Friday, February 26, 2016

Truth and Beating the Chest in Abuja Celebration

Surely, those beating their chests and high fiving in Abuja to celebrate the outing of another Nigerian coach must be aware that the larger picture is that such chest beating has come at the expense of nation – Nigeria.  The rapid demise of yet another national team coach last night following administrative shenanigans should rise to the point of severe concern.

Coach Sunday Oliseh, in spite of his emotional roller coaster and eruptions, does not deserve the barrage of administrative actions that have followed in the last two weeks. Take a minute and reflect. Was elimination from the African Nations Championship (CHAN) the stage from which a coach should be crucified by a federation? If it is, then certainly the federation must be operating without a long term vision. No team, and I mean no team, will reach the zenith o its potential without growth pains. As some speaker once said: “the only place where ‘success’ comes before ‘work’ is in the dictionary.” In the real world, work and its ups and downs come before success. We know now, that the only exception is in the minds of Nigeria’s football federation.

That the federation should suddenly cut off remuneration of Oliseh’s Assistant after the CHAN, ignore the coach’s recommendation for a home venue for an important qualifier, cut off the coach’s financial support for scouting, re-define the coach’s reporting hierarchy, is nothing less than absurd. Above all, to gleefully claim that a coach should succeed while the federation denies him funds and denies players bonuses is indeed a shame.

Nigerians must wait for the federation’s admission of its own culpability in all of this. However, we know such admission is a dream. Instead, the federation will likely cite the successes of Siasia’s U-23 and Amuneke’s U-17 even though those were in spite of the federation’s failure to provide support.


While Nigeria, perhaps, moves on quickly to replace Oliseh, the truth is that the culpability of the federation in these matter should be placed in the memory of Nigerians. To ignore that is to expect the same in the future.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Interrogating Oliseh's Construction of "The Insane" Narrative

Nigeria's national team coach, Sunday Oliseh, found himself in a seemingly diastrophic situation a few days ago after he reacted angrily to widespread and caustic criticism over Nigeria's failure at the African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Rwanda. At the end, he retreated to safety with an apology after appearing ready to go toe-to-toe with those he classified as pushing him off the cliff edge.

To put it mildly, it was stunning to read some critics call for Oliseh's sack after the CHAN loss to Guinea when major qualifiers for the 2017 Nations Cup and 2018 World Cups were just a few months away.To use Oliseh's words, it was an "insane call" and to be serious, it was a ridiculous and an incomprehensible call. But it certainly ruffled Oliseh. He erupted and displayed his worst side, the side that we all anticipated would come unhinged sometime during his tenure and it was what we all feared.

In responding, Oliseh flung one claim after the other and swung at his targets with all he had. However, what really was true, logical, or beyond dispute in his response? Was it effective? Well, let's take a look.

1. Seeking a plebiscite regarding Oliseh's future with the National Team: True, several critics sought for Oliseh's sack. Though Gabon sacked its coach based on a poor CHAN, it makes little sense for Nigeria to do the same considering that it was just one competitive loss and in one competition when the team was in the midst of three competitions.  

2. The reason they are calling for my sack is because I refused to play "their players": This is a rather vacuous claim. While the calls are ridiculous, it is equally ridiculous to claim that the calls are based on the fact that Coach Oliseh failed to play the critics' favorite players. While many coach's have been accused of "pay-to-play" schemes, not all criticisms are based on those issues. Many coaches have been criticized by ex-players in the past and Oliseh has been one of those critics and I bet he would not accept that his criticisms of coaches were based on their refusal to play his preferred players. If there are specific cases that are linked to "pay-to-play" then the onus is on Oliseh to provide the justification for such a claim. Without it, one would simply be pandering to speculation.

3. The reason I have been criticized is because I refused to pay them to write stories on my behalf: See number 2 above. In this case, instead of "pay-to-play," replace it with "pay-to-write" schemes or "brown envelope" journalism well-known in Nigeria. Again, we cannot simply use that knowledge to justify its occurrence with Oliseh. Each case must be justified or else it resides within the space of speculation.

