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    Categories: Kunle Solaja

THE FRENCHMAN’S FRENCH LEAVE

Like his compatriot, Philippe Troussier  in what could had been his second missionary journey to Nigeria, and also like the Brazilian, Carlos Alberto Torres, Frenchman Paul Le Guen,  also took the French leave even before ‘assuming’  duty. 

The joke of employing a foreign adviser for the Super Eagles took a ridiculous dimension of epic proportion last week when the ‘appointed’ candidate turned down the offer.

And so another coach had gone on the run! This is what a typical Englishman calls ‘French leave. A Frenchman has now sarcastically gone on French leave or in military parlance: AWOL – Away without leave. 

But can one really describe it as leave, considering the fact that unlike the duo of Troussier and Carlos Alberto Torres, Le Guen was not known to have ‘accepted’ an offer from Nigeria. 

But historically, he joined the league of coaches who have walked out on us. From 1973 to 1999, eight of the 11 foreign coaches Nigeria offered jobs walked out unceremoniously. 

Let us begin the head count. Buba Mihailovic of the then Yugoslavia failed to return after a four-week leave granted him in 1975. Before him was Othman Calder of what is now Germany (then West Germany). He disappeared from the camp where Segun Odegbami was first invited into the national team.

 Manfred Hoener, in 1978 followed the footsteps of his compatriot. He simply walked away without resigning and claimed he was owed backlog of salary. After him, Dutchmen, Jens Udense and Clemens Westerhof were hired. 

Udense disappeared after barely three months. Westerhof also walked out after Nigeria’s elimination from USA ’94. Brazil’s Carlos Alberto Torres was hired. He absconded almost immediately after signing his contract in 1995. 

Bonfrere Johannes was next. He did not return with the team he guided to Olympic Games victory in 1996. Next on the list of run-away coaches was the nomadic Serbian, Velibor “Bora” Milutinović who simply walked away from Stade de France, the moment Denmark humiliated Nigeria out of the France ’98 World Cup. 

Sweden’s Lars Edvin Lagerbäck did the same after Nigeria’s World Cup 2010 elimination in Durban, South Africa. He was even offered a fresh contract that he rejected. 

The Dutchman, Thijs Libgrets, who took over, also walked away almost in frustration the moment it dawned on him his services were no longer required. Philippe Troussier did not even bother to sign any contract when he was to be re-engaged in July 2005. 

He simply backed out the moment the then NFA announced his name. This is exactly what Le Guen has done. But who is to blame? It is a collective responsibility of the entire NFF board!

Le Guen’s name was being peddled almost five weeks ahead of the eventual announcement. Despite all denials of culpability, what the body should have done was to simply apologise for the public embarrassment caused the country instead of sweet-talking. 

The press statement issued last Monday was headlined: “Paul Le Guen is new Super Eagles’ Technical Adviser”. If that was just for headline purpose, what of the second paragraph of the release which opens thus: “New Eagles’ boss, Le Guen steered the Indomitable Lions…”

The next day, the NFF denied ever giving the Frenchman the job as during the final negotiation, “he objected to being given a target and also did not wish to live in Nigeria, which was a sore point with the Board”.

 If that was the case, why was his name put forward by the technical committee for approval by the NFF board? What then was agreed by the Technical Committee? It is human to make mistakes. It is dignifying to admit an error and simply apologise instead of playing the ostrich. 

I have earlier advised that appointment such as head coach of a national team is best done through headhunting. You identify the person best suited for the job and negotiate with him. 

If there is no agreement, you go for the next option. Within three weeks of the vacant position, England has appointed a manager. If truly a scrutiny was made and two foreign coaches were shortlisted, if option one declines, the normal practice is to offer the job to the next person. This is the norm, except there are other hidden factors. 

The means of sourcing the foreign exchange to pay the new coach is still a guided secret. The clock is ticking to the kickoff of the final Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying series. We have 69 days to go. 

ANOTHER BITTER LESSON

Crashing out of the Zambia 2017 CAF U-20 Nations Cup may be bad; it is made worse that the Nigerian side lost at home. The matter is made worst that a Nigerian team can concede four goals at home. Do we need to say more on the state of our football? 

Perhaps, it is good that we are missing out in the two top tiers of continental competitions. The break will possibly lead to some soul searching for us to reposition our football. 

I feel for the coach. I also feel for the young lads. I hope this will not lead to the end of their aspirations. They should be encouraged. It is a lesson to be learnt from the Sudanese that losing at home, one can still brace up to turn the table away. 

This should be a tonic for Enyimba as they prepare to face Zamalek in Egypt on August 14 after crumbling 0-1 at home last month. If Mamelodi Sundown can beat Zamalek 2-1 in Cairo, it should not be an impossible task for Enyimba.

Mohamed Abdallah Ahmed nicknamed Mazda, the coach that led the Sudanese, was my course mate at Cairo University where I went for a CIES/FIFA Diploma course in sports management. He had failed to lead Sudan to any competition and was not fired even when his lads lost at home to the Flying Eagles two weeks ago. 

I know what the general thinking could be. It should not be the end of a generation as our football should rise from just thinking of competitions. Overall development should be the goal. Stephen Keshi’s set of the Flying Eagles failed to qualify for the then FIFA World Youth Championship. A bulk of the players later became continental and global phenomenon.

We should not think of throwing away the baby with the dirty birth water. We shall rise again. 

atuma :

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