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Two months to World Cup playoffs, Pinnick continues to lead Nigerian football on journey to nowhere

Two months to World Cup playoffs, Pinnick continues to lead Nigerian football on journey to nowhere
January 27
12:35 2022

BY CHRIS OGUGUO

When in December last year, news filtered in that Jose Paseiro would be the new head coach of the Super Eagles replacing Gernot Rohr, it was greeted with mixed reactions and for very obvious reasons. For one, the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) was less than two weeks away, and with no preparatory games lined up, there were concerns over how the new coach would fare in Cameroon. This was before the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) confirmed the news, and then announced that the Portuguese would only be at the AFCON as an observer.

That announcement instantly raised a lot of questions on why the new coach would only be in Cameroon as an observer, when he could have taken charge of the team at the AFCON, and used it as a dress rehearsal for the World Cup playoffs which comes up in March, just over a month after the tournament in Cameroon would have ended. The decision by the NFF made absolutely no sense.

However, sources within the NFF have confirmed that there is no contractual agreement between the Nigerian football authority and the former Sporting Lisbon coach, which probably explains why he was designated to be an observer at the AFCON, but Paseiro wasn’t even in Cameroon. What this means in simple terms is that the Super Eagles currently have no substantive head coach, just two months to the crucial 2022 World Cup playoffs against eternal rivals, the Black Stars of Ghana!

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Austin Eguavoen only led the team to Cameroon as a stop-gap measure and the 56-year old consistently maintained that he would revert to his technical director role at the NFF once the AFCON was over, unless he was asked to lead the team to those World Cup playoffs. And as it stands today, the NFF has not made that pronouncement, which only confirms that the Super Eagles are currently without a coach.

Who leads the Super Eagles to the World Cup playoffs?

With the first international window of the year being occupied by the World Cup playoffs, it means there will be no international friendly games for the Super Eagles before they face the Black Stars to determine who goes to the World Cup in Qatar between the two West African giants. What this means is that if a new coach, say Paseiro or someone else were to come in at this point, their first set of games would be the ones that determine whether Nigeria makes an appearance in Qatar later in the year or not. It also means the coach would only have two or three days to familiarise himself with the team, for what could potentially be Nigeria’s most important games of the year. Those are not the circumstances under which a new coach should begin their reign.

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The other option would be for Eguavoen to continue in his role as interim coach, given that he would have been with the team for at least three weeks even though that also wouldn’t be the best possible scenario.

The shambles being presided over by Amaju Pinnick

Amaju Pinnick, the NFF president, likes to think of himself as a modern, savvy football administrator who has all the best ideas, when in fact, he is nothing but a talkative and a showoff, who has no clue on how to run a proper football organisation. On his best day, he couldn’t properly run a football academy of U12s, let alone a federation that presides over one of Africa’s biggest football brands.
Just to be clear, Pinnick as head of the NFF is responsible for the shambles the Super Eagles have found themselves in.

His spearheading of the sacking of Gernot Rohr less than a month to the AFCON and just three months to very important World Cup qualifiers raised questions, especially as regards the timing. While the Eagles, admittedly, were hardly spectacular under Rohr, he had succeeded in qualifying the team for every competition including the 2021 AFCON and had gotten them to the final phase of the World Cup qualifiers, even if not in blazing glory.

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Considering the proximity of the AFCON and the World Cup qualifiers, a more prudent decision would have been to allow the German to continue, with his future only being considered after the playoffs for Qatar 2022. That way, the NFF, if they decide to fire him qualification or not, would have a reasonable amount of time to hire a new coach and for the new coach to familiarise himself with the team before the next major engagement.

But Pinnick, in his usual self-indulgent ego trip masked as know-how, did not think of how that act could jeopardise the Super Eagles and led the NFF board into taking a decision that has now led the team nowhere. More like a self-serving journey to nowhere, all thanks to Don Amaju Pinnick!

Oguguo can be reached via [email protected]

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