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Appointing Sunday Oliseh Proves Nigeria Are On A Better Trajectory

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On Wednesday, Nigeria’s football federation announced they were in talks with former captain Sunday Oliseh to replace the sacked Stephen Keshi.
Top sources within the federation, however, say the deal is done bar the shouting, and Oliseh will be presented next week as the new Nigeria coach.
The announcement of Oliseh was greeted with generally positive views from across the country’s football-following population. Not least because he is a member of Nigeria’s revered Golden Class of ’94.
Principled, eloquent, strong-willed and passionate are all attributes that Oliseh has come to be known for. In addition, a keen analytical mind has also shone through in his appearances as a TV pundit for African pay TV channel SuperSport.
More importantly, Oliseh has acquired UEFA’s Pro License, one of the highest and most respected coaching qualifications worldwide.
Toss in his membership in FIFA’s Technical Study Group over the past two years, and there is plenty of room for optimism.
However, Oliseh’s biggest drawback is he is a little light in the actual experience department, having only ever coached in the Belgian lower tier.
But considering no African has managed a top-flight European team despite many acquiring badges, that is an achievement in its own.
In any case, the likes of Michel Platini, Franz Beckenbauer, Berti Vogts, Rudi Voller, Jurgen Klinsmann, Dunga and others went straight from playing to coaching with relative success.
Oliseh is acknowledged as one of the most cerebral players Nigeria have produced, a trait that is largely responsible for sparking the current wave of optimism.
The real story however, and one which has sort of slipped under the radar, is the marked difference in the way the NFF have gone about the recruitment process.
In previous years, the process of hiring a new coach took the form of a badly-choreographed circus show, stretching on for weeks. Sometimes months.
Applications were invited, candidates were shortlisted, high-profile coaching names were dropped with indiscriminate abandon, committees were set up to gallivant around Europe in ‘search’ of a coach before settling on some underwhelming appointment.
None of that happened this time. A day after Keshi was let go, top NFF officials teleconferenced. President Amaju Pinnick was in Canada at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. His two vice presidents, Seyi Akinwunmi and Shehu Dikko, were in Lagos and Abuja, respectively.
But all three agreed on criteria for the new coach, and immediately honed in on Oliseh. He was contacted, discussions began, and within a day, a general understanding had been reached.
By the time Pinnick arrived in London on Monday, a ticket had been booked for Oliseh to meet him there and finalize the terms of the agreement.
This change in the way the NFF went about their business reflects a growing — if so far largely unacknowledged — trend with this current leadership.
A lot of the work being done has been geared toward long-term capacity building and improvement of structures.
In the past seven months, over 150 coaches have been trained in the CAF C license. That’s more than in the last pour years. A and B courses have been scheduled for later this year.
Another 20 coaches were sent to England to study match analysis, opposition scouting, and the use of ProZone software which the federation acquired.
Also sent to England for training were 30 referees. The results have been evident in the domestic league, where statistics from the opening 10 weeks of the season showed an average of one away win and three draws per match day.
In the past, away wins were virtually nonexistent. On the rare occasions when they happened, referees and visiting teams were regularly assaulted.
A youth development program is also scheduled to begin later this year, and this is where Oliseh comes in.
He arrives with Jean Francois Losciuto, a Belgian who also holds a UEFA license and was assistant to Oliseh during his time coaching RCS Verviers before he became a director of the youth academy at Belgian club RFC Liege.
Losciuto went on to coach Rwandan club Rayon Sport and Burkina Faso champions ASFA Yennenga.
Included in Oliseh’s proposed job description is an agreement that will see him draw up a five-year development plan for the restructuring of the game in Nigeria.
In this respect, he will work with local coaches to draw up policy and a homogenous playing philosophy for Nigerian football at all levels. Losciuto will have direct oversight of that department.
Akinwunmi says the federation is thinking long term. “For too long we have been looking at immediate gains and losing sight of the future. Our game is in a mess. The only way to make things work is to start from the root. And that’s why we went for someone like Oliseh, who is not only a local and understands what the problem is, but has the global expertise to apply it to our peculiar situation.”
Akinwunmi’s view is echoed by Dikko, who says Oliseh will get the full cooperation of the NFF.
“Being one of us, Oliseh is as invested in this as any Nigerian,” he said.
“He is passionate enough to want to give his all to make it work.
“That is why we never even considered a foreigner despite all the applications we got.
“He will receive every bit of support he needs to make this work, because if he fails, we all fail.”
Oliseh has requested a sitdown with the NFF after 12 months to review progress on the benchmarks set. No contract has been signed yet, no work done. But already, there is a buzz within the federation.
Hopefully, the dawn will prove to be true rather than false.
Colin Udoh is the editor of KickOffNigeria.com and African football correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @ColinUdoh.




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