Football problems in Nigeria ‘beyond coaching’, says Daniel Amokachi


By Oluwashina Okeleji Sports Writer, Nigeria

Augustine Eguavoen stepped down after the country were eliminated from 2022 World Cup qualifying by fierce West African rivals Ghana.

Amaju Pinnick, president of the country’s football federation (NFF), has decided to replace Eguavoen with a foreign coach ahead of the qualifiers for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations finals in Ivory Coast.

However, Amokachi, who won the Nations Cup as a player in 1994, says the glory days of the Super Eagles will not return unless they fix the major defects in the country’s football system.

“Focusing too much on the coaching is like building a house from the roof downwards instead of starting with the right foundation and build upwards,” Amokachi told BBC Sport Africa.

“Do we have a solid developmental programme for our young footballers, a proper long-term plan for our national teams or develop a football identity for the game in our country?

“I am a product of the Nigerian league. But have we sorted all the issues around our domestic game, from players welfare to the lack of television rights and the chaos around the organisation of local football?

“I said something about our over-reliance on Nigerian footballers in the diaspora which was misreported in the media.

“My point is that when you consistently rely on players developed and trained by other nations to play for you, then you have seriously failed in your important role of building the future stars.

“There are bigger issues that have long bedevilled the Nigerian game and until we fix them, we will just be moving in a circle.”

Pinnick has said a new coach will be appointed by the end of the month.

“I am a Nigerian and a firm believer in Nigeria, but our circumstances are different. What I can guarantee you is that we are getting a foreign coach within the next seven to 10 days,” Pinnick told Arise TV last weekend.

Shortcuts ‘will not get results’

Daniel Amokachi in action for Nigeria
Amokachi scored 13 goals in 44 caps for Nigeria in the 1990s and has since had stints as Super Eagles assistant coach

Franco-German Gernot Rohr was Nigeria’s last foreign coach. The country’s longest-serving manager after taking charge in August 2016, he led them to the 2018 World Cup and a third-place finish at the 2019 Nations Cup.

But he came under intense criticism for poor results against lower-ranked opponents during 2022 World Cup qualifying, which led to his sacking in December.

Rohr’s successor Eguavoen could only lead the team to the last 16 at this year’s Nations Cup, after shining in the group stages.

The team then missed out on a spot at the World Cup in Qatar on the away goals rule following a 1-1 draw with Ghana last month in Abuja, which sparked unrest in the stadium.

Stephen Keshi, who passed away in 2016, remains the only local coach to lead Nigeria to continental success, having won the Nations Cup in 2013, but Pinnick has ruled out another Nigerian filling the vacant post of one of African football’s hottest seats.

Amokachi worked as an assistant to Keshi from 2011 to 2015 – as well as former Super Eagles coaches Eguavoen (2005-2007), Shaibu Amodu (2008-10) and Lars Lagerback (2010) – but refuses to be drawn on the coaching debate.

“Keshi gave opportunities to some local players and one of them [Sunday Mba] won the Afcon for Nigeria,” Amokachi, 49, added.

“A Nigerian or foreigner as the next coach is their [NFF’s] decision to make. But let’s not deviate by looking at a coaching solution from our bigger issues.

“We always react when we fail to qualify or perform at major tournaments because shortcuts will not get you results.

“Let’s sort all the fundamental issues of administrative problems – lack of planning and structure, our troubled domestic league, absence of a developmental youth programme and retrain our youth coaches with modern methods – then we can start reaping the rewards.

“Anything away from tackling these problems and we will definitely return here to complain again next year.”

As a player, the former Ranchers Bees, Club Bruges, Everton and Besiktas striker contested the 1994 and 1998 World Cups and won Olympic gold with his country in 1996.

Pinnick not seeking third term at NFF

First elected as NFF president in 2014 and re-elected in 2018, Pinnick is eligible once again after the NFF statutes was altered to allow him to stand a third time.

However, Pinnick says he does not intend to continue in office amidst calls for him to step down.

“Am I going to run at this moment? It is a no, because my family said so,” Pinnick told Arise TV.

“My family is very key to me. It is my family first. They have seen that I have put in my best, put in my all; it is taking a toll on me, taking a toll on the family.

“They believe it is time that I should move on. It is a very regrettable decision. It is a tough call. Let someone else try his hands in steering Nigerian football.”

However, Pinnick has been handed a new role by world governing body Fifa, being appointed to a newly-established working group on normalisation committees.

Amaju Pinnick and Gianni Infantino