Those in charge of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) shouldn’t have been frantically searching for a new coach for the Super Eagles if they had done the right thing and renewed the contract of the Portuguese tactician, Jose Peseiro, after heroically surpassing the target of semi final set for him, reached the finals and clinched the second position in the 2023 AFCON football tournament in Cote d’Ivoire. The search for a new coach, whether politically or altruistically motivated, is needless considering our impending two crucial matches against Ghana and Mali in Morocco, and others.

As reported, the NFF is poised to get a good coach, probably a world-class coach, to replace the Portuguese, who resigned when the Nigeria football house could not muster the needed will to renew his contract. The shortcomings of Peseiro notwithstanding, a coach that delivered his target and surpassed it ought to have been rewarded with quick renewal of his contract by increasing his salary following his exploits in the 2023 AFCON where the Nigeria side didn’t lose a game until they were defeated 2-1 in the final by the host nation, Cote d’Ivoire. The Super Eagles lost that game on account of so many factors, some due to coaching and some due to lack of energy and attacking spirit on the part of the players. All of them joined to undo the team at a time it mattered most for them to lift their 4th AFCON title.

Before the advent of the Portuguese coach on the Nigeria football scene, the Super Eagles were already down following their unceremonious exit from the 2022 AFCON in Cameroon where they could not progress beyond the round of 16. They needed a coach who would overhaul the team and blend them into a winning side. They needed a coach who is conversant with African football as well as the chemistry of Nigerian fans. Our fans are almost fanatical about football, especially when the national side is involved. Recall that prominent Nigerians died of heart attack during the Super Eagles final game.

It has become very clear now that Nigeria needs a world-class coach who will improve the dwindling fortunes and global rating of the Super Eagles. Whether Peseiro met all these requirements or not should be the topic for another day. However, in my won estimation and I believe also in the estimation of some other Nigerians, Peseiro did his best in the coaching of the national team. He rebuilt the tattered team and brought them to winning spree after some lackluster beginning. There is no doubt that Jose Peseiro proved his mettle in 2023 AFCON in Cote d’Ivoire. The Portuguese tactician was the darling of fans in his lean score line and defensive football the Super Eagles displayed at the Africa’s biggest football mundial.

Before the 2023 AFCON, the Super Eagles was not among fans favourites or among teams tipped to win the trophy. However, from their underdog status, the Super Eagles became the darling of fans and tipped to win the trophy by local and international football pundits including computer generated predictions. That the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire came from one goal down to snatch victory from the Super Eagles in the 2023 AFCON is still a puzzle to many football fans and pundits. Why the Super Eagles lost a game they had almost won will still engage sports analysts and others interested in the round leather game.

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The Nigerian football managers and the coaching crew should go back and watch that final match between the Super Eagles and the Elephants and find out why the Eagles lost that crucial match. Their findings will guide the team moving forward. In football, a side is bound to win and a team is bound to lose. But it is most painful when a winning side easily succumbed to defeat at the point of victory. This was the fate of the Super Eagles at the 2023 AFCON, which would have been their 4th AFCON title. But it was never to be. I have thought that a visionary and forward looking football house would have retained the services of the coach that did these great exploits. I thought and still think that Jose Peseiro should have been persuaded to stay and groom the team for greater victories. I believe that this is the thinking of some of the players in the team. Whether Peseiro reached the finals at AFCON 2023 by dint of hard work or mother luck as some commentators would make us believe, he richly deserved applause. Regardless of his last minute tactical blunder, Peseiro was heroic in Cote d’Ivoire.

Following the ‘forced’ exit of Peseiro, the task before the NFF is to give the Super Eagles a world-class coach irrespective of the colour of his skin or his nationality. Immediately the resignation of Peseiro became public, some Nigerian footballers and coaches have declared interest for the plum job with most advertising that they can do great things with the team as presently constituted. They are entitled to their claims, whether true or not.

I am highly fascinated by a particular candidate who reportedly boasted that he can even win the World Cup with the new crop of players in the Super Eagles. Others claimed that they had worked with the team as assistants and whatever in the past and knew African football in and out. What do you expect from those searching or applying for a job? They will boost and massage their Cvs and make them appear elegant and appetizing to employers. Our local coaches are good, no doubt.

It is also on record that a local coach had won the AFCON trophy for the country. That is very commendable. Those canvassing for an indigenous coach for the Super Eagles cite the example of Cote d’Ivoire local coach that led the Elephants to victory after the sack of their foreign coach. However, such examples are rare. There are local coaches and there are local coaches. I am not persuaded that we need a local coach for the team now as some people are canvassing.

Let’s be realistic in this debate. I also do not think that we have world-class coaches in Nigeria. We may likely have them in future. For now, we don’t have them. Instead of searching for a brand new coach, Peseiro should have been allowed to stay and build the team the more. Allowing him to go as the NFF has done will not augur well for the team and our football at this crucial time of qualifying for the 2026 World Cup. Those who allowed Peseiro to go do not mean well for the team and our football. I say this because there is no need to change a winning team. It makes no sense to change a coach that met his target and even surpassed it. I don’t even know their reasons for letting Peseiro go. Why should his contract not be renewed? 

Without Peseiro, the team will lack cohesion in the remaining matches ahead of the World Cup qualifiers. I don’t really know how the team will fare without Peseiro. But where were the local coaches when the NFF engaged the services of Jose Peseiro? Where were them when the NFF engaged the services of other foreign coaches? I have doubts that the NFF will engage a local coach for the Super Eagles. I do not think they are prepared for that now. African football is still growing. No African team has won the World Cup. Morocco did very well at the last one by hitting a new record for Africa.

Just like any other thing Nigerian, there is so much politics in our football. The politics becomes more intense whenever it is time to hire a new coach for the national team. A lot of things come into consideration when the recruitment of a coach for the team is concerned. Those in NFF will prefer a foreign coach for so many reasons. If it is so, it is therefore not yet late to bring Peseiro back. The NFF should just do so and stop the needles search for a new coach.