When Berti Vogts was named as coach of the Super Eagles of Nigeria, the appointment was greeted with mixed reactions. Some Super Eagles fans welcomed the appointment of a foreign manager, especially one that had won an international trophy during his days as the coach of Germany, others saw his appointment as a waste of time, money, and an indictment on the inability of local coaches to handle the Super Eagles.
In spite of the criticisms regarding his appointment, Berti Vogts led the Super Eagles to the 2008 Africa Nations Cup, which turned out to be a tournament to forget for millions of Nigerians. The team had its worst showing in decades winning only one game in the entire tournament, which resulted in elimination at the hands of their bitter West African rivals the Black Stars of Ghana. Needless to say, the disappointing performance of the Super Eagles led to a huge clamour for Vogts to be fired and replaced with a "local coach.” The Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) inevitably yielded to the pressure from the fans and appointed Shaibu Amodu as the new Super Eagles coach.
The issue of a foreign coach managing the Super Eagles has led to widespread discussions among the fans. Despite the poor performance of Berti Vogts, foreign coaches have not been entirely harmful to the Nigerian cause. In fact Nigeria won its first ever Africa Nations Cup title in 1980 with a foreign coach Otto Gloria at the helm. Furthermore, the achievements of the legendary Dutchman Clemence Westerhoff lend credence to the argument in favour of foreign coaches managing the Super Eagles.
The Westerhoff era was a hugely successful period in the history of Nigerian football. He successfully led the Super Eagles to their second African Nations Cup title at Tunisia 94. This was a remarkable achievement considering the fact that the Nigeria had never won the Nations cup outside the shores of Nigeria, and it remains the only Nations Cup title won by the Super Eagles on foreign a land. In addition, the Westerhoff era reached its climax when Nigeria not only qualified for the 1994 world cup, but also put up a brilliant performance losing to eventual finalist Italy in the second round.
Another foreign coach who also had a significant impact on Nigerian football is Jo Bonfrere. The Dutchman led the Dream team to Olympic glory at Atlanta 96 beating a star studded Brazilian team featuring the likes of Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Juninho and Roberto Carlos on route to the final. The Dream team then triumphed over Argentina in the final winning Nigeria's first ever Olympic football gold medal.
Other foreign coaches such as Bora Milutinovic also performed reasonably well in charge of the Super Eagles leading them to the 1998 world cup in France where Nigeria yet again reached the second round. The stunning 3-2 victory over Spain will live long in the memory of the fans, despite the poor showing in their 4-1 defeat at the hands of Denmark.
After a successful period for the Super Eagles with foreign coaches, the performance of local coaches leaves a lot to be desired. In 2002, Festus Onigbinde was appointed Super Eagles manager. During his reign Nigeria failed to win a single game at the 2002 world cup losing to Argentina & Sweden before drawing with England, in a tournament many fans would like to forget. It was the first time Nigeria had failed to go beyond the first round of the world cup, and the first time they had failed to win a single game.
The decline of the Super Eagles at the hands of local coaches reached its climax in 2006 when Nigeria failed to qualify for the 2006 world cup in Germany. The Super Eagles were dramatically pipped to the finish line by the Pancras Negras of Angola, a result which sent shockwaves around the football world.
The current Super Eagles manager is Shaibu Amodu, another local coach. Amodu started his second reign in charge of the Super Eagles by impressively winning all the first round qualifying matches. However the disappointing 0-0 draw away to Mozambique coupled with Tunisia's 2-1 win in Nairobi has led to calls for Amodu to be shown the door. Should the NFF decide to call time on Amodu's career as the Super Eagles coach, the debate will once again intensify as to whether the NFF should appoint a foreign or a local coach. Regardless of the measure the NFF decide to adopt, one cannot deny that the Super Eagles’ most memorable moments have been orchestrated by foreign managers, and urging the NFF to quit appointing foreign managers could simply be described as some Nigerians expressing their xenophobic tendencies.
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