CLOUD OVER LAGERBACK'S CONTRACT EXTENSION
Again, the heat is on! Nigerians are back to the village square, haggling over who becomes the manager of the national team, the Super Eagles.
The recent poor performance of the team at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa brought Lars Lagerback's technical competence under scrutiny. The five months contract of the Swede tactician with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) will expire at the end of this month. But the coach has yet to return to the country even though the two weeks holidays granted to him after Nigeria's exit at the World Cup has expired.
The remnant of the NFF board, which kicked out its key officials some weeks ago, is expected to either give the former Sweden manager a longer contract or get a replacement for him as soon as possible. And with the redeployment of the Eagles' Assistant Coach, Augustine Eguaveon, to the Under-23 squad, there are strong feelings that Lagerback would either be asked to return to his job or that Coach Samson Siasia would take over the mantle.
Meanwhile, the board of the NFF is scheduled to meet next week to take decision on whether to extend Lagerback's contract or to set the tune for his replacement.
Following this development, major stakeholders in Nigerian football have been voicing out their opinions on the way forward, with the hope that if we get it right this time around, Nigerian football would be better for it. Otherwise, the game in the country would be dragged further into the doldrums.
On this matter, Kaduna State Commissioner for Sports and Social Development, Hon. Shehu Adamu, has told Nigerians not to lose sleep since taken decision on the issue would be a collective assignment for all the members of the NFF board.
'I believe that the decision to hire Lagerback or any other person lies with the members of the NFF board. When they meet next week, the pertinent questions that will define Lagerback's position would be whether he has impacted on the national team or not? And whether he has justified the huge amount of money he receives as wage.'
But given that elections into the NFF board are slated for August, a top contender for the chairmanship position and a former secretary-general at the Glass House, Hon. Sani Toro, insisted that talking about hiring a coach for the Super Eagles now is rather hasty. He maintained that it would amount to usurping the job of the incoming board.
'It is unfortunate that the current NFF board is talking about hiring a coach for the Eagles. It would be too bad for them to think of doing that. It is too early to talk about that since that role is supposed to be carried out by the incoming board,' Toro told Saturday Sunsports while in a chat.
'The current board should not be in a hurry. If they want to consider the fate of Lagerback, they should do that in line with whether he met his mandate with the Super Eagles. Then, they can make recommendations on whether to renew his contract or not. But to go ahead and hire him or hire some other person now is unacceptable. For God's sake, the NFF elections are just less than 20 days away,' he stated.
Reacting to the proposed extension of Lagerback's contract, former Green Eagles' star, Felix Owolabi (MON), noted that the Swede should give Nigeria a deserved break. He said the honourable thing for the Swede to do now is to quit.
'I share in Daniel Amokachi's sentiments that Lagerback's contract should not be renewed,' he stated. 'The man should be told to stay back in Sweden. He deceived the interview panel to get the Super Eagles' job and now, it is clear that he cannot take the country to anywhere. In fact, those who gave him the job did injustice to Nigerian football,' he added.
'But beyond hiring a coach, the very honest thing we need to do now is to sit down and restructure Nigerian football. Hence, I am in support of President Goodluck Jonathan, who believes that our football needs massive reorganisation. We need to restructure the NFF; we need credible and honest Nigerians to run the game this time around.
'The world is laughing at us because we can't get anything right on account of our attitude to issues. For me, it is only when we have right people in the right places that we can go for the right coach for the Eagles. I wouldn't mind if the man to do the job is black or white, what we need is somebody that can deliver.'
His sentiments were a welcomed development for former BBC ace sports presenter, Osazu Obayiuwana. Although he noted that Lagerback was not the problem with the Eagles, as he did not have enough time to work with the team, he asserted that it's our administrators that are inflicting untold pains on Nigerian football. He, therefore, called for a massive clearout of the 'weevils' in our football house.
Hear him: 'The problem with the Super Eagles and Nigerian football has nothing to do with Largerback. How can you assess a coach who had less than 30 days to work with a team before the World Cup? It would be difficult for anyone to do an honest assessment on the Swede based on the short period he had with the Eagles.
'Rather than worry over Lagerback, we should confront the inescapable truth that Nigerian football needs structural reform. The federation needs honest, visionary and hardworking leaders to transform the game in the country.
'Our administrative system is faulty. It got rotten from the top to its bottom. It needs total reforms to enable it attract the right kind of people who can deliver the right dividends. Until we are able to do that, even if we bring Jose Mourinho and Guus.