The African Cup of Nations, AFCON must have come and gone but there are so many lessons to be learnt from it especially by the body responsible for the running of football in Nigeria, NFF.
There is no doubt that having home-based players in the national team is very necessary if what the Egyptian team with a crop of their home based players are anything to go by.
Even though they did not win the trophy, getting to the final and eliminating teams with foreign based players are enough to emulate.
It would be recalled that the three AFCON Nigeria has won so far all have home-based players in them and the one without them have not been able to lift the trophy except for silver and bronze medals.
Another consideration is that African football is about physicality hence the need for players who can mark, fight for the ball and take risk like what we saw when Sunday Mba score the goal in 2013 that gave Nigeria the trophy in South Africa.
However, if we must include our home based players in the team, then we must have a deliberate policy that will develop our league like that of the South African, the North Africans, amongst others. It is achievable. For instance, most of the teams in South Africa are owned by individuals, we can start from there. If our league is up to standard, we can start churning out more quality players that produced good goalkeepers like Vincent Enyeama, Dele Ayenugba, amongst others. Recalled also that the league produced the likes of Daniel Amokachi, Finidi George, late Rashidi Yekini, etc before they stormed Europe.
From AFCON, we discovered that there is need for us to give our Nigerian coaches opportunity to handle the team because they know the players and the style of play more than their foreign counterparts.
And now that opportunity has been given to Austine Eguavoen, Emmanuel Amuneke and others, there is also need to give them time to develop a team. We cannot forget in a hurry, German and Spaniard coaches, Joachim Loew and Vincente del Bosque respectively were both given long term contract and they were able to win both the Europe and the World Cups.
In Africa, Senegalese coach, Aliou Cisse also was given long term contract and he has been able to prove its worth. Before the triumph last weekend, Cisse was the most criticized person in Senegal throughout his eight years in charge but he has been able to deliver the goods.
In Nigeria, it took Clemence Westerhof more than five years to lift the 1994 AFCON and the same with Late Stephen Keshi who was humiliated before he lifted the 2013 AFCON but that cannot be said of former handler, Gernot Rohr who couldn’t raise a team for the same five years.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Football Federation should from time to time review the performance of the coaches and rather do away with those who don’t have anything to offer especially the assistants.
Even though we don’t know how much is given to other home-based coaches that have won the AFCON, the mere fact that foreign-based coaches are paid huge sum of money, the same should apply to our Nigerian coaches. Afterall, some of our coaches are far better than the so-called foreign coaches who cannot even get offers in small clubs in their countries. If our coaches must succeed, we must believe in them, give them free hand to work and not impose anything on them.
Another thing we must learn from AFCON is the need for us to prepare well in all aspects before heading to any tournament. We must make proper arrangements for local delicacies, it is one thing that other countries do especially the francophone and North African countries. A situation whereby Super Eagles were complaining of eating bread and other unpalatable foods should be taken care of, subsequently.
In Angola, the Alhaji Sani Lulu-led board went with Nigerian ingredients where they prepare local delicacies for the players. Even though they did not win, it makes them to feel at home.
We should also prepare to go to such tournaments with a number of supporters that will cheer the team to glory. We must not undermine the power of support from the crowd.
Also, we must teach our players delay tactics just like we saw the north Africans do especially Egypt. Kicking the balls away or taking the balls to the corner flag are not the best way to waste time, there are other better ways.
However, there is need to jettison fire brigade approach to tournaments of such magnitude. Many agree that the Super Eagles couldn’t scale beyond the second round not because they were not good enough but because they did not prepare adequately. It took Eguavoen less than three weeks to prepare the team even though he made some blunders in his selections and substitutes.
We discover that Super Eagles were one of the teams that play less friendly matches before the AFCON. There is no doubt that friendly matches are used to know the strengths and weaknesses of a team and to also correct things or introduce ‘unknown’ players in the team. Playing enough friendly matches would have given the coaches idea of how to approach some games hence the inability to change the game against Tunisia.
In AFCON, we discovered that there is need for a team to have a game plan. The Egyptian had a game plan and that is, to sit back and catch their opponents on a counter and if that does not work, they stretch the match to extra time and penalty shoot-out.
We also learn that there is need for coaches to know the strength of their players. They need to know who should take the set pieces especially penalty kicks. It shouldn’t be what players will drag on the pitch but rather what they can practice after every training. By so doing, you can discover the player that is consistent in scoring penalty and the goalkeeper that is good at stopping penalties.
Lastly, it is discovered from the Nigerian team over time that there is no player that knows how to take set pieces in the Super Eagles team hence the need for coaches to have a session where they can learn such. And there is also need to have different ways of taking set pieces, it should be the way everybody is doing it or how it was being done over time.
Bringing in Amuneke into the setting is a good decision taken by the NFF but there is need for the ex-internationals to put aside their pride and work together to get results.
Others like Djamel, Cisse have gotten results, this is the time for them to also work towards achieving such feats so that the idea of engaging foreign coaches would be jettisoned and become a thing of the past.