4. Egypt failed to qualify for the CHAN: Oliseh's claim here is false. Egypt has never entered to play in any of the CHAN competitions since inception of CHAN and was never in a position to qualify. Why he chose to mention Egypt is a surprise. Perhaps, he was thinking much of the upcoming contest against Egypt in the Nations Cup qualifier that effectively becomes a referendum on his tenure as national team coach.

5. Alluding to Congo DR doing well in the CHAN because its club (TP Mazembe) dominates the continental club competition: Oliseh uses this to justify Nigeria's disappointing finish since Nigerian clubs have not done much at the continental level. However, Nigeria has finished in third position of this same CHAN. Importantly, Nigeria did not play against Congo DR in the 2016 CHAN but instead lost to Guinea. Guinea's clubs do worse than Nigerian clubs in continental competitions. Thus, this logic is far from compelling.

Was Oliseh's response effective? My answer is no. This is based on (1) adverse public reaction to it,  and (2) Oliseh's recourse to an apology. Therefore, one must recommend that Oliseh should seek services of a professional if he seeks to make another attempt to repair an image which he fears is under attack. But why did his attempt fail? Here, I urge you to review Benoit's theory of image repair (IRT). This theory is widely used for analyzing image repair attempts. Unfortunately, those like Oliseh who choose to attack their accusers, use defeasibility (cite other issues as responsible), and minimizing (reducing importance of act i.e. reducing significance of CHAN) usually fail. Attacking the media is never a good strategy. He simply has begun a fight that he cannot win. There are long memories that now lie in wait. Nevertheless effective image repair requires mortification (accepting responsibility and apologizing e.g for the loss in Rwanda) along with either bolstering (citing good deeds) or corrective action (plans to improve e.g. against Egypt). In Oliseh's case, he had several examples that could have helped with bolstering and corrective action. He chose not to use them.

Monday, February 8, 2016

How Many Players Bypass the Local League and Yet make the National Team?

This article explores the following question: 

How many players or percentage of players are bypassing league football in Nigeria but end up appearing in significant number of games for the Super Eagles? 

This question arises because in the last decade or so, many Nigerian players are moving directly from academy football in Nigeria to professional football in Europe. This question looks at only the best of such players who bypass the local league. We do this because our data include only players good enough to play for the Super Eagles. Ultimately, answering the question gives us an idea of how much football may be changing in Nigeria.

It is important to note that determining what academy football is or is not in Nigeria is not so simple. In Nigeria, some of the academy teams play in the national league, usually at the lower tiers of the league. For instance, FC Ebedei which produces a large number of youth players, plays in the lower tier of the Nigerian league system moving from Division I (2nd tier) to the Nationwide National League (3rd tier). It is currently in the third tier. The same applies to 36 Lions of Lokoja (formerly Lagos-based). Then there are academies like Kwara Football Academy (KFA) that participates in the Shell Cup for secondary school students.


Method

We defined "significant number of games" as at least 10 appearances for the Super Eagles and only players who appeared between 2005 and present are used as part of the database. We found 62 players who met the eligibility for this brief study. Notably, some of those that failed to meet eligibility include Leon Balogun, Raheem Lawal, Odion Ighalo, and Lukman Haruna. None of them made up to 10 appearances for the national team. Further, we created three categories of players as follows: those who were or remain at a Nigerian league club, those who were in Nigeria but did not play for a league club, and those who started their youth careers outside Nigeria.

Result

The result is shown in the pie chart provided below. As many as 55 of the 62 (89%) players play or played for a local club in Nigeria that participates in the national league system, 5 of 62 (8%) play or played their youth football outside Nigeria before making the national team, and only 2 of 62 (3%) played youth football in Nigeria but had no experience of league football before going oversea. The two that we found were Nnamdi Oduamadi who left for Italy after being with Pepsi Academy and Joel Obi who also left a youth team in Nigeria before going to Italy. While the likes of Obafemi Martins and Ayo Makinwa have been mentioned to be in this category, both played at FC Ebedei which was in the lower tier of Nigeria's national league before both players left to join foreign-based clubs, as far as the data that we could find. 

Who are those five who began their youth careers outside Nigeria? They were Dickson Etuhu, Victor Anichebe, Sone Aluko, Danny Shittu, and Victor Moses.