Finidi George: The 'sacrificial lamb' of Nigeria's failing football administration

Victor Osimhen and Finidi George have been in some serious disagreement, with the Napoli man saying he's lost respect for the former Enyimba coach |Photo Credit: Imago

Finidi George: The 'sacrificial lamb' of Nigeria's failing football administration

Asukwo Oduo 18:39 - 24.06.2024

Former coach of the Super Eagles Finidi George lasted less than 40 days on the job. Who is the real problem?

It's been weeks now since Finidi George announced his decision to step down as manager of the Super Eagles.

The former Enyimba boss turned in his resignation after it was reported that the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) had plans to bring in a foreign technical adviser for the team.

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Finidi George, during his tenure as chief coach, oversaw two FIFA World Cup qualifiers, drawing South Africa and losing another to minnows Benin Republic.

The result didn't sit well with a lot of Nigerians, and there were calls for Finidi George's head.

Finidi George, who had a glittering career as one of Nigeria's best no 7, played a total of four games, including two friendlies where he defeated Ghana 2-1 but lost 0-2 to Mali.

However, the former Ajax winger paid the ultimate price for Nigeria's penchant to always get positive results, no matter what it takes. Even Wilfred Ndidi had to remind his countrymen that they cannot expect to win every game.

Former head coach José Peseiro led the Super Eagles to a second-place finish at the 2023 AFCON - howbeit with some eyesore brand of football, and here was Finidi George trying to change the narratives by playing a free-flowing expansive style.

Finidi George would later on become the sacrificial lamb of a system that has little or no room for error - even when the environment is not an enabling one.

Where did Finidi George go wrong?

Findi George at the 2023 AFCON in Ivory Coast |Photo Credit: Imago

During Nigeria's last two World Cup qualifiers, Finidi George left Victor Boniface on the bench in the absence of Osimhen, who was missing through injury.

Finidi decided to go with Paul Onuachu and even when Nigeria needed a win, he brought on Nice's Terem Moffi, who missed a glorious chance at the end.

The 53-year-old gaffer would later explain that it was a tactical decision to leave 21-goal Boniface on the bench and start Onuachu instead.

He, however, admitted that he wanted to bring on Boniface later, but a late injury to Semi Ajayi in defence forced a change of plans.

Three days later, when Nigeria travelled to Ivory Coast to face Benin, Victor Boniface again still started from the bench.

He was, however, brought on with Nigeria trailing 2-1, but the Bayer Leverkusen man could not influence proceedings.

Finidi George Vs Osimhen

This is the most controversial of the lot. A Nigerian publication notorious for fake news reported that Finidi George had stated that he could not beg Osimhen to play for the Super Eagles.

Napoli striker Victor Osimhen came out all guns blazing after gulping the fictional “abidoshaker" drink and held the whole internet spellbound.

For over five minutes, Osimhen ranted and cussed at Finidi and Nigerian football fans. He threatened to show chats of his messages to the coach.

Osimhen said he was ready to travel with the team to cheer the boys on but coach Finidi had declined, telling him to stay back.

The defeat to Benin couldn't dampen Osimhen’s spirit; guess what the Napoli man did after that? He went out clubbing with friends and acquaintances.

Reacting to Osimhen's rant, Finidi said he would have dealt with any problems in private, reiterating that he never made such claims.

Where is the NFF in all of these?

Inside reports have it that Finidi George didn't apply for the Super Eagles job. He was given the role solely for continuity's sake since he was already an assistant to the former manager.

However, the Finidi George experiment hasn't quite worked out as expected.

Moreover, during Finidi George's meeting with the NFF board members after the Benin game, sources close to the glass house stated there was no mention of plans to hire a foreign technical adviser.

Finidi George only found out about the development after he had left the meeting with the Ibrahim Gusau-led NFF board and the Nigerian Sports Federation.

Again, this is not the first time the NFF has treated indigenous coaches with disdain. Sunday Oliseh, late Shaibu Amodu, Samson Siasia - the list is endless.

Recall the Super Falcons were owed salaries and bonuses at the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup - a case that has almost become a norm for all Nigeria's national teams.

However, rather than take the blame the NFF always have a fall guy, and in many cases, it's the coach who gets to receive the backlash for whatever mess the federation caused.

Finidi George is nothing but another victim of an endless circle of poor administration in Nigeria.