Managing the men’s football national team of a country could be an extremely difficult task when compared with club football management. This is because the manager of a national side is left with no other option than to work with players from that nation unlike in club management where the manager may sign a player from another nation to play for his club.
For a country like Nigeria, considered globally as the most feared African nation in football after becoming the first and only African country to reach 5th position in FIFA ranking in 1994, so much will be expected to determine “successful” from whoever takes over as manager.
So Who is the Most Successful Manager ?
The issue of “Who is Nigeria’s Most Successful Football Manager” has become a subject of scholarly debate, with Sports administrators, Media Practitioners, fans, enthusiasts disagreeing and making different choices on who deserves to be the most successful football manager Nigeria have ever had. For every choice of who is most successful, reasons are given.
However, irrespective of the diverse opinions given for choice of a most successful manager, over 90 percent of all those who have given their views agree with the globally accepted yardstick for measuring success in football which is the ability to win titles for the nation. In an attempt to give further credence on who Nigeria’s most successful manager is, Sports Intelligence Magazine embarked on a COVID-19 research venture during the lockdown, to seek views through social media on who is Nigeria’s most successful football manager.
CLEMENCE WESTERHOF-HOLLAND (1989-1994)
Westerhof is statistically Nigeria’s most successful football manager. He led Nigeria to 3 consecutive African Cup of nations where he won silver-1990, bronze-1992, and gold-1994. He is also the first-ever manager to qualify Nigeria to the FIFA World Cup at the USA 1994, where he led the team to finish top of Group B with 6 points on goal difference despite tieing on points with Bulgaria and Argentina who finished second and third respectively behind Nigeria.
Under him, Nigeria reached 5th position on FIFA ranking, which to date remains the highest-ranking an African nation has ever attained. Since Westerhof won the trio of bronze, silver, and gold at the African Cup of nations, no other coach has ever had that record. Luckily he was also the first coach to inherit the name “Super Eagles” after it was changed from “Green Eagles” following the team’s performance at Maroc 88.
STEPHEN KESHI-NIGERIA (2011-2015)
The late Stephen Keshi (Big Boss) is the only Nigerian coach who had a pedigree with other African countries before ever taken over the Super Eagles job. He qualified Togo for their first ever World Cup in 2006 and in AFCON 2010 he managed Mali. He took over the Super Eagles job in 2011 and was given the mandate to qualify Nigeria for the 2013 AFCON as well as the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Keshi did not just qualify Nigeria for both tournaments, he made a name for himself, becoming the first ever Nigerian to win the AFCON trophy both as a player and as a coach.
He also became the only manager in the history of the team, to lead the Super Eagles to FIFA Confederations Cup and FIFA World Cup. At the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Keshi reached the round of 16 with the team but lost 2-0 to France in knockout stage. However, he failed to qualify Nigeria for the 2015 edition of the AFCON after which he was sacked by NFF despite not having a valid contract as at time of sack. He died of heart attack on June 7, 2016.
BONFRERE JO-HOLLAND (1995-1996, 1999-2001)
Jo started with the Super Falcons in 1991, before assisting Clemence Westerhof with the Super Eagles. He is arguably the first coach to ever win Olympic gold in football with an African nation when he led Nigeria to that golden success at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics. The team stunned the world after beating a star-studded Brazilian squad in the semifinal in extra time with a golden goal, before defeating Argentina in the final by 3-2 to lift the Olympic gold medal. He came back in 1999 and handled the Super Eagles at the AFCON 2000, where Nigeria controversially lost to Cameroon in the final to win the silver medal of the AFCON.
AMODU SHUAIBU-NIGERIA (1994-1995, 1996-1997, 2001-2002, 2008-2010)
The late Amodu Shuaibu is Super Eagles’ most opportune football manager. He has had more calls to the job than any other manager in the history of the team. His best performance during his period of being in charge was winning two bronze medals with the Super Eagles; Mali 2002 and Angola 2010 Africa Cup of nations. He is a specialist in qualifying Nigeria for a major tournament. Amodu can qualify Nigeria for any tournament notwithstanding the difficulties ahead. This also made him become like the Biblical Moses who saw the Promised Land and never entered. Amodu qualified Nigeria for the two World Cups: Japan/Korea 2002 and South Africa 2010. But never led the team to the world cup. He died on June 10, 2016, of a heart attack.
SUMMARY OF THE POLL RESULTS
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Click here: How We arrived at the four managers we selected for the work to see why we selected the four managers we chose for the study
Quotable Quotes: What They Said
In the bid to add more credence to the outcome of our findings, Sports Intelligence Magazine sought the opinion of some individuals. Their perception could further broaden the view of what people say about Nigeria’s most successful football manager. See what they said
“I have said it over and over both on radio and on THE various media; Stephen Keshi remains the most successful manager the Super Eagles have ever had”.Mitchell Obi-AIPS Africa President
“I give it to Westerhof. He was the first to qualify Nigeria for FIFA World Cup. He also won the Nations Cup in 1994. One can argue that Keshi did same, but the 1st to achieve gets the credit. In addition, he also won the 2nd and 3rd place of the AFCON in 1990 and 1992 respectively, that gave him an additional edge”Kunle Solaja- Nigeria’s Most Capped FIFA World Cup Journalist
“For me, the Atlanta 1996 Olympic gold medal was the high point of success in Nigeria Football, I will give it to Bonfrere Jo”Francis Orbih Esq.President Nigeria Badminton Federation
“I think our problem is we find it difficult to appreciate what an indigenous coach does, and that is why we still find it difficult to appreciate Stephen Keshi’s accomplishment. He remains the most successful manager the Super Eagles have ever had”.Dr. Cecilia Arinye-Director of Sports, University of Lagos
“Westerhof is unarguably the most successful manager to handle the Super Eagles of Nigeria based on the number of honours he won”Collins Opara- Sports Enthusiast and Analyst
“ The first question should be which tournament is more prestigious, If the Olympic is more prestigious than AFCON, then the manager who guided us to Olympic victory at the Atlanta 1996 is the best manager we have ever had. I give it to Bonfrere Jo”Nosa Evbuomwan- Sports Enthusiast
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