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EXCLUSIVE Onigbinde dismissed by Nigeria

Friday 14th June 2002

Festus Onigbinde has been sacked as coach of Nigeria. "He has done a wonderful job, and we were impressed by the way our players performed but we have to make changes for the future," sports minister Steven Akiga told onefootball.com.

Onigbinde will return to the position of technical director he held before replacing Shaibu Amodou as coach in February, while one of his assistants, Godwin Uwua, will take charge of the Under-23 team for next year's All-Africa Games to be held in Nigeria.

But the other three assistant coaches, Henry Nwosu, Michael Ekpenyong and Ben Duamlong were simply congratulated and told their services will no longer be required.

The decision to dismiss Onigbinde appears to be the first step towards returning to a foreign coach, something Akiga was hinting at after Nigeria's 2-1 defeat to Sweden, their second defeat in the tournament, and the result that saw them slip out of the competition.

Akiga, who took over from Ishaya Mark Aku when he was killed in a plane crash last month also held a meeting with FA officials in Osaka where he instructed them to tidy up accounts and be ready to explain how the £2 million World Cup account was spent.

"This present administration lays premium on accountability and transparency and will not accept any discrepancy in the books," the former Police Affairs minister said. "I do not therefore want to be embarrassed by anybody so the accounts must be kept in order."

Onigbinde replaced Amodou as coach in February 2002 as the Nigerian media and public reacted with fury to the Super Eagles' semi-final defeat to Senegal in the African Nations Cup in Mali. He promptly set about revolutionising the team, dropping captain Sunday Oliseh and vice-captain Finidi George, both of who had been accused of leading a clique in Mali.

Many, though, felt Nigeria had been unfortunate, and that Amodou's attempt to introduce a more disciplined structure to his side was just beginning to pay dividends when he was sacked. Only a missed penalty from Wilson Oruma in that semi, indeed, denied them a penalty shoot-out. Perhaps significantly, Oliseh and Finidi had led the fight for full reimbursement for airline tickets against the Nigerian Spots Ministry.

Onigbinde ignored the controversy surrounding his appointment to concentrate on the job of preparing Nigeria for the 2002 World Cup.

The new coach immediately threw the selection net wide open, selecting a number of home-based, uncapped players and fielding a series of experimental sides in a succession of warm-up matches.

By early May 2002 Onigbinde had narrowed his options down to 35, ignoring Oliseh and Finidi but rewarding less famous names like Bartholomew Ogbeche, Efe Sodje and Pius Ikedia for seizing their chance to impress.

A former schoolteacher, Onigbinde was one of the coaches trained by the then national supremo Berth Halve back in the 1960s. His first spell in charge of the national team began in 1983, and the following year he led Nigeria, against most expectations, to the final of the African Nations Cup in the Ivory Coast, where they were beaten by Cameroon.

He was a surprise appointment back then, having achieved little even at club level beyond a reputation for discipline that belied his softly-spoken manner. His highest profile job before then, indeed, was as assistant to Allan Hawks as he took IICC Shooting Stars to the African Cup-winners' Cup in 1976. A year later he was head coach of Water Corporation FC as they reached the last eight of the African Champions' Cup.

Onigbinde's first reign lasted 23 games, and featured just four defeats. But his defensive style was never popular, and only seven of those games were won in normal time. It has even been suggested Onigbinde was initially employed as a stalking horse, although for just whom is not entirely clear

Certainly the Ministry did little to make his job easy, as he scuttled about Lagos in a battered Volkswagen Beetle begging for such basic equipment as balls and nets, much of which ended up being supplied by former club IICC. His reign was also remarkable for the number of young players he brought through, including greats such as Stephen Keshi, Ademola Adeshina and Chibuzor Ehilegbu.

But, after the successes in the Ivory Coast- which included a remarkable 2-1 win over defending champions Ghana - Onigbinde was ousted, and returned to IICC, politics in Nigerian football once again eclipsing common sense.

This time, Onigbinde lasted just ten games, of which he won five, drew three and lost two.

onefootball
 

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Not a smart move. For the first time I saw an Nigerian Nt play with tactical smartness.

The way he dared to play youngsters in that last game was brave too. I think that Nigeria would have had better chance if they had let this man do his thing.

Anyway this tournament might not have been a succes, it is clear the country has a new and once again very talented generation coming up. Let's just hop they find a coach, for once not a foreigner looking for fast cash, that can build something with this excellent material.
 

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Not a smart move at all. I think a Nigerian coach is better than a foreign coach, who just comes for the money.

At least this coach had the nerves to drop players like Finidi, Oliseh, Baba and Agali.
 

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It's short-termism that comes to the fore yet again. These guys expect immediate results, otherwise they send the coach packing :eek:
I thought Nigeria were very unlucky against Sweden, and their tactical awareness was on a high. These were encouraging signs, but I guess it's back to square one :(
 
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