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Nigerian Football

An insider’s story on Osimhen-Finidi saga

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BY ADEWALE AJAYI

Many out there saw the Finidi vs Osimhen saga as just another player Vs coach disagreement that will fade away with time. To some, this is the perfect occasion for the NFF to stamp their feet on indiscipline among national team players by coming down hard on Victor Osimhen.

This writer knows Victor Osimhen very well. I worked with him for close to two years as media officer of the Under-20 National team of Nigeria and I don’t really need anyone to tell me about his temperament. We ate together, travelled together and spent the nights gisting after dinner.

I really don’t need anyone to lecture me about his temperament, he is a warrior, fighter and above all, he is the most patriotic footballer I have ever seen or known. His passion in the green white green jersey is second to none. His hunger for success is unbelievable and he has got a big heart.

I remember that Under 20 qualifier against Burundi in Bujumbura and the victory against Sudan in Omdurman. On both occasions, Osimhen rose to the occasion even though he was nursing a knee injury and had to play in pains.

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That tells you how passionate this young man is when dressed in Green White Green. So you will understand why he felt betrayed by comments allegedly made by Coach Finidi George, describing him as unpatriotic.

Such comments will hurt any true patriot especially when you remember the sacrifices. Let’s not forget too that he claimed he called to inform the coach of his injury after visiting his doctor in Wolfsburg and also pleaded with the coach that he will like to be in camp to offer moral support to the boys at the detriment of his own comfort, which coach Finidi turned down

Nevertheless, there is always the need to apply caution and maintain a calm, cool and coordinated approach at all time especially when you find yourself in that position where many now see you as their role model, mentor or icon. As current African footballer of the year, Osimhen ticks these boxes perfectly and has even a grown to be classified as an idol to so many young footballers on the continent.

In an attempt to unravel all the miseries surrounding that accusation purportedly made by Finidi that Osimhen and a few others pick the games that suits them and that majority of these players are not patriotic, this writer has taken time to dig deep to find out what transpired at that meeting that was held inside the conference room of the honourable Minister of Youth and sports.

Now, what you are about to read below, are highpoint of the meeting as narrated by two persons who were privileged to be part of the meeting and have agreed to talk only on condition of anonymity.

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The Meeting That Matters

The NFF delegation to that meeting held at the office of the Honourable sports minister, was led by NFF president, Ibrahim Gusau. Also on the entourage are the NFF 1st Vice president, Anyansi Agwu, General Secretary Sanusi Mohammed, team secretary and director of competitions Dayo Enebi with NFF technical director Augustine Eguaveon completing the list.

The Sports minister Senator John Enoh has invited the NFF and FInidi to come explain Nigeria’s dismal performances in those two World Cup qualifying games against South Africa and Benin Republic and proffer solutions on the way forward. At some point during the deliberation, Super Eagles head coach, Finidi George was asked to speak and he poured out his mind,  without holding back.

What Finidi said

According to my source, Finidi heaped the blames on his players. He was furious with the way the players responded to National call-ups which some of us complained about in the build-up to these matches.

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My source said Finidi then went on to assure the minister and his employers, the Nigeria football federation, that he has absolute confidence that the Super Eagles can still qualify for the World Cup if all hands are on deck.

He said, that he is surprised that a few players in the team have Godfathers in the NFF. According to him, if he tries to stamp his feet on certain behaviors in the team, some persons will remind him that the players in question, belong to either a board member or a top official of the NFF.

It was at this point that the NFF Technical director, Augustine Eguavoen cuts in and told Finidi, that to succeed as head coach, he needs to stamp his authority, be decisive and be brutal if need be. Eguaveon gave an example of how he banished Yakubu Aiyegbeni to the bench because the former Portsmouth striker who at the time was doing so well in the Premier league, thought he deserves an automatic jersey whenever he comes to camp.

Finidi then responded by saying he was going to change his approach henceforth. He said he will no longer tolerate these unpatriotic players in the National team. This was when he now said a player like Osimhen could have taken the risk and come play for Nigeria if he really wants to do so. This is according to my my sources.

However, I am not sure that Finidi made this comment to indict Osimhen. As at the time he dropped that line, he was trying so hard to keep his job and make his employers see him as a man that can wield the big stick when it really matters. He was also just looking for a name to use to balance his thoughts and anger and Osimhen unfortunately, became the scapegoat.  

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At that meeting, the NFF didn’t tell Finidi in the presence of the Sports minister that they had plans to engage a foreign technical adviser. However, he might have offended the gods by revealing during that meeting with the minister that some top guns in the federation, are Godfathers to players of in the Super Eagles and that explains why they are seen as the untouchables.  

Little wonder, a decision was taken behind him, to employ a foreign technical adviser and demote the former Enyimba of Aba head coach to assistant coach. Immediately Finidi got wind of this plan, he quickly tendered his letter of resignation.  

In fact, his first letter that was sent to the NFF, was not signed so he was asked to withdraw and sign before sending it again.

How did Osimhen get to know about what Finidi said?

It will also interest you all to know, that, there are top officials of Nigeria football that are on the payroll of Nigeria footballers. I know of a footballer that once gave an administrator in the previous board a wrist watch worth over €40,000. I am also aware that every Super Eagles team list comes with a price.

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 Before a Super Eagles team list is released, there are lots of interests at stake and most players, except the established names like Osimhen, Lookman, Nwabali and a few others, come to the Super Eagles camp, armed with gifts for their Godfathers.

