Thursday, 15 October 2015

Vincent Enyeama: As Oliseh begins the lonely walk along the slope

Vincent Enyeama: As Oliseh begins the lonely walk along the slope
By Amos Etuk
It happened without any fore sight but the signs were there  though it was waved aside as something that would not brew up to its recent climax, but the current crisis in the senior national team of Nigeria, the Super Eagles has come too early in the tenure of Sunday Oliseh who has failed to learn from history and the travails of his predecessors.

When Amaju Pinnick, the Nigeria Football federation President finally had the courage to boot out Stephen Keshi as the Eagles Manager, the choice of Sunday Oliseh was the obvious as football administrators and stakeholders for once agreed that there was the need to be united in the change at that level and give Oliseh the utmost support to succeed.
The choice was heralded by all including yours sincerely who has been a firm supporter of the Belgium based coach going by his in depth analysis of football and intellectual content he was bringing to the team and it was expected that the new team would be the next step of getting the country to be among Africa’s best in the nearest future.
Oliseh started well in his first two games against Tanzania in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Dar Res Salam pulling a goal less draw in the absence of the team captain, Vincent Enyeama who lost his mum that period and asked to be excused from the game and the subsequent friendly against Niger which Nigeria won 2-0 in Port Harcourt.

The game was a test case for the Eagles Manager and the decent outing of Carl Ikeme was a big plus to the team’s outings.

However, Oliseh and maybe the senior officials at the football body may have had another set of plans when they invited former Super Eagles Captain, Vincent Enyeama for the double header friendly against Congo Democratic Republic last Thursday in Antwerp, Belgium and on Sunday against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroun in Brussels.

The return of Enyeama to the national team was widely lauded as his absence enabled him find time to attend and organise the funeral rites of his late mother which coincidentally was scheduled for Saturday, October 3, 2015 at his home town in Ika Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State and his passion to serve his fatherland, the centurion player jetted to camp and arrived on Monday the following week.

His arrival got the coach on a wave of anger to get his captain in front of the younger players as every step was made to humiliate Enyeama who even at the intervention of the Nigeria Football President, Amaju Pinnick, still went ahead to humiliate him out of camp.

Oliseh calculatedly decided to boot Enyeama out of camp and at the meeting with players refused to listen to his captain for coming late to camp despite knowing the emotional challenges and perhaps the flight connections that may have delayed his arrival insisting on not listening to him.

According to Enyeama,’’ I stood up to explain my position and ask for an explanation, but the coach asked me to sit down. I insisted on speaking because I felt that with the years of dedicated service I have given to the country, I deserve at least the respect of giving my own side. But Oliseh told me that either the whole team would leave the room for me, or I would have to leave the room for the whole team’’

Enyeama was bundled out by security operatives with a helpless football body watching as the new coach begins to lay a dangerous foundation that would end on a disastrous exit in the very nearest future.

In whatever may have been the challenge between Sunday Oliseh and Vincent Enayema, the issue was not properly handled and the coach has shown that truly a Leopard can never change its spots and the respect and support I had for Oliseh is gradually walking along the slope he has decided to chart as it seems the days of our strong headed coaches are back after we must have overcome the challenges of Samson Siasia and Stephen Keshi.

Oliseh has failed to learn from history of the  ‘’big boys’’ who fell out with their key players while tinkering the senior national team as they were never able to get on track and succeed in the task set before them.

It was these same posture that got Siasia and Keshi out and coincidentally the trio were all very stubborn players in their hey days and reported late to camp for the team. It is on record. The excuse is that they are all trying to install discipline on their teams and expect that when you use force and aggression, you would be able to make any success of your tenure.
These same set of players now coaches recall how defiant they were under the tutelage of Clemence Westerhoff, Bonfere Jo and Philippe Troussier as they failed to meet set deadlines to camp, yet have failed to manage even their most difficult players in the team preferring to have public spats with their players.

