The job of the national football coach is what every ambitious football manager’s look up to after serving as coaches in lower cadres as club or state sweet marchants and handlers of grassroots teams. If you are a coach and you have not risen to the position of manager of the national team, in any of the categories, male and female, junior or senior, you won’t be seen as an achiever in football coaching. In Nigeria, the job of the national team coach is very lucrative with mouth watering allowances, bonuses and salaries, but despite these, many of the country’s retired national team coaches died in penury. DAPO SOTUMINU looks at this category of national team coaches from 1954 till date that have died in this manner
He was the first indigenous national football team coach and was in chafrom 1954-1956 when he took over from John Finch, an English professional manager. Finch was the first coach of the Nigerian touring team, popularly called UK Tourists. He took charge of the team in 1949 when Dan Anyiam was a player of the team. Earlier on, Dan was a player and captain of U.A.C. Football Club of Lagos where he won the 1950 Governor’s Cup. After his playing career, he went on coaching course to East Germany sponsored by the Federal Government. Dan Anyiam again coached the national team from 1964-1965. He returned to the East Central States in 1967 during the war. This cut short his national team coaching career. After the war, he became the first coach of Enugu Rangers, a team formed to give succor to Easterners, and was selector for the national team after the Civil War. After the war he returned to the national team that played in the Second All Africa Games in Lagos and which won the global medal. He retired from the national team after the All Africa Games football event, and was appointed Chief Coach of the Imo State Sports Council by Jerry Iheazu (Imo Director of Sports), when Imo State was created in 1976. A stadium in Owerri is named after him. He died on July 6, 1977, in Enugu as a forgotten hero with no money to take care of himself before his death.
He was coach of the Nigeria senior national team from 1969 to 70, and also re-employed as national team handler in 1972-1973. This was after he coached the Lagos darling team, Stationery Stores, which was at that time one of the most flamboyant soccer teams in the country. This exposure gave Eto enough confidence to superintend over the national soccer team. His confidence and stylish pattern of dishing out football instructions earned him the nickname ‘The Professor’ of Nigerian football since he was the highest placed coach and oldest in the country at the time. After he left the national team, he returned to the East Central States and ended up as assistant coach to Dan Anyiam at Rangers International FC. When he left Rangers he continued tutoring coaches on the rudiments of the job voluntarily where he survived on small financial contributions from beneficiaries. These coaches are today top class football handlers. While at the national team level, he was a forgotten man and was never invited to the football federation even in advisory capacity.
He struggled to feed his family and take care of himself when he was too old to run around the pitch to teach football tactics. Even at old age when he attended football matches in the East, he was seen clutching a file containing basics of football coaching. When he was bedridden, his family appealed to the NFA for financial assistance, this as usual never came and he eventually died in penury.
He was a very popular Nigerian youth football coach that led the Flying Eagles to several African Youth Nations Cup victories. He was coach of Nigeria Under-20 to the 1983 FIFA World Youth Championship. He joined Coach Adegboye Onigbinde as one of the assistant coaches to the 1984 African Cup of Nations Final, where Nigeria won the silver in Cote d’Ivoire. He was chief coach of Nigeria at the Chile 1987 FIFA World Youth Championship. The team had the controversial Etim Esin, skillful Adeolu Adekola, John Ene Okon and goalkeeper Willy Okpara among others. The team was rated highly to win the World Cup because of the array of stars in the team. One is reminded of the coach’s strict disciplinary measures to ensure his players perform excellently at all times. He took ill after the Chile 87 World Youth Championship and never got enough money to treat himself. He didn’t survive the life threatening illness that struck him, inflicted by his many troubles controlling the young stubborn Nigerian youngsters. After he lost his job in the national team, he could hardly raise enough money to take care of his troubled health. He died sooner than Nigerian football lovers could get help for him in penury.
