Ighalo, Salisu’s return to the Super Eagles send a negative message and show no signs of progress

If there’s any situation that this popular phrase “taking one step forward and two steps back” describes perfectly, it is the recent controversy surrounding the Super Eagles team.

The two major headlines concerning the Nigerian national in the last few weeks have been about the comeback of two people who once played prominent roles in the team.

A few weeks ago, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) reinstated the disgraced Salisu Yusuf as the team’s assistant coach.

And just last week, it was reported that former Manchester United star Odion Ighalo could make a potential comeback to the team.

These two decisions have proven controversial in the Nigerian football sphere, and rightly so. It highlights everything wrong with the football administrators in the country and sends out a negative message.

Salisu’s reappointment is a disgraceful decision by the NFF. The former Rangers coach was banned three years ago from all football-related activities for a year for receiving bribes to influence his team.

In 2018, renowned undercover journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, led the team that exposed Yusuf in a sting operation at the WAFU Cup in Ghana.

The 59-year-old trainer, who was the Super Eagles assistant coach then, was filmed collecting $1000 to include two players in the Nigeria squad by Anas’ Tiger Eye Investigation team who posed as footballers’ agents.

As a result, he was banned from all football activities for one year. Yet three years after his ban, the NFF has rewarded him with one of the most important roles in the Nigerian team. 

This shows the organisation has no problem with corrupt officials after they have served their bans. It also re-affirms the general belief that crime pays in the country.

It should be noted that this is not the first time the NFF has offered Yusuf a route back to management. In 2019, the ex-Kano Pillars man was assigned the task to manage Rangers in the Confederations Cup.

What message is the NFF trying to send by deciding to appoint a man that has been proven to be a corrupt official as the number two man in the Super Eagles team?

Do the NFF also realise they are telling Nigerians that corrupt officials can hold national roles as long as they have served their bans?

Not only that, how would the players receive the disgraced coach, knowing he was banned for accepting bribes to influence his team selection.

The NFF stated that Salisu’s technical knowledge is why he has been brought back to assist Gernot Rohr.

A part of the statement read: “Highly respected for his match–reading ability, calm demeanour and proficiency in talent discovery and development.”

So does it mean there are no good coaches in Nigeria that could assist Rohr other than a disgraced corrupt coach?

And what does Salisu’s return mean for former Super Eagles captain Joseph Yobo, the team’s current assistant coach?

Only the NFF can answer these questions, but it leads to the belief that Salisu has the secrets that could damage the reputation of many top NFF officials, and as a result, he has been offered his former role to keep quiet.

Meanwhile, Salisu is not the only one making a potential comeback. Last week NFF president Amaju Pinnick and Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr revealed they have spoken to Odion Ighalo over a potential return.

Ighalo retired from international duty in 2019 after the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, where he finished as the top scorer with five goals as Nigeria finished third.

In fairness, when Ighalo retired, there were questions on how the team would cope without him. However, at that time, the Super Eagles had a highly-rated youngster Victor Osimhen.

Osimhen had only played for just 45 minutes before Ighalo’s retirement, but he has been more than an able replacement for the Al-Shabab man.

However, almost three years after his retirement, Rohr hasn’t moved on from Ighalo and wants the former Watford striker back in the squad.

It is not a bad idea to try to persuade a player to come out of retirement, because after all, Sir Alex Ferguson once asked a retired Paul Scholes to help Manchester United midfield problem.

But in Ighalo’s case, it is not what the Super Eagles need as the team is well-stocked in the attacking department.

In fact, this has been the best current crop of attackers the team has had in recent years. It is baffling that Ighalo is being asked to come out of retirement, especially when players like Taiwo Awoniyi, Paul Onuachu, Terem Moffi, Emmanuel Dennis and Victor Osimhen are all excelling at their clubs.

It also shows no signs of progress. It is like taking one step forward and two steps back. Although Pinnick may be the main man behind it, Rohr has also been nursing the idea and signing Ighalo’s song for over a year.

The German tactician believes Ighalo’s experience could help the team, but it is not needed as these players play in the top leagues.

“I put him in the bigger provisional first list for the next games, Rohr said in a Q&A on Elegbete TV. 

“He is doing very well at his club, and he still has the ambition to help his country. Because we miss his leadership, we miss his experience. We miss the goals he scores.”

Also, Ighalo’s return means Rohr is likely to drop an in-form player or someone who deserves a spot in the team just to accommodate the 32-year old.

It’s not a done deal, though, as Ighalo is yet to make a decision. But it will be better if he rejects the opportunity and concentrates on his club career.

Ighalo was an excellent player despite making his debut in 2015. But given he knows how Nigerian fans can be unforgiving, having felt their wrath after the 2018 World Cup, it would be a wise decision for him to keep his heroic status and stay in retirement.

Nonetheless, the 32-year-old should be ready to deal with whatever criticism comes his way should he return to the national team.

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