In Siasia’s tenure it was his decision to drop Enyeama in a crucial Nations Cup qualifier against Guinea in Abuja that cost the country qualification for the 2012 edition while Keshi made a whole lot of mess of himself ignoring the likes of Ike Uche, Obafemi Martins, Joseph Yobo, Kalu Uche and Osaze Odemwingie and in the twilight of his sojourn moved against Enyeama who had expressed fears over safety concerns at the Kaduna venue for a game involving the national team.

When most soccer administrators kicked against the employment of Oliseh recalling his history of clashes with football authorities as a player, we appealed that we should give him a chance especially with his level of exposure and intellectual content, but today, Sunday Oliseh clearly shows that he has no managerial skills to tinker a club side even in the lowest leagues in the world and does not deserve to manage the senior national team of Nigeria for that matter.

He has clearly shown that as a manager of players, he has been beclouded by emotions that have over taken the need to take objective decision in the interests of his team and the nation. He has failed in that aspect and the game against Congo clearly showed that he may not last long on the job as the honeymoon with soccer fans is fast over.

Now that Vincent Enyeama has retired, I hope the coach has found peace as he sighted the goalkeeper’s age as the major reason for dropping him. However, let us remind Oliseh that when you begin to compromise your professional decisions with your emotional hate for a player, then you will never succeed,

In football, we realise that the older the goalkeeper, the stronger and better his reflexes and that is the reason Gianluigi Buffon who at 37, still captains Italy and plays first team football for Juventus, likewise Petr Cech at 33, remains Arsenal Football Club’s number choice and the Cech Republic till date. There are many more examples to draw comparison.

When you drop your first choice keeper and captain who plays for a French Division One side that has qualified for Europe’s major competitions for a goalkeeper who does not feature as a first choice for his club in a lower league, then you have compromised standards and you have lost the confidence of the fans. 

When you humiliate your first choice goalkeeper without his pre-requisite experience to guide the younger ones in future fixtures and your immediate match ends in a loss, then you have open room for criticisms.

Oliseh may have the support of some senior colleagues who started this gang up against Enyeama, but I can assure him that this decision will backfire. Our senior national team has no near replacement for Enyeama for now and the decision to humiliate him and allow him bow out will not augur well for the team and the failure of Amaju Pinnick and his members to settle this rift is unfortunate as the coach’s powers may have become too wide in short a time.
At age 20, Coach Adegboyega Onigbinde gave Vincent Enyeama the opportunity to stand in goal for the country in a World Cup fixture against England in 2002 and the heroics of the then young goalkeeper who made one of the best saves in that game parrying a thirty five yard Paul Scholes shot got the world attention on him.

Vincent Enyeama has gone on to become Nigeria’s most capped player with a 101 caps for the country, appeared in three World Cups and several Africa Cup of Nations tournament. He has scored more goals in his career as a goalkeeper including some national team players past and present and is obviously Africa’s best goalkeeper at the moment. He was nominated among Africa’s best three players after the World Cup in Brazil 2014 and has been a great supporter of contributing to the development of grassroots football through his various soccer programmes.

Today, he holds the record of the goalkeeper who kept the longest minutes and hours without conceding a goal with his French Club Lillie and stands proud of being among Africa’s best in France.

In applying for the senior national team job, it was expected that Oliseh would pocket his ego and focus on building the team especially with the shaky double qualification fixtures against Egypt next March for the 2017 Nations Cup, but decided to walk the path of playing ‘’tingod’’ on his players and ignoring the football body.

In the words of Emmanuel Attah, a former national team coordinator with the Eagles’’ I have been with the senior national team for eight years and one thing I found out is that whatever we think we are, we need to put it aside and come down to the level of the players if we are to succeed with the team’’.

Sunday Oliseh may have started a broken harmony he may not be able to put together as the confidence he should have installed with the team is broken and the younger players may out of fear be mugged on their challenges as a manager who lacks self control on his anger and fights his best players continues to look for new excuses as the team’s fortunes continues to nose dive. Someday, he will watch the best managers in the world who managed the most stubborn players and still brought out the best from then and maybe he would be more matured in his approach to his new career.

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