by Ifreke Inyang
Against most expectations, Samson Siasia has stayed in his position till today. As soon as it dawned on Nigerian football fans and analysts – both renowned and arm chair – that we will not be competing in the coming African Cup of Nations, there were increased calls for Siasia to be sacked. And it wasn’t just a knee jerk reaction, because even up till this moment, a lot of people are wondering why he hasn’t been shown the door.
He should have been weeks ago. His last assignment probably should have been the dull goalless draw against Ghana in London, because on Thursday that same week, a verdict was meant to be passed after a meeting of the Nigerian Football Federation Technical Committee. Instead, they decided to prolong the drama, passing the buck to its Executive Committee. They said the Exco will meet sometime this week and act on their recommendation. There were even whispers that President Goodluck Jonathan had gotten involved in the matter. Reports had it that the technical committee of the Nigeria Football Federation recommended that the ex-Super Eagles striker be fired, but higher powers were said to favour him retaining his job.
The tug of war has continued fervently. Since the Guinea game, Siasia has been dividing opinion. Some have called for his sacking and others are asking for him to be given a second chance. The most important question we should be asking and answering is: Will sacking Siasia be the next step? There is already talk of a foreign coach taking over and either Siasia or Stephen Keshi working under him.
That school of thought baffles me. The last foreign coaches we’ve had included Lars Largerback, Bora Militonovic, Phillipe Troussier, Berti Vogts, etc. What major achievement(s) did they leave us with? How did they improve our football and our players? The bitter truth is, we will never be able to afford those foreign coaches that will touch down at the Murtala Mohammed Airport with a magic wand neatly tucked into their hand luggage. The likes of Guus Hiddink, Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger, Rafa Benitez will not endure the harsh harmattan of Nigeria anytime soon. So what we will always hire is a third rate foreigner at best.
Yes, we have our luck with foreign coaches in the past. Clemense Westerhof is the standard every successive coach, whether local or foreign has been measured against.
“It is grossly unfair to judge each Super Eagles coach by the success recorded under Westerhof, without giving these other coaches the time it took the Dutchman to achieve his results,” Dimeji Lawal, an ex-international said. “If Westerhof had been sacked after we lost the Italia ‘90 World Cup ticket to Cameroun in 1989, would there have been the gains we achieved under him? I played under Westerhof and I can confirm that what made him a success was the free hand and time that he had to make mistakes, correct them and perfect his strategies. No magic was involved.”
I completely agree with him. It took Clemense Westerhof eight years to win the Nations Cup for us and take us to the  World Cup. Samson Siasia in just under a year has managed to bring something different to the national team. We are now a better attacking force. He hasn’t been perfect. His decision to drop first-choice goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama eventually had its part to play in the position he finds himself today. I have no issues with his disciplinary methods, but not at the expense of weakening the team technically. Enyeama still remains the best shot stopper I’ve had the privilege of watching in a Nigerian jersey since Peter Rufai. He should have been slapped with a fine just like Mikel Obi was rather than replacing him with Aiyenugba, who flapped when the heart piercing equalizer was scored by the Guineans.
Another group clamouring for Siasia’s dismissal are people who have coached the team before. It is rather interesting that these ex-coaches who are now calling for his sack didn’t do better themselves when they were in charge. It’s a strange world we sure live in.
Today is the clichéd day of reckoning, when the long awaited decision will be made. Siasia might yet be sacked. He might be retained, just like Pitso Mosimane, coach of South Africa who failed to get a qualification ticket too. Stephen Keshi and Sunday Oliseh have been mooted as more than capable successors already. The behind the door lobbying is fully underway. What my concern is, which I think should be every football loving Nigerian’s is that we don’t find haul ourselves deeper into the vicious cycle. Every other country has problems with their football, but it is ultimately what measures they take that separate them from the motley crowd in football.