Euro 2004 tournament, it was decided that Germany would overhaul its entire football identity. According to then coach Jurgen Klinsmann, the same style of play was adopted by all tiers of the national team, as well as all the teams in the domestic league (Bundesliga). Fast forward 10 years, time has shown that this was the right way to go as the ‘German model’ has now become the envy of most football nations.
Infrastructure: Lack of adequate infrastructure is one of the most cited reasons as to why football in Africa has failed to realise its full potential. Conversations on this topic should not simply be viewed as a discussion about stadiums and equipment. We would all agree that playing surfaces across various levels of football in Africa need improvements, but so does the standard of coaching at grass-roots level. The organisation of academy leagues across the continent also needs to be better organised to provide the right competitive environment that will groom the future stars of tomorrow.
Deliverable incentives: Compensation has been a contentious topic for a long time. African football has not been immune from the disputes that often taint the image of the beautiful game. However it is high time African football federations adopt the philosophy of under-promise and over-deliver.
The future development of African football will hinge on the football federations.
For far too long players and coaches have been promised rewards for their endeavours that have failed to materialise. Similarly, players also have to show the level of patriotism at all times necessary to justify these incentives.
It takes two to pass a ball and the future development of African football will hinge on the football federations providing the enabling environment, while the players need to show the desire and patriotism needed to take their nations to higher grounds at senior international tournaments.