Clemens Westerhof sabotaged Nigeria in World Cup 1998 in the United States when his inexplicable substitution of Daniel Amokachie and Emmanuel Amuneke made its possible for Italy to defeat Nigeria. Bonfere Joe was no better and so were all those other mercenary pale-skinned coaches who came to Nigeria to earn their living wages not deserving of their pay checks. Football is all about politics and as always, no one can be more catholic than the pope himself and no one can sing your praise more than yourself. So our position then, now and tomorrow remains the same - that only a Nigerian coach can resolve the footballing logjam currently afflicting Nigerian football. It is on this premise therefore that Icheoku applauds and rejoices with the rest of other sports, especially football, loving Nigerians on the hiring of an indigenous coach to mentor the Eagles of Nigeria. Samson Siasia has been chosen as the new head coach of the Nigerian Eagles and Icheoku has no beef with the choice; and without going into the merits or demerits of his selection, all that is needed now is the support of every Nigeria to enable him succeed. It is not going to be easy or a smooth voyage without the tempest; but hey, sea going vessels are not made for the safe harbor so all hands must be on deck to navigate this baby to safety and see Nigeria Eagles winning soccer laurels once again.
For Coach Samson Siasia to succeed in his new assignment, certain conditions must be made right including allowing him the freedom to do his job. A necessary concomitant to this is the free hand to operate:- to choose and select his team without the undue pressure of quota system by NFF officials, trying to field their favored players especially in international tournaments just for the mouth-watering dollar allowances. Siasia's weapon of choice for their resistance should be the media and he should never be timid about this but must scream on top of his lungs each time they foray and let Nigerians know that his arms are being twisted and by naming the very official involved. Failure to so alert Nigerians of such undue pressure will come back to haunt him should he fail on his national assignment, as the same officials will be the ones leading the charge against him to sack him as a failed coach. This vocalized protest is imperative and Siasia must use it as a weapon of mass destruction against all those roadblocks militating against Nigeria's Eagles' attaining soccer pinnacle in world.
Further, Siasia must not be shy at using the proverbial jackhammer on any unruly or disrespectful player who might be tempted to look down on him or otherwise question his authority; a thing which they would not ever contemplate were the coach of a light pale skin - the never going-away colonial tinged mentality. Stephen Keshi had a similar experience when coaching Togolese national team when their Adebayor (Manchester City) would not obey his instruction and was pivotal to his being sacked eventually. Siasia must be allowed to weld the big stick on any player no matter how highly rated or deep pocketed; and none of them should ever be allowed to demean his new office or undermine his authority. Siasia's power of discipline must be explicitly inked in the contract and must not be amenable or subjected to any overriding superior authority in the NFF or any other whatsoever. The buck of mentoring the Eagles should squarely lie on his shoulders, period.
Also the contract between Siasia and NFF must be firm and the fixed term of four years should be made subject to renewal at the expiration of the stated term based on performance. By this proviso, notwithstanding the lack of performance or under-performance of his within the contract period, he must not be fired or have his salary or allowance withheld; but must be given time sufficient enough to turn things around. Icheoku is talking about a real contract with all the 'ts' and 'is' properly crossed and dotted and such contract as would be easily enforceable should the Nigeria usual factor creep in somewhere down the road. In the event the NFF become adamant on letting him go before the expiration of his term, they should be made to pay a hefty penalty and vice versa Siasia, who should be made to respect the full term of the contract putting his best effort forward.
The Nigeria Football Federation must be prepared to rest its fate fully on the indigenous coach and be ready to swim or sink with it; and should never mete out to Siasia the Amodu treatment whereby a coach who qualified the Eagles against all odds for South Africa 2010 was later sidelined for an incompetent pale-skinned coach Lagerfield who later proved a monumental disaster at South Africa 2010. Coach Siasia must be made comfortable just like those white coaches who have lead Nigeria's Eagle in the past both in remuneration and perks of office; including things and officials to work with. To this effect, there should be a functioning department at NFF purely catering for the needs of the Eagles and their coach to ensure that the usually attendant bureaucracies are cut away and that the new coach gets what he needs to do his job and succeed; and when he needs it. Siasia should also be exposed to international coaching seminars and workshops world-over in order to learn more tactics as well as fine-tune his own coaching skills - simply put, the NFF should invest heavily in this experiment of an indigenous coach and see it turn a profit for Nigeria football. Even attending some European, Asian and South America Football Associations league matches and competitions especially the finals will not hurt his continuing education in football coaching.
Now a little digress on Stephen Keshi, admitted there cannot be two captains of a ship at the same time, but based on his prior records of performances as well as international coaching assignments in Togo and Mali, and having personally captained the Nigeria Eagles side in the past, Icheoku believes that making him assistant coach to Siasia will not be a bad idea. The NFF should offer Stephen Keshi the assistant coach position since they admitted that he interviewed greatly for the head coach job except that Siasia is who the masses in Nigeria wanted and preferred. So in some sarcastic speaking terms, Keshi was the runner-up of Siasia and should automatically get the number two position, except where he rejects it. Icheoku says populism is never a good anchor for any important decision making, but what will be in the best interest of the subject matter under advisement and in this case, football in Nigeria. Hiring a national coach for the Eagles should not have been decided on what is popular because sometimes the masses are plebianistic in their approach and like mobs, usually follows the flow. Resume and past records of performance and the commanding personality of the person would have been the most important deciding factors in choosing a new coach for the Eagles. But hey, a decision has been made, Siasia has been hired and Nigerians has to support the choice of their new indigenous coach and root for him to succeed.
Finally Coach Siasia should not rely solely on foreign based players to do the job required to be done with Nigeria winning footballing competitions but must also raise a home side that could effectively compete and vie for positions with their foreign based counterparts. The new Eagles waiting a rebirth should be a mixed bag, a potpourri of home-based and Diaspora players, each working to earn a place in the national side each time there is a tournament. If otherwise, then the argument favoring his hire will be defeated, since Nigeria might as well have settled for a foreign coach who could also assemble foreign players each time there is a competition. But Samson Siasia's job includes developing Nigeria football and working with the other coaches of the home FA to give Nigeria football industry a bang for their bucks. Why would sports bars in Nigeria be tuning to Barclays Premier League, Serie A, Bundesliga, La Liga or Conmebol each weekend to watch other federations clubs when they can be doing that with the Nigeria league? Icheoku therefore says, the new indigenous coach must raise and rely heavily on the indigenous home-based players and help grow the industry. No position should ever be reserved for anyone player no matter how highly rated he is but each should be made to compete to earn their jersey and let the best always play. It will not be easy but it is doable; it will be rough but it could be smoothen; it will be tough but the strong will always find a way through or around it; and where there is a will there is always a way. On this note, Icheoku with the rest of soccer-loving Nigerians wish the new Eagles head-coach, Samson Siasia, God's speed as he proceeds to restore hope to a hopeless Nigeria Eagles side that has for every intent and purpose been written off. Congratulations Siasia, all the best!