I met Samson Siasia for the first and only time in 2008. It was during the African Cup of Nations tournament hosted by Ghana and a friend brought him to the Nigerian restaurant where we dined. I discussed Nigerian football with him for about 30 minutes and was impressed by his appreciation of technical and tactical aspects of the game. I was however unimpressed by his repeated concern on the collective egos of our senior players. My conclusion on that day was that he will be a disaster as a senior national team coach. Ego management and sound coaching are part and parcel of modern sports and Samson Siasia failed colossally.
However, I blame the Nigerian Football Federation for the entire mess. Why hire a coach with little or no pedigree at football management? Granted that he won silver medals in Holland and Beijing, could we have used that as a yardstick for handing over the senior national team to him? The results he achieved at junior level were either equal or below our marks in the tournaments he participated. He achieved zero result during the last qualifiers because he preferred accolades and description as a “no nonsense” coach to pragmatism that could have ensured our qualification.
In understanding the mentality of Siasia that led us to the present doom, it will be necessary to take an unbiased reassessment of his playing career. He was a member of the U-20 side that won silver in 1985 during the world cup in USSR. He falsified his age and FIFA banned Nigeria for two(2) years because of his action. He made his international debut in 1986 following the failure of the late Chris Udemezue to qualify Nigeria the 1986 nations hosted by Egypt. We were knocked out by Zambia after an uninspiring goalless draw in Lagos. He scored a hat-trick the following year against Sierra Leone and became the darling of Nigerian football lovers. The emergence of the legendary Rasheed Yekini relegated him to second striker status and his demeanor on the pitch demonstrated his unhappiness at playing second fiddle to the goal king of Nigerian football.
The selfishness of Samson Siasia was fully unraveled in 1993 in Abidjan during a crucial world cup qualifier against Ivory Coast. The humble Yekini had scored an early goal during the match and was poised to add a second when Siasia’s bitterness was exposed. Yekini was all alone to tap into the net, but Siaia looked up, saw him and decided to take a miserable shot at goal. He missed and the Ivorians capitalized and defeated us by 2 goals to 1 in the presence of the late Vice President Aikhomu. That marked the end of first team selection in the national team. Daniel “the bull’ Amokachi was immediately drafted in by Westerhof as the striking partner of Yekini.
The Football Federation should have taken his behavioral trait into considerationbefore appointing him to manage a bunch of successful football players. It is a shame we extol mediocrity in this country and relegate competence to the background. A section of Nigerians are asking for more time for Siasia and my question is more time to do what? Amodu qualified us for the World Cup and won bronze at CAN 2010, yet he was sacked for non-performance. On what basis are people asking for more time for Siasia? Let Coach Samson Siasia pack his bags and leave the national team. He has failed his countrymen at their hour of need. To do otherwise will amount to insensitivity on the part of football administrators.
Moving forward, it will help our football if we look for a competent football coach outside the shores of Nigeria. We do not necessarily need a high profile coach, but a competent and versed tactician that is hungry for success. They abound in countries like Serbia, Holland, Germany and many other . The world cup qualifiers will commence very soon and there is no time to waste.
Generally, Nigeria is now a rudderless state and it is manifesting in all aspects of our national aspiration. Political stability and good governance must induce happiness in the people. Regrettably, football, the passion of the common man has turned to national misery.
Since football is in comatose, do we have another national binder? Siasia has brought shame to local coaches and their backers. He must bow out in shame.