As Finidi George heads the Super Eagles

As Finidi George heads the Super Eagles

The recent appointment of Finidi George as the new Manager of Nigeria’s national football team, the Super Eagles, by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has been greeted with cautious optimism by Nigerians. Finidi George succeeds the Portuguese Jose Peseiro, whose contract to continue in that position was not renewed by the NFF.

The optimism is based on the rich profile of the new coach, Finidi George, in both his playing and coaching careers, where he distinguished himself and became a well- known name. In his playing days at the local Nigerian football league he had stints with Sharks Football Club of Port Harcourt, Rangers International of Enugu, Iwuanyanwu Nationale of Owerri and Calabar Rovers of Calabar, where he played as a midfielder and winger.

He got his first international cap in an African Nations Cup qualifying match against Burkina Faso in 1991, where he provided assists to Rashidi Yekini and scored one himself in a 7-1 thrashing of the Burkinabes in Lagos.

His exploits in both the local league and the national team attracted the attention of leading European teams. He eventually joined Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam and subsequently became the first Nigerian player along with Nwankwo Kanu, who was also on the books of Ajax, to win the prestigious European Champions League with Ajax, beating Italian team AC Milan at the finals in 1995.  From Ajax he moved on to Real Betis in the Spanish La Liga, where he distinguished himself as one of the best players in the club.

Upon his return to Nigeria, he coached Sharks Football Club and from there to Enyimba football club of Aba. It was from Enyimba that he was appointed interim coach of the Super Eagles, following the departure of Peseiro. Under George as interim coach, the Super Eagles have played two matches wining one against Nigeria’s perennial rivals, the Black Stars of Ghana in a friendly match in Morocco and losing to Mali. 

Against this salubrious background of the new Super Eagles coach, many Nigerians believe that he has his work cut out in his effort towards trying to reposition the national team. Presently, Nigeria is ranked 30th in the FIFA ranking of football globally. This is two drop points from the 28th that Nigeria was ranked before the latest ranking.

This definitely is an indication that our progression in footballing terms is unsatisfactory. A perfect example of this was during the last Africa Cup of Nations which took place in Ivory Coast, where Nigeria against many expectations lost to the host in the finals, having beaten them earlier in the opening game of the tournament.

In many ways this epitomises the state of Nigerian football where despite the abundance of talents, the country has fallen short in realising its full potential as a football power house in Africa and the world.   

And this is mostly attributed to the state of football administration in the country, which has not lived up to the expectation of Nigerians. Often, there are reports of alleged corruption and mismanagement of funds, non-payment of bonuses, allowances and refunds owed to players. Reports of favouritism in the invitation, selection and inclusion of players also come through during camping and tournaments.

Along with the challenges, Finidi George would be happy that there is a rich pool of talents both here in Nigeria and among players of Nigerian origin playing regularly in the top clubs in the various football leagues across the world to choose from.

As a veteran Nigerian footballer, Finidi George would know that football is one of the very few factors that unite Nigerians. When the Super Eagles are playing, Nigerians often forget their sharp ethnic, religious and class differences and give their total and passionate support to the team.

On this score it bears to point to George that Nigerians are welcoming his appointment with high expectations. Top among those expectations is wining the AFCON for which Nigerians are not happy that the last time we won was in 2013. Nigerians are also looking to George to ensure that we not only improve our ranking in the world of football by wining matches and tournaments, we should also aim to qualify for the 2026 World cup in Canada, United States of America and Mexico, and progressing as far into the event as possible. Our outing at the weekend was not encouraging. We urge George to take quick steps to ensure that we do better in the next match.

While we wish Coach Finidi George all the best in his new appointment as Super Eagles head coach, we also remind him of the high expectations of 200 million Nigerians on him.

 

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