That is why these Godfathers will do anything to please the players in return. There are also those secretariat staff that have their ears to the ground and push out these information daily to curry favours. So it baffles me, why anyone will be surprised that Osimhen got inside information of what transpired at the meeting. He is too connected and too rich to be left in the dark.

Now that it is established based on available facts that Finidi alleged that Osimhen and a few others are not 100% patriotic to the national cause, it is on that bases we will now judge that Instagram live video posted by Osimhen and pass a judgement thereafter.

Osimhen has no reason to go live the way he did and his choice of words on the day are not acceptable

Victor Osimhen is a superstar of repute. The current African Footballer of the Year, a Nigerian player that is now idolized in Napoli. I remember in one of my recent interviews with him in Abidjan, during the recent AFCON, I saw a few die-hard fans who had travelled all the way from Napoli to Cote d’Iviore, just to support the best footballer after Diego Amando Maradona to have played for the club.

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Putting all these into consideration, Victor Osimhen should know the weight of whatever comments he makes. He must learn to talk at all time to impress his fans and promote his brand no matter his frustrations, obsessions or irritations.

Secondly, for his personality, class and position, he shouldn’t be the one speaking always, he should delegate these responsibilities especially reactions to sensitive issues like this one, to his manager, agents or trusted friends. Your choice of words also matters.

 In all, Osimhen by that singular act, has demoted himself from that exalted seat of an icon in the hearts of his die-hard fans. Attacking your coach the way you did and generalizing the attack to include Nigeria and Nigerians is demeaning to say the least. As a friend who cares and appreciate the talent in you, I am making this passionate appeal to you.

Please go out there and do an apology to coach Finidi and everyone that is effected by your comments and rudeness. Say it for the sake of posterity.  

Trust me, I wouldn’t have bothered to do this if I don’t care about your present and your future. A stitch in time, saves nine.

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

Nigerian Football

Nigerian women coaches conclude first module of CAF C-License course

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NFF President Gusau and GS Sanusi with NFF Management and the coach educators and participants at the commencement of the course on Monday last week.

A total of 30 women coaches have concluded the first of a three-module CAF C-License program in the Federal Capital, Abuja and are expected to commence a two-week internship with different teams in a few days.

Peopled largely by former Nigerian internationals and other serving coaches, the group was taken through a full week of rigorous classroom and practical sessions by a team of coach educators and resource persons, in a baptism of what the next two modules are likely to entail,

NFF Technical Director, Coach Augustine Eguavoen, told thenff.com that the first module has shown that the women coaches are actually desirous of learning.

“I am very much impressed with their attitude, mannerisms and conduct through the first module. They impressed everyone, and the coach educators also told me they were impressed, and are looking forward to having them back for the second and concluding modules.

“We are grateful for the leadership of the NFF for the support and encouragement for coach-education programmes all the time.”

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The participants will return to Abuja for the second module that is scheduled for 12th – 20th August, after which they will go on another two-week internship, 23rd August – 4th September. The third module, which comes with examinations for the participants, will take place 9th – 19th September.

Dr. Terry Babatunde Eguaoje, NFF’s Head of Education, is among the coach educators’ team, which also includes Coaches Isah Ladan Bosso, Wemimo Olanrewaju and Lanrence Ndaks.

Among the 30 participants are former Super Falcons’ stars Precious Dede, Joy Jegede, Esther Michael, Maureen Eke, Otas Ogbonmwan, Vera Okolo, Cecilia Nku, Taiwo Ajobiewe, Gloria Ofoegbu and Amenze Aighewi. There are also Barr. Victoria Nlemigbo and retired FIFA referee Folusho Ajayi.   

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Nigerian Football

Osimhen’s outburst was a moment of madness, says Amaju

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Former Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) President and a  FIFA Council member, Amaju Pinnick has expressed shock at last month’s outburst by Super Eagles’ striker, Victor Osimhen against Finidi George.

“It is very unfortunate”, Amaju Pinnick remarked on an Arise Television programme. The former NFF president said he had put a call to Osimhen who was very remorseful while the telephone conversation lasted.

  “I told him he has to apologise, and I am sure he will if he has not yet done so.” Amaju remarked that he could not comprehend what went wrong as Osimhen was the most cool-headed player in the national team.

He went on to remark that Finidi George was not a personality to be disregarded like that. He has won virtually every honour available during his playing days and was a member of the Super Eagles at their peak when Nigeria ranked fifth in the world.

“I believe players should learn to respect their coaches”, said the former NFF boss.

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Nigerian Football

I prefer a foreign coach for the Super Eagles, says Amaju

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Nigeria’s FIFA Council member, Amaju Pinnick has told the world that he has always been an advocate of foreign coaches for the Super Eagles. He spoke on Arise Television while fielding questions with Reuben Abati, Rufai Oseni and Ayo Mairo-Ese. 

His reason for being averse to indigenous  coaches stemmed from lack of respect for them by the players.

“Yes, the Nigerian coaches have the requisite knowledge and the technical ability, but modern football is beyond that in managing players.

“Will the national team players respect the coach? The sad thing is that they don’t”, said Amaju Pinnick.

 He however revealed that he supported the appointment of Finidi George owing to the circumstances that the NFF found itself after the exit of Jose Peseiro.

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 The NFF, he revealed, had no money to hire a foreign coach. The body therefore went for the most available option, Finidi to ensure a smooth transition.

 “Finidi was part of the coaching crew of Peseiro and it was therefore logical to ask him to continue.

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