He was a member of the Nigeria Under-17 winning technical crew to the China 85 World Youth Championship. He worked with the likes of Sebastian Brodericks and Christian Chukwu to make Nigeria proud at that competition. He was the first chief coach of the national Under-23 soccer team popularly called the Dream Team 1. He qualified Nigeria for the Atlanta 96 Olympic Soccer event before the team was handed over to foreign coach, Bonfrere Jo by the NFA. Bonfrere led the team to Olympic gold. After the Atlanta Olympics, he was relieved of his duties as a national team coach and his long journey into bouts of sufferings started. He battled stroke for 12 years before he died. During his travails, former Lagos State governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, took a trip to Benin City took Bazuaye to Lagos for comprehensive treatment after he was abandoned in penury. His son Baldwin Bazuaye expressed sadness at the manner with which his father was treated. He prayed that his father’s death would help save some other former national team coaches suffering the same neglect and abandonment after retirement, and other ex-internationals will not fall into this same type of situation.
Felix Ibe Ukwu
He was coach of Nigeria women’s club giants, River Angels FC of Port Harcourt before his appointment as chief coach of the national Under-19 women’s team, the Super Falconets. The coach nicknamed ‘Gabosky’ led the Nigerian team to the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup in Thailand in 2004. Four years after Thailand U-20 World Cup, he led the country’s Under-17 women’s team to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in New Zealand. Gabosky, died in penury in Owerri after falling ill and couldn’t get financial help to take care of his treatment. ‘Gabosky’ prolonged back problems relapsed and there was no money to embark on a comprehensive treatment despite all his cries to the NFF to give his his owed allowances and salaries to offset medical bills. He died in 2009. It was an avoidable death if he had enough money to pay for his treatment. Because of his versatility during the Under-17 World Cup in New Zealand, the New Zealand Football Association sent a condolence letter to the Nigeria Football Federation on the death of the coach.
He was chief coach of Pelican Stars of Calabar, four times Nigeria Women League champions, when he has appointed assistant coach to Super Falcons Head coach, Ismaila Mabo. He assisted Mabo to the Denmark 95 and USA 99 Women’s World Cup, before he was given the opportunity to first lead Nigeria’s U-19 Women’s side at the World Championship in Canada in 2002. Two years later he was promoted to coach the Super Falcons and he went on to lead them to victory at the 2003 All Africa Games and tutored the team at the 2007 World Cup in China. He led the side to a fifth straight African Women’s Championship title in 2006. He died after a brief illness in September 2014, he was aged 67. He died after suffering a stroke, one year after he retired as a Civil Servant in September 2013. The inability to get enough money to take care of his family gave Ntiero a terminal illness which took his life. Before he died, he didn’t have money to buy his expensive drugs. When he eventually died, his friends and well-wishers from across the country had to rally round funds to bury him.
He was a former coach of Shooting Stars Sports Club of Ibadan before he was appointed assistant coach to the Super Falcons to the African Women’s Championship 2002 and USA 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup. He worked under chief coach Sam Okpodu before he was promoted Head coach of the Falcons to the 2006 African Women’s Championship. He led the team to a third-place finish at the 2008 Africa Women Championship in Equatorial Guinea. He was sick for about three months and hospitalised at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan. His family cried out for financial help when they couldn’t pay his hospital bills, a situation that made the Oyo State government donated N800,000 to his family for medical bills. He got additional financial support from the Nigeria Football Federation. But all these were not enough to safe Jossy Lad who had struggled through his heart ailment for months without funds for adequate treatment. Before his death at aged 71, Jossy Lad was placed on life support machine at the University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan but was later discharged, because the family couldn’t pay for hospital bed, he started going to the hospital from home instead of staying back to get proper treatment. He should have been flown abroad to receive treatment, but there was no money to do that. He died in 2013 in penury as a committee was put in place to take charge of the cost of his burial.
A former midfielder of the 1980 African Nations Cup winning Green Eagles team, Aloysius Atuegbu made his name as a player of Enugu Rangers. He was a success story in the Coal City club. He was at a time a member of the coaching staff of Rangers International FC of Enugu after he retired from active football. Soon after his retirement, the Nigeria Football Association employed him as one of the assistant coaches to the national Under-17 and Under-23 soccer teams. Atuegbu’s wife, Gloria said in spite of her husband’s contribution to the growth of football in Nigeria, it never translated into financial gains even while he was actively playing.
