Derailing Our World Cup Dream


By Tayo Balogun

I have grown to be conservative. What this means for me is that I no longer embark on a race without knowing where it will take me. Or how l will get to my destination easily. Now in my later years, I have learnt to see a holistic picture of things and events. How A invariably is followed by a B in listing the alphabets. I have now learnt to see the entwined relationship between cause and effect. I now pay more attention to efficiency in achieving effectiveness.

It is from the point of view of being a later day conservative that I regard the appointment of Joseph Yobo as Assistant Coach to the Super Eagles as the most stupid thing to do at this moment. I see this singular appointment as being capable of derailing our qualification for the next World Cup. Let me start from the beginning.

We are just a couple of months to our first World Cup qualifier. We are in a group that we could win easily. So far our team the Super Eagles continue to do well and is steadily climbing the FIFA ranking table. Our coaching crew continue to improve and Gernot Rohr as head coach has a 64 per cent win log. He has a near perfect understanding of his team and is in sync with our players. His market value has improved substantially as a result of his being the coach to the Super Eagles. The way forward should be not to do anything to distract the team. Appointing Joseph Yobo would do just that. Before he was foisted on the team, there was a strident campaign about his ability to coach our national football team. We were told about his leadership qualities and sterling performance as a player and captain of the Super Eagles. But his promoters never told us that prior to the Cup of Nations in South Africa, Stephen Keshi, our former coach, wasn’t going to have anything to do with him because he regarded him as being disloyal and a drawback.

Those promoting him told us he performed excellently as a TV pundit but they never told us what coaching experience he had. I am certain they know that being an analyst is not what would make you a great coach. Since leaving as captain of the Super Eagles, Yobo has been more active in our political space first with GEJ in 2015 and now a new romance with Gen Muhammadu Buhari’s crowd. I am certain we could improve on the coaching crew of the Eagles. Yobo is not an upgrade. Not because he doesn’t have coaching experience or certification but because there are better qualified coaches who could serve the needs of the team better. If we are looking for a replacement for Rohr, I do not believe Yobo would do.

His promoters probably do not see how football has grown all over the world. Or perhaps they have become so inordinate they don’t care what repercussions are birthed by their action. True we have generally become a nation of anything goes but let’s keep this tendency away from our football. If you must rehabilitate Yobo, find a role that would suit his experience and pedigree. Don’t push him beyond his level of competence.

The Super Eagles is a brand that has been serving us well. For most of us it is the symbol of our nation. We therefore must do all we can to grow it. Next month, we would play against Sierra Leone in an AFCON qualifier. In October, we will start our group qualifiers for Qatar2022. We have a busy year that should keep us focused not distracted. Our World Cup group is difficult even when it looks deceptively easy. Cape Verde a few years ago was ranked the best in Africa. Liberia will not be easy. CAR is coming up strong. We must gird our loins as we prepare for matches that would determine our qualification for the World Cup. I don’t think we can afford to rock the boat now. Those who want Rohr out of the way should marry their desire with what is in the overall interest of our country. An Assistant Coach should be good enough to take over from the substantive one immediately the need arises. Yobo, despite everything is not ready.

May the LORD bless our country.