After months of uncertainty, Nigeria has finally decided to hire a foreign soccer coach to take the country's national team, "The Super Eagles," to the 2004 African Nations Cup finals in Tunisia.
The decision was taken by the board of the Nigeria Football Association (NFA), after two days of meeting in the Nigerian capital city of Abuja. NFA chairman Ibrahim Galadima said the board has given its technical committee six weeks to come up with a suitable candidate for the much-coveted post. The candidate will be selected from a list of more than 36 applicants. Galadima did not offer any insight into the list. But whoever is eventually selected will take over from Christian Chukwu, the former Eagles' skipper who has been in charge of the team since last August.
Though the Super Eagles have lost only two of 13 matches played under Chukwu, Nigeria's insatiable fans have in recent times been clamouring for the hiring of a foreign coach. The calls were fuelled by losses to Jamaica and Brazil in international friendly matches, and a mediocre performance against Angola in a crucial qualifying game for the 2004 African Nations Cup.
Those calling for the hiring of a foreign coach have history on their side. Foreign coaches guided the Nigerian team to its two previous championship wins in the Nations Cup. Brazilian Otto Gloria was in charge when the Nigerians first lifted the Nations Cup in 1980, while Dutchman Clemens Westerhof was the coach when the Super Eagles won the cup again in 1994. That edition of the Cup was staged in Tunisia, where the Super Eagles hope to repeat their success next year.
Nigeria's last foreign coach was another Dutchman, Jo Bonfrere. Though Bonfrere led Nigeria to its first-ever Olympic soccer gold in 1996, his second coming was not as successful as he was fired in 2001 after a series of poor performances.