“We were always hoping on God that things will get better. His popularity on the field of play did not reflect financially at home. Gloria has been neglected since her husband’s death in 2008. She said life had been tough and rough for the family. “Life has been tough for me; there were times I had to sell some of my belongings to feed my children. I also sell groundnuts and biscuits to be able to feed my family. It was so bad at a time that one of my children had at various times missed semesters in the university due to lack of finance,” the mother of three said.
Popularly called ‘Wonder Boy’ because of his football prowess at NEPA FC of Lagos. Paul Hamilton was hired as coach of the U-20 national team after retirement as a player. He was later hired as head coach of the Green Eagles in 1989 but was later fired after Nigeria failed to qualify for the 1990 FIFA World Cup. He went on to coach the female national team for their first World Cup in 1991. He received his UEFA Coaching License in summer of 2006. When he retired from coaching, he was diagnosed of heart and kidney related health issues. He had his left leg amputated as the result of many injuries. He died after a long illness in March 2017 after serious neglect by the Nigeria Football Federation which claimed that they do not have any pension scheme to pay Hamilton. At his final hour, Hamilton cried aloud that he needed help from the football federation to offset medical bills. He said he preferred to be given money when alive rather when dead.
Keshi became coach of the Nigerian national team in 2011. He led Nigeria to qualification for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, which Eagles went on to win, defeating Burkina Faso 1–0 in the final. Keshi led Nigeria to the 2013 Confederations Cup. He secured qualification to the 2014 World Cup. He set a record in African football by being the first African coach to successfully qualify two African nations (Nigeria and Togo) to the World Cup Finals. He also helped Nigeria become the first country to achieve an African Cup of Nations trophy and World Cup qualification, both in 2013. In 2016, Keshi had a heart attack and died on his way to hospital on June 7, 2016 in Benin City, he was aged 54. His wife Kate had died on December 10, 2015, after battling cancer for three years. When Keshi died, the family did not have any money to take charge of the funeral expenses since their bread winner had been out of job for some time and he just arrived in Nigeria on a job hunting visit to see how he would raise money, but this was fruitless as he died tragically, with nothing left for his family to give him a proper burial.
Regarded as the most successful Nigerian coach dead or alive, Amodu Shaibu had a successful stint as club coach in Nigeria and South Africa. As a national team coach, he first managed the Super Eagles from April 2001 to February 2002. Amodu was re-appointed manager in April 2008. In December 2009 the Nigeria Football Federation said Amodu was under pressure, and in January 2010 there was speculation about his future. He was sacked in February 2010. Amodu was appointed Technical Director of Nigeria’s national teams in May 2013. And re-appointed Nigeria manager in October 2014, replacing Stephen Keshi. It was his fifth spell in charge of the country.
Keshi returned to the role two weeks later but was fired in July 2015 and Amodu took over the Eagles again temporarily. He was replaced by Sunday Oliseh on a permanent basis later that month. Amodu died on June 10, 2016, three days after the death of Stephen Keshi at the age of 58 years, with nothing in his bank account after he sent the last N10,000 he had to his wife the night before he died for upkeep while he combed Benin City to get funds for his family’s wellbeing.
Amodu actually died in penury as he was owed hugely by the Nigeria Football Federation and the Edo State government. Soon after his death, his family had to move from their rented apartment in Surulere and relocated to an uncompleted building in Badagry owned by a family relation. His depressed wife is presently being given a meager N10,000 monthly allowance to feed Amodu’s large family by a sympathetic family relation. This amount was grossly inadequate. All the promises and pledges made at his burial by the NFF and the Sports Ministry. His car mart has also disappeared.
One of the surviving national team coaches now forgotten by the football federation, Joe Erico, popularly called ‘Jogobonito’ because of his Brazilian styled playing pattern while handling Julius Berger. Together with Stephen Keshi, Erico assisted Amodu Shaibu to the Mali 2002 African Nations Cup. He told Sunday Telegraph that it is sad that most of the coaches who worked in the Nigerian national team, begged the Football Federation for their owed allowances, bonuses and salaries when they are disengaged. They were always on bended kneels begging the football house to pay them before they died because as it is customary with the situation, after death, nothing goes to their families.
