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Why Jose Paseiro’s AFCON observatory role makes no sense and benefits no one

Why Jose Paseiro’s AFCON observatory role makes no sense and benefits no one
December 31
10:16 2021

BY CHRIS OGUGUO

It is not uncommon for teams to announce the appointment of a new coach just before a game and have him in some kind of observatory role for that game just before taking charge. As a matter of fact, it is a very common theme in football especially when the new coach has been appointed so close to a game; he sits in the stands and watches as an observer, taking notes of what is wrong and right with the team and how he intends to implement changes. It is all normal.

What seems abnormal, surely, is announcing the hiring of a new coach prior to a tournament and designating him as an observer, meaning he doesn’t get to take charge of the team going into the competition. This is the position that the Super Eagles have found themselves in as they get set for the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

Portuguese manager Jose Paseiro was announced as the new coach of the team on Wednesday – less than two weeks to the start of the AFCON – and while an argument can be made for how much time he would have had with the Eagles going into the tournament, the decision to have him in an observatory role in Cameroon seems absurd.
How did we get here?

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The story wouldn’t be complete without first explaining how the Super Eagles found themselves in this conundrum. For most of the last quarter of 2021, there were wild rumours of Gernot Rohr being sacked and the NFF didn’t do much to dispel those and in fact, it would seem like they encouraged it, knowing they had reached the end of their relationship with the German. It wasn’t until December 12 that it was officially announced that Rohr, 68, would cease to be the coach of the former African champions, barely a month to the start of the AFCON and just about three months to crucial World Cup qualifying playoffs!

As they announced Rohr’s sack, the NFF was prompt in replacing him, albeit temporarily, with its technical director and former Nigeria international, Augustine Eguavoen. However, in the press release announcing Eguavoen’s new role, the NFF failed to communicate whether the former Nigeria captain would be leading the team to Cameroon or not. A part of the press release reads: “He (Eguavoen) will now take charge of the team as it begins preparations for the 33rd Africa Cup of Nations taking place in Cameroon 9th January – 6th February 2022, and until the appointment of a substantive head coach”.

That error in communication paved the way for questions and rumours on who would lead the team to the AFCON and if Eguavoen was just a placeholder before the tournament pending “the appointment of a substantive head coach”.

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Where we are and matters arising

It has since been announced that Eguavoen will lead Nigeria to the AFCON following Paseiro’s appointment as a substantive coach but that has left room for even more questions and rumours as the latter will only be in Cameroon as an observer.

Although there are less than two weeks to the start of the tournament, does it make any sense in having your new coach sit out an important tournament like the AFCON (a four-week tournament) that should serve as a springboard to the World Cup qualifying playoffs in March?

Since there are no internationals until March (when the World Cup playoffs hold), wouldn’t it have been a more prudent decision to have Paseiro lead the team to Cameroon so he can properly familiarise himself with the squad while also passing his ideas across?

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These questions are based on the assumption that Paseiro would strictly be an observer in Cameroon like the NFF has suggested or would he play any role in training while excusing himself on match days?

Once again, it would seem like the NFF has taken a decision that was not properly thought through.

Oguguo can be reached via [email protected]

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