Odegbami: The ‘Coronavirus’ In Nigerian Football, Again!

April 10, 2020

The world is definitely passing through one of its ‘worst’ chapters in human history.

When all of this is over, when this health crisis comes to an end, ‘when the hurly- burly’s done, when the battle’s lost and won’ (Shakespeare), we shall find that our world, the way we knew it, had come to an end. Nothing will be the same again. And it should not be the same, not with the way we were destroying the planet that the Creator gave us to enjoy and to nurse, and definitely not with the way we were ill-treating one another as human beings on the same planet.

It was certain that mankind was heading for an environmental, spiritual, social, economic and cultural catastrophe. It was certain that mankind was cultivating an unhealthy, unjust, inhumane, wicked and vanity-driven world and system. It was all insane. Things could never have continued the way they were going, because we were heading for self-destruction.

Then came Coronavirus to halt everything, to slow down our slide into hell, to bring us back to sanity. Since we could not do it ourselves nature had to intervene. That’s my humble interpretation.

The end result of all this is a fresh opportunity for true globalization of our humanity, a restoration of values and of goodness, of nature cleansing the environment by itself, and a warning to homo sapiens that this could be their last chance to either nurse their planet back to life, or lose their own life forever.

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I am talking sport.
Yes, I am. What other activity in the world has promoted the spirit of peace, the spirit of unity, the spirit of friendship, the spirit of community, the spirit of universal equality more than sport? Sport is the healthiest, the safest, the most unifying, the friendliest, the most integrating, and the most rewarding and profitable activity on the planet, yet we treat it with kid gloves, we let its worst actors take the centre stage, control it, dominate it, rule it, destroy it and make the rest of us a part of the resultant mess.

Even in our own little space in Nigeria, in our football ‘planet’, we see what is going on and do nothing to make it work correctly. The state of Nigerian football is a reflection of who we are as a country, full of unfulfilled potential, wasteful, corrupt. We only need to take a cursory look at any sport in the country, and be faced with the ugliness of what we have got ourselves into.

After the natural cleansing that must follow the plague of today, Nigeria must not return to her old ways again. The cleansing must include sport, and it must take the lead.


Jo Bonfrere with former Super Eagles assistant coach and current NFF Technical Director, Bitrus Bewarang, at the Agege Stadium Lagos

My attention is drawn to some recent developments and conversations around Nigerian football in the past few days.

Bonfrere, the Dutch trainer that was elevated to the position of coach by a segment of the Nigerian sports media and made to take the Nigerian national team to the Olympic games in Atlanta, is either back in the country, or making noises to attract some attention.

He is reported to have alleged that in 1994, his boss, the man who brought him to Nigeria as a trainer, the most successful Foreign coach in Nigeria’s football history, Clemens Westerhof, collected a 100,000 Dollars bribe to lose the match against Italy at the USA ’94 World Cup.

The evidence he has is that Nigerians should go and ask one of the players in the team.

Can someone please wake me up to tell me this is a bad dream?

My questions are these: Who is Bonfrere? What does he want to achieve by unearthing this very acidic story some 26 years after, and at point in time when Nigerians are passing through hell with bigger challenges? Does he earn our attention and to be believed?

Here is a person whose records are of the worst level of disloyalty and betrayal. He took over his benefactor’s job behind his back. He has now brought us an unsubstantiated allegation that has no basis, no evidence, and that can only come from the pit of hell, to nail the same man that raised him from obscurity into limelight 26 years ago.

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I have never heard such crap in my life. You mean, this is the kind of news we want to hear in our lives in our country at this time? Such a serious allegation and he directs us to get the evidence from one of our own players? Would the un-named player not be complicit should he have known any such thing all these years and kept quiet?

No one needs to waste time to investigate anything, or even give this man any credence or recognition. He should go elsewhere to spread the poison of his treacherous ways. Since he finished his work with Nigeria where has he been? What teams has he coached? What has he achieved for himself in football? Are we that gullible and such Mumu to even listen to him?

My advice to the man is that he should go and seek forgiveness, and not come to pollute our season of penance.

By the way, I was an integral part of the 1994 squad. I was the team manager in the background, but deep inside the great and later tragic events of the World Cup. I was an eye witness sitting on the bench with the team, shuttling between the players and their coach as their relationship steadily and irreconcilably broke down on the eve of the Italian match. I saw it all.

There was nothing anybody could have done. It was too late. The relationship between coach and players had broken down completely before the start of the match. The team wishfully hoped their good ride will sustain through that match, but they were happy to have arrived at that unprecedented stage. They needed something extra to take them beyond Italy, to the next level. They lost that ‘thing’ in their loss of Westerhof’s input, even though they played an absolutely brilliant game until the dying minutes.

The team got what it deserved. It had nothing to do with a bribe!

What does Mr. Bonfrere want now? For us to give him another chance at coaching the Nigerian team again? ‘God forbid bad tin’, as my people will say. Bonfrere is taking us for fools.

That’s how we were taken for a ride at the 1998 World. Bora, the foreign coach that took us there went on the best vacation of his life to France ’98. He must be the least deserving coach that Nigeria had ever hired. He did nothing. He collected our money, spent most of the time taking pictures and having fun, and left Nigeria high and dry.

These foreign coaches have been taking us for suckers for too long. We have been fools for too many seasons. I think the time to end it all is now. That means dealing with what to do with Gernot Rohr.

Following what has transpired recently, where the President of the Nigeria Football Federation went public with what the federation intends to offer the German, everyone knows that the motivation for such disclosure is an unofficial offer designed for Rohr to reject.

The German is no longer an attractive option for Nigeria’s future for so many reasons, including fallouts from the Coronavirus pandemic. Nigeria does not want a coach who will accept any offer simply because he needs a job. That is the mark of desperation. He has not even been made an offer. He does not need to be offered one.

Once his contract expires, except if there is a clause that says a negotiation with him must be held, the German has served Nigeria well, and must now go to seek his fortune elsewhere.

If you ask me, we have tasted Gernot Rohr, and he is not sweet enough. Let us try our own.

Unless something is wrong with us, except we want to remain enslaved to inferiority complex, we must end this unproductive romance with foreign coaches who come to do what we can do ourselves.

In the new world order after Covid-19 pandemic we must sink or swim with our own.

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