If local coaches are paid like foreigners, they will succeed — Eguaoje
US-based NFF Consultant on Coaching and Development, Dr Terry Eguaoje, who is also Founder, FCAAN, talks about his plans for Nigerian coaches and why they can deliver the goods for the men and women’s national teams, the state of Nigerian football and more in this interview with ’TANA AIYEJINA
As President of the Football Coaches Association of African Nations, how successful has been your drive to produce more quality coaches on the continent?
I would say that it’s been successful. It’s been a long a time coming, over 20 years now. I have the passion and desire to improve coaching education for Africa and Nigeria in particular. Basically, trying to make sure our coaches are up to standard when it comes to coaching and methods and the success is there for everyone to see. We have improved when you think back 15 to 20 years ago, I could not even get a call or email replied from anybody. But today, I am not only reaching everybody in the football world on the African continent, but I work now for the Nigerian FA, so I think there’s been quite some success and there is still a lot to do. The idea is to keep improving.
How technically advanced do you think are the local coaches?
It’s difficult to tell how technically advanced coaches are because there are some very good ones who are advanced in their knowledge and application of coaching techniques and there are some that need some help. Ultimately, even if you are very advanced and knowledgeable about the game, you still need some improvement, everyone needs improvement. With that in mind, I will say our grassroots coaches are way behind the standard of some of the European and American coaches. But we are getting there, FCAAN is doing its part to educate Nigerian and African coaches at large. It will take time, it doesn’t matter if you are advanced, you still need to improve every day.
How has the response from home-grown coaches been towards the programmes you’ve initiated to bring them up to global standards?
I’ve had some really positive responses from the home-grown coaches. They’ve welcomed FCAAN. We get calls and emails everyday about our courses. As you know, every year FCAAN takes coaches from Africa to America for the coaches’ convention, so I feel that a lot of people, including the NFF and other federations in Africa, are welcoming to us. They know what we are doing is relevant.
How many of the courses have you had nationwide?
We are on our 37th course over the last few years in Nigerian and even more when you count courses outside Nigeria, in other African countries and in the United States. FCAAN is an international brand and we work everywhere and we will continue to do that. One of the initiatives we are coming up with now is to have our courses online, so that wherever you are you can enjoy and take our courses.
Recently FCAAN partnered Baker University in the US. How beneficial will this partnership be to African coaches?
I believe the partnership with Baker University is huge. As you know, FCAAN sports institute, we are in the education business, training coaches is education, so it’s an institute. Therefore, the partnership with Baker University means that all our curriculum will be based in academia and research. I will be teaching at the Baker University myself, so this brings research-based knowledge and course content to our coaches. So, what you are studying in Nigeria would be something you could study in any part of the world because it will be based on proper evaluation by other professors in the business. And don’t forget that Baker University also offers Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree and PhD programmes in Sports Management and Business, and Nigerians as well as Africans could attend Baker and obtain their coaching certificates. So, this is huge and I am so excited about this opportunity for Nigerian and African coaches. More of the benefits will be unveiled in due course and it is exciting that we are already getting 20 per cent off tuition for courses you can take in Nigeria and then fly to America for graduation to finish up your Master’s Degree and get a coaching certificate at the same time.
As a technical consultant to the NFF, how challenging has it been occupying this role, knowing the huge expectations of Nigeria’s teeming football populace?
Nigerians love football and everybody is a coach. I am doing my best to make sure I use the knowledge I have to help the Nigerian Football Federation because I am working with some very nice people, like the Technical Director, Austin Eguavoen, he knows my abilities and he’s using it effectively to help the department. And of course, the General Secretary of the NFF has been helpful, he’s a coach too by the way, so with his knowledge, things are easy for me. Not to mention the new (NFF) president, Ibrahim Gusau, he listens to me and takes my advice. So, I think slowly but surely, we will get there. It’s not all perfect at the moment, but we are working towards that.
Did officials welcome you with open hands when you first indicated interest to contribute to football development in Nigeria?
I have been knocking on doors in the Nigerian football space for over 20 years, it took a while, so gradually, I was able to make my way. Today, I can say I have a very good relationship with the officials of the NFF and they welcomed me with open arms. I can say things are working well the way it should. Ultimately, I am doing very well in the United States, but its not about me, it is about contributing to my own country to make sure our coaches are doing well. My ultimate goal is to make sure that all the Nigerian national teams are coached by Nigerians and the only way we can achieve that is to train our own people back home.
You were with the Super Falcons at the friendly tournament in Mexico. From your own point of view, how prepared do you think this team is, technically, to match their opponents at the forthcoming Women’s World Cup?
Yes, I was in Leon, Mexico with the Falcons. I think we have a lot of work to do, to be frank. The good news is we have time. In April we will have a mini camp and then the camp before the World Cup to clean things up. The coach is doing all he can, he has showed me his plan for the team, to prepare them for he World Cup and I am optimistic that the team will do well to make Nigerians proud. Football unifies Nigerians and we take pride in that to make sure we give our best to make Nigerians happy.
What’s your assessment of the women’s game in Nigeria?
The local league is one area we hope to improve. With the establishment of the Interim Management Committee, things seem to be going in the right direction. But previously, it wasn’t as good and needed much improvement and I believe we still need improvement now. The truth is, the local league is the foundation of any footballing nation. The better you do with your local league, the better you do internationally. Look at Japan for example, they were no where near the rest of the world but what did they do, they established the J-League and put a lot of money into it and they trained coaches. Today, they are gradually becoming a powerhouse because of their foundation. Foundation also involves school sports.
There have been calls for home-grown coaches to manage the senior national teams. Do you think the local coaches are technically sound enough to manage the Eagles and Falcons?
I am one of those clamouring for the home-grown coaches to coach the national teams. Why not? If they are not good enough, then whose job is it to make them good enough? It’s our job. I see it as my job. No foreign coach has won the World Cup, so why then do we need one? I am not against hiring a foreign coach, but I have to be honest with myself that charity begins at home. So, let’s make them good, let’s pay them the same salary we pay the foreign coaches, let us give them the same working environment and give them the same opportunity to make mistakes and grow and watch them succeed. It doesn’t matter who you are, when you are given a good working environment, you will thrive.
For the Nigerian football faithful, 2022 is a year they would rather forget, following Eagles’ no-show at the Qatar World Cup and falling below expectations at the AFCON, while the Falcons were dethroned as African champions. What do you think led to this and what’s the way forward?
The year 2022 was tough for the Super Eagles and the Super Falcons. I was part of the Eagles coaching staff at the AFCON in Cameroon and we did very well in the group stage before we were eliminated. We were also knocked out by Ghana for the World Cup in Abuja. That was one of the lowest points in my life. I cannot go into details of what went wrong, I have shared my concerns and feedback with the right authority so that we don’t make the same mistake again. For Falcons, I spoke with the coach as well and the he shared his feedback with me about why we didn’t do well in Morocco last year. Those are all the things we will work on to make sure that we are better prepared next time. We just have to do better.