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Nigerian fans engage in ‘foreign vs local’ coach debate as NFF prepares to name new Super Eagles manager

They hope the NFF will consider a local coach to limit financial burdens rather than opting for a foreigner at a higher cost.

• April 19, 2024
Super Eagles
Super Eagles(Credit: Score Nigeria)

With the position of head coach for the senior football national team, the Super Eagles, vacant and a permanent replacement imminent, football fans and commentators have debated whether the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) should appoint another foreign coach or a local one this time.

Some football enthusiasts advocate for change following not-so-good times with the last two foreign coaches. They hope the NFF will consider a local coach to limit financial burdens rather than opting for a foreigner at a higher cost.

Although Nigeria has achieved its greatest successes under foreign head coaches, the data does not overwhelmingly favour them over local managers, especially considering that Nigeria has had more foreigners at major tournaments.

Of Nigeria’s 20 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) appearances, the Eagles have been coached by foreign managers 13 times, nearly twice as many as by local coaches, who have led the team’s campaign at the tournament only seven times.

Super Eagles coaches performance at AFCON comparison
Super Eagles coaches performance at AFCON comparison

While foreigners have overseen four of Nigeria’s six World Cup outings, local coaches have been in charge only twice.

With the growing call on social media for a local coach, the NFF may consider this option, especially given that most applicants for the vacant position are local candidates, including interim head coach Finidi George.

The current Enyimba F.C. manager is reportedly the frontrunner for the job, having overseen Nigeria’s last two friendly matches against Ghana and Mali in Morocco last month.

Former Cameroon senior men’s national team head coach Antonio Conceicao is reportedly the only foreign applicant for the job.

“If I am to appoint a new coach for the Super Eagles at the moment, I will say Finidi George for the transitional period from Jose Peseiro,” said former NFF president Amaja Pinnick. 

He added, “Finidi has played at the highest level of football and has come down to Nigeria to coach a local club, and he has also been part of the national team set-up.”

Also, Olawale Quadry, a Nigerian journalist on X, formerly Twitter, wrote, “Obviously, we can’t afford to get a good foreign coach as it stands now. The best indigenous coach we can get at the moment is Finidi George.”

Similarly, football enthusiast and X user @Smile4Oche also suggested that Finidi be made the new coach, saying, “Make Finidi George the head coach of the Super Eagles now !!!!! @thenff, don’t you hire any bloody foreign coach anymore.”

Other local applicants for the position include Michael Nsien, Sylvanus Okpala, former head coaches of the team Sunday Oliseh, Salisu Yusuf, and Samson Siasia, with ex-Flying Eaglets World Cup winning coach Emmanuel Amunike also in contention.

Super Eagles coaches performance at AFCON comparison
Super Eagles coaches performance at AFCON comparison

On his part, Siasia said, “We should not waste our time and money hiring a foreign coach when we have qualified Nigerian coaches in the diaspora and domestic football scene.

“The NFF should not make the mistake again as the last two foreign coaches that handled the Super Eagles did not help develop the team.”

However, X user @Nkonko91 has a different opinion. He believes Nigeria should appoint a foreign coach and tweets, “NFF should quickly announce the appointment of a foreign coach for the Super Eagles without further delay.”

@unitedyusuf on X said he has no problem with NFF appointing either a foreign or local coach for the Super Eagles, as their success relies solely on the federation providing a conducive environment.

“Home-base coach, foreign coach, I honestly don’t have any problem because I feel for any coach to be successful with the Super Eagles, so much will come from the NFF,” he said.

Triedstone Sports said, “My preference for Super Eagles is a foreign coach. However, we can’t afford good foreign coaches.

“Our best bet would thus be Amunike, who I don’t fancy because he is rusty. Since Allen Onyema is vested, @thenff could partner with him to offset salaries and allowances.”

Another X user, @Shittuwale20, shared the same sentiment: “Super Eagles is an international brand; it’s beyond him for now. A foreign coach is what the Eagles need.”

Amidst the ongoing debate on social media, Peoples Gazette delved into the past track records of previous Eagles’ foreign and local coaches in major tournaments.

Beginning with AFCON, Nigeria has participated in 20 tournament editions under the tutelage of foreign and local coaches, each experiencing his share of successes and setbacks.

Nigeria has clinched the AFCON title three times—twice under foreign coaches and once with a local coach in charge. In 2013, the late Stephen Keshi became the first Nigerian coach to lead the Eagles to AFCON success. It’s Nigeria’s most recent AFCON title to date.

Brazilian Otto Gloria guided Nigeria to their inaugural AFCON title in 1980, while Dutchman Clemens Westerhof secured Nigeria’s second title 14 years later in Tunisia in 1994.

Super Eagles coaches performance at FIFA World Cup comparison
Super Eagles coaches performance at FIFA World Cup comparison

Regarding runner-up positions, Nigeria has finished second four times at the AFCON with a foreign manager in charge, including Portuguese Jose Peseiro at the 2023 edition in Ivory Coast. The country has only managed a runner-up spot once with a local coach at the helm.

As for third-place finishes, foreign and local coaches have led Nigeria to AFCON bronze four times each. Nigeria has reached the quarterfinals with a foreign coach once and the round of 16 once with a local manager.

For the FIFA World Cup, Nigeria’s performance in the competition has been less stellar. The team has yet to progress beyond the second round.

Nigeria has reached the World Cup round of 16 thrice, with two appearances under foreign coaches—Serbia’s Bora Milutinović and Westerhof.

Keshi remains the only local coach to guide Nigeria to the World Cup knockout stage, achieving this feat in 2014 in Brazil.

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