“This is not proper; it is only God that has been sustaining my life that I am not dead today. I am still owed by the NFF and there is no hope that they are going to pay. I was owed together with Amodu Shaibu and Stephen Keshi. The two coaches were not paid until they died. I am the only one left among the three in my group. Nobody knew what actually went wrong with Keshi and Amodu that killed suddenly. I am very angry over this issue of the Football Federation owing former national team coaches until they go their grave in penury. Nobody knows how I have been surviving all these years when the NFF refused to pay me owed salaries, allowances and bonuses after serving my country diligently. Aloysius Atuegbu begged the NFF to pay him for many years during his travails of penniless for many years before he died. It was the same situation with Felix Ibe Ukwu and others who worked with the NFF at some point. It’s just not fair at all; I always feel bad whenever the issue comes up for discussion. I have been upset over the years on this matter, which shot my blood pressure up, but now I am okay, I don’t want to talk much about it so as not to get hypertensive again.
“Godwin Izilien is there in Benin City shouting and begging every day that he should be paid his owed allowances running into $28,000 before he dies. Christian Chukwu has been silent at least for some time, but has been quietly begging the NFF to pay him his money to use it for something meaningful while alive. Emmanuel Okala served at some point in the national team, he is also being owed and nothing is being done to pay him. Augustine Eguavoen is the quiet type, but he too has also voiced out that, he must be paid his owed allowances, salaries and bonuses in the national team while he is still healthy and alive.”
Godwin Izilien said in an interview in Benin City, while speaking on the critical state of retired national team coaches in Nigeria: “It is a fact that most of the retired players and coaches in Nigeria are living in penury and some have died penniless. The retired national team coaches are neglected to suffer until their death simply because our job is not pensionable. This penury state does not make things easy for family members who easily discard penniless retired coaches. It’s not about love this time around. Our wives don’t spare us from being discarded because things aren’t okay as they should be. Nowadays, if you don’t have money, you are nobody. So, it’s my appeal to the entire country to ensure that sportsmen and retired national team coaches should not be left to rot away in penury.”
Joe Erico added: “Ismaila Mabo, is not doing too well financially in his home town Jos, Plateau State. I am sure that the Football Federation will possibly make a move to pay his family owed monies after he must have died. James Peters and Bitrus Bewarang served Nigeria and they are being owed. But the two just like some others decided to overlook this and still work in other capacity in the Football Federation when previously owed monies as coaches have not been paid. The same thing happened in the case on late Amodu Shaibu, who agreed to serve as Technical Director of the NFF even when he was owed outstanding monies as chief coach of the Super Eagles. He was owed again as Technical Director until he died and he ended up losing everything, today his family is not happy about the situation.
“Even with more comprehensive coaching contract signed by the NFF with Sunday Oliseh, the former Super Eagles captain is still being owed according to his testament. This was denied by the NFF, but notwithstanding Oliseh is saying the truth. The truth of the matter is that, Oliseh was owed and it is not possible for his to voice out publicly that he was owed when it is not so in actual sense. It is unfortunate that Nigerian coaches who served the nation with all their hearts are being treated badly even to their grave.
“Look at what they did to Keshi in death. A joint committee of the NFF and the Sports Ministry announced his burial date with a budget of N30million, but this never saw the light of day. What would have happened to Keshi’s corpse if the Delta State government had not come to the rescue of the family to take up all burial expenses? It is a shame especially to a man that served this country as an academicals player, Flying Eagles captain that won several Junior Nations Cup titles, Super Eagles captain for 13 years including helping Nigeria to qualify for its first FIFA World Cup (USA 94) and later as chief coach also won Nations Cup title and qualify for the 2014 World Cup as a coach. If Keshi and Amodu could be treated so shabbily even at death, it is then a hopeless situation for others.”
There are some other retired national team coaches who are being owed and have been abandoned to their fate after serving as national team coaches. This group includes John Obuh, Eucharia Uche, Lawrence Akpokona, Nduka Ugbade, Emmanuel Amuneke, Monday Odigie and Rolandson Odey among others.
The Nigeria Football Federation has said repeatedly that, the job of the national team coach is not pensionable and that as soon as a coach completes his or her contract with the Football Federation, such a coach becomes a private citizen with no link or commitment to the NFF. The NFF also reiterated that, the coaches were paid their dues during their years of service and nobody should blame the federation for the misfortune of the coaches years after disengagement.
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