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Sunday, 03 March 2024 04:52

Segun Odegbami: Paseiro… going, going, gone!

When the story of Nigeria’s national football team, the Super Eagles, through history will be told, it will never be complete without the mention of a certain Jose Paseiro.

Without doubt, he will be listed amongst the national coaches that took the Super Eagles to the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations, but did not clinch it, yet he was rewarded more than any other coach in the history of Nigerian football.

 

Jose Paseiro is a 64-years old Portuguese coach recommended by the renowned Portuguese coach, Jose Mourinho, to the former president of the Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick, on the eve of completing his tenure. His link to Mourinho was his biggest credential. He did not have any known pedigree in football to deserve to be engaged by one of the biggest teams in Africa, one with the enviable reputation of the Super Eagles. Paseiro got the job offered to him on a platter of wood. It was so cheap, he started work on a verbal contract. It was so ‘cheap’ that when his monthly wage was slashed half-way into his 2-year contract, he accepted and held on to the job that many consider a holiday since he was working from his base in Europe most of the time.

 

Paseiro did not disappoint those who questioned his credentials and why he was hired. For the period of almost two years that he spent as coach of the national team he hardly won any international matches, could not produce a good consistent team, did not impact domestic football in any way, stuck stubbornly to a goalkeeper that the entire country saw as not the best, and did not produce a single, exceptionally-gifted player. He took Nigerians through a frustrating period that left them without a shred of hope going to AFCON 2023 at the start of the year. That was his report card before the championship in Cote D’Ivoire.

Against the grain of all expectations the Super Eagles did well, even though they would not be remembered for any spectacular performances, or special moments during the championship. Their passage through the group matches, the round of 16 and up to the quarter-finals were ‘tales of the unexpected’. With a little bit of luck the team scraped through the matches with relative ease. By the time they arrived at the semi-final match, the players had become confident, were playing with much more ease and had succeeded in making Nigerians to have hope despite all the obvious technical flaws in the team and Paseiro’s bewildering technical manipulations during matches. Tactically, most of his substitutions of players made the team weaker not stronger. No one could decipher his tactical intentions. Obviously, he may not have had any.

The team had two Captains. One did not even kick a single ball throughout, and the other one became the leader that the team had lacked for some time, and played himself into reckoning as the Most Valuable Player of the championship!

In the midfield, the Super Eagles did not have a single truly outstanding player. The team’s talisman, Africa’s newly minted Best Player, failed to ignite any fire, scoring only a single goal in 6 matches. Fans waited throughout the championship for a ‘souvenir’ from him, a memento to take away, a moment of a great solo performance. It never came in all the 6 matches!

At the final match, the team was dismantled by Paseiro’s lack of tactical depth as well as the players’ capitulation to the pressure of the electricity in the air, an atmosphere that would weaken any faint hearts as it did the Super Eagles.

The tactics adopted unchangingly by the Nigerian team was simple, elementary but effective until the final match. He did not have a second strategy. It was the same tactics that we learnt 45 years ago, in 1979, during the 3 months training of the Green Eagles in Brazil.

A defensive funnel strategy that requires every player to fall back in the shape of a funnel into their own half of the field as soon as the team loses possession of the ball. They will then mark the spaces and not the men, always outnumbering the opposing players in Nigeria’s goal area, making it difficult for them to create goal-scoring chances – typical Jose Mourinho tactics. That’s why the Nigerian defense was difficult to break down most of the time.

 

Jose Paseiro seemed contented with achieving his personal goal of a semi-final place in AFCON. In 2024, such a level of ambition is pedestrian, totally unacceptable because it is not justified by the humongous wage he earns at a time when the country as a whole is going through excruciatingly difficult times and the country is poor.

Although, Paseiro is not connected to the sad tragedy that struck the country when at least 6 Nigerians died from the pressure generated during the semi-final match, the result of poor tactical changes during the match, pressures that would have been avoided if he knew what he was doing tactically.

The country has been very generous and grateful to him for the service he rendered specifically during AFCON 2023 which took us to the final match. He has been rewarded beyond whatever contributions he made to the country’s football. No other nation on earth would have given him a house, a land in Abuja, all the bonuses he collected, and a National Honour, for coming second in a championship. It must be the most generous gift in the history of football in the world. He should go, leave Nigerian football alone and enjoy the largesse.

The Nigeria that Nigerians envision after the present ‘crucible of fire’ that the country is passing through, is a country with the ultimate dream to emerge refined and ready to take its rightful place amongst the greatest countries on earth in many fields, including football.

The goals are lofty and, definitely, beyond what a foreigner or White man without solid grounding in football can achieve for Nigeria. Jose Paseiro does not have what it takes to take the Super Eagles to the next level.

 

The conversation now should be who should be given the responsibility to replace him amongst the NigerianCoaches that are more qualified than Jose Paseiro to handle the national team. There are a few waiting in the wings that deserve to be given the opportunity.

Gratitude

I wish to thank the following that made my AFCON 2023 Roadshow possible –

Vanguard Newspaper, Peculiar Ultimate Concerns Ltd, Goldberg Lager Beer, Airpeace Airlines, His Excellency, Senator Otunba Gbenga Daniel; His Excellency, Chief Bode George; Engineer Oluwatoyin Jokosenumi; Engineer Tony Ojesina; Lola Visser-Mabogunje and Remi Okuboyejo (both of them in Abidjan).

 

 
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