Amokachi, Yobo and the burden of football growth

Three years ago, Imama Amakapabo was in charge of Rangers International when the Flying Antelope of Enugu won the domestic league title in style. Rangers were the toast of the town as they clinched the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL). It was, therefore, not a surprise when the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) named him as an assistant coach of the Super Eagles.

However, recent events clearly revealed that his best results could be achieved at club level. In the second half of last year, three national teams crashed out of major competition under the tutelage of Imama. The U-23 Olympics team failed to win a ticket to play in Tokyo, home-based Eagles failed to make it into CHAN finals while the U-23 team also lost in African championship.

We believe it was a welcome development when NFF replaced him with Joseph Yobo as assistant coach of the Eagles.

All over the world, at club and national team levels, young coaches are now in charge of top teams. And so, Yobo’s appointment was well embraced in the country by many, while a few Nigerians cried foul, faulting the move of the federation.

Yobo paid his dues in the national team and remains the most capped player with 102 caps in 13 years. He was a leader through and through. Many of his colleagues came out to support his appointment based on his experience.

A former national coach, Austin Eguavoen, noted that the former Everton defender had the pedigree to move the country’s football forward. He argued that the appointment was a good thing because Yobo has got the pedigree to take the team higher.

Yobo was the captain of the 2013 team that won the Nations Cup for Nigeria. He also represented the country at three World Cups and so he is equipped to impart knowledge in the current young lads in the Eagles.

It is of note that some Nigerians criticised the move because Yobo is yet to get a certificate as a professional coach. Former NFF Technical Director, Kasimawo Laloko, also faulted the move, saying Eagles manager, Gernot Rohr, was not strong enough to give the former Eagles’ captain a good foundation as coach.

We, however, frown at the comments of Laloko as well as those of others who are against this move. We believe that Yobo’s wealth of experience will be a huge asset to the national team. The players will also respect him as coach and mentor. He is currently in coaching school and will be learning on the job. No doubt, Yobo is a potential head coach of the team in future.

Yobo’s appointment was just one of the interesting developments Nigerian football recorded in recent times.

Another former international, Daniel Amokachi, was appointed football ambassador by President Muhammadu Buhari. This is another positive signal for the development of the game. Amokachi, one of the players in the golden generation of 1994, was also a member of the team that won gold at the Olympics at Atlanta 96. He is expected to interface between NFF and government. It is another big plus for the current players to enjoy better welfare.

Amokachi and Yobo can breathe fresh air into the national team in many ways, but it is important for NFF to decide on whether Gernot Rohr is staying or leaving. Rohr has done his best, but going forward, there is need to get another coach that can get the best from the youthful Eagles team.

No doubt, the burden of success will squarely rest on the shoulders of the former internationals, but the ministry of sports and NFF must create the enabling environment for Amokachi and Yobo to succeed. The administrative aspect of sports is as crucial as the technical aspect.

Yobo is expected to take the players as brothers, talk to them one-on-one to prepare them for games while Amokachi should play his intermediary role also to the advantage of the players.

We are particular about the head coach of the Super Eagles since NFF is yet to give a final word on the renewal of Rohr’s contract or a replacement. This decision will have enormous impact on the result to be posted by the Eagles with Yobo. We expect the former international to also call key players often in their respective clubs and prepare them mentally for the games ahead of the team.

With the current setting, we make bold to say NFF and the ministry can bank on the input of these two former internationals to make the senior team better. We do not expect bonus crisis or any other problem in the team since there are people who can nip this in the bud with ease.

We congratulate Amokachi and Yobo, but more importantly, we charge them to work hard and justify the confidence reposed in them and the acceptance accorded them by fans.

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