Posted by News Express | 23 August 2015 | 2,901 times
“That is Sunday Oliseh for you,” a business owner said approvingly in his office in Benin City as he and his friends chatted about Super Eagles coach Sunday Oliseh’s revelation of the reason he refused to call up John Mikel Obi for his debut match as Super Eagles coach against Tanzania
He and his friends, and I guess most Nigerian football followers are in support of Oliseh’s no-nonsense approach in trying to command the respect and loyalty of players who play or are in line to play for the senior national team.
Every Nigerian wants an Eagles coach who would have the personality of reigning in on the excesses of extremely rich and egoistic players, so when Oliseh revealed that Chelsea man Mikel snubbed his calls as he made attempts to contact him sometime ago to discuss the direction he plans to steer the team towards, many were of the view that Mikel’s exclusion is a step in the right direction.
The general feeling is that the Champions League-winning midfielder is expendable. After all, isn’t it the same Mikel that has been horrible in the field of play for Nigeria in the recent past? Isn’t it the Mikel that has been shunted to Chelsea’s bench where he seems to command a regular place when Chelsea file out for their Premier League games? Such is the general disenchantment with Mikel that Oliseh’s revelation surely serves to heighten the hunger to see the end of his stay as a Super Eagles player.
It is safe to say that so far Oliseh’s sound bites about discipline has shot up his approval rating even before his first game. He comes across as that cerebral football man who can finely mix a modern knowledge of the game with an iron-handed approach when dealing with players.
However, it is worth remembering, as well as instructive, that his predecessors adopted pretty much the same populist approach in their early days as Super Eagles coach with unsavory consequences in the end. Samson Siasia and Stephen Keshi rode on the crest of the wave of their disciplinary approach in publicly declaring wars with dissenting players in their early days as Super Eagles coach, but in the end they were consumed largely by the bad-blood their overt self-justification engendered.
Rushing into details to share with the press news about perceived indiscipline of players, in my view, is not a skillful way of managing a team.
There are deep loyalties among players, and seeing their colleague being exposed to the savagery of public and media criticisms can affect team psyche in silent and, eventually, irreparably damaging ways.
Also, discussing freely every perceived misdemeanor of a player publicly leaves narrow the door of reconciliation with the player if there’s a need to do so.
Nigeria may be generally fed up with Mikel, but there may be other good players we could lose because of a lack of proper skills of players management by the coach.
Managing players, many of whom play at the highest level, is no doubt a complex affair. It comes with a great need to apply perspective, and an ability to not reveal too much about your private dealings (or in Mikel’s case, non-dealings with them.) It is petty to do so.
There’s already an understandable reason for not inviting Mikel. He’s not playing regularly for his club, and others deserve a chance to stake their claim to a place in the Super Eagles. Oliseh should have just stopped here, rather than feeding the gossip-hungry lions the details of Mikel’s alleged snub.
Managing players need not be like a headmaster-student relationship where truancy is publicly ridiculed and punishments publicly meted out. It is more complex than that.
Hopefully, Oliseh wouldn’t engage in any more public falling outs with players. No need for that kind of distractions now.
•Nelson Dafe is the Benin City Correspondent of News Express. Photo shows Coach Sunday Oliseh.
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