The decision to appoint the former Eagles captain as the assistant national team coach is difficult to understand, as he has nothing to recommend him
For many, the appointment of former Nigeria international Joseph Yobo as assistant coach of the Super Eagles came entirely out of the blue.
To begin with, if there had been any suggestion of uncertainty in the technical crew of the national team, it surrounded the contract of coach Gernot Rohr, over which there has been no end of speculation.
Instead, it is Imama Amapakabo who finds himself kicked to the curb, ostensibly for his failures in the WAFU Cup, African Nations Championship qualifiers and U-23 Africa Cup of Nations last year (even though the statement released by the Nigeria Football Federation did not explicitly state this, one can infer).
The former Enugu Rangers NPFL title-winning coach fulfilled some important functions within the backroom set-up, including but not limited to opposition scouting and match analysis.
This is the brief that Yobo, one of only three Nigeria internationals with a century of playing caps, will step into.
Quite how one is to digest and evaluate this decision is unclear.
To begin with, a conspiracy theory.
At the start of the year, Nigeria football legend Segun Odegbami pitched an idea that was so out of left-field that it was immediately laughed off by stakeholders in the country’s football polity.
In a rousing treatise, he put forth the case that, contrary to the popular view, Rohr’s time in charge of the Super Eagles had been underwhelming. Via an allusion that his status as a European was in some way responsible for his perceived underperformance, Odegbami called for the appointment of a Nigerian to the position “in two years’ time”, specifically one with experience of football at the highest level.
His choice? You guessed it: Joseph Yobo.
Resist the temptation to chalk it all up to coincidence. Remember, it’s conspiracy time. There are two possibilities here. It is either Odegbami had inside information of this plan beforehand and was tasked to prepare a soft-ish landing (a case of predictive programming if ever there was one), or the NFF have acted on his recommendation.
If the former, then there is clearly some intrigue afoot of which we are as yet unaware, and only time will reveal. If the latter, then one wonders whether they actually read the entire text of the treatise by the one also known as ‘Mathematical’. It is chock full of contradictions and raises some very glaring red flags.
To begin with, there is the elephant in the room: Yobo presently holds no coaching qualifications or badges.
For that matter, even though the former Marseille and Everton man has declared himself “super excited”, there had been little to even indicate he was interested in coaching; there have been positions advertised in the national U-17 and U-20 set-ups, but he did not throw his hat in the ring for any of them.
By Odegbami’s own admission back in January, he did “not even know if the great Nigerian football hero is interested in coaching, or if he has acquired a coaching licence”. What then was that recommendation, and this decision, based on?
If all Yobo has going for him is experience of a top-level European league during his playing career, then why has he been appointed to the position ahead of, say, Yakubu Aiyegbeni?
What is it that sets Yobo apart, that marks him out as ahead of his contemporaries for such an exalted position?
Some have insisted it is a role in which he can learn the ropes of coaching in a hands-on fashion, while also claiming coaching badges are not a prerequisite. It is an odd rationalization; again, if the idea is that anyone can learn on the job, then why did it have to be Yobo?
Also, he is coming in to replace an actual certified coach with experience who has won a title in his career and carried out very specialist functions.
Is Yobo simply going to fly by the seat of his pants when a scouting report needs to be prepared?
Sure, he has done punditry, but there is a big difference between that sort of analysis, which is quite surface level, and the type that can actually improve a team’s processes.
There is, of course, the possibility that the former Nigeria captain could go on to make a marvellously intuitive coach, and take to the role like a duck to water. It has been done before.
It is also entirely possible that he is completely unfit and incompetent in the role, and falls flat on his face.
To only account for the positive outcome is delusional in the utmost, especially in a situation like this when nothing whatsoever is known of Yobo in a coaching capacity or environment. A high-wire trapeze act is also possible.
It has been done before, but you don’t volunteer to do it simply on that basis, or you might break your neck. That’s also possible.
As it stands, Nigeria is a sacking or incapacity away from having an ex-international who has never coached a day in his life or even undergone basic training take charge of the senior national team on an interim basis. The mind fairly boggles at the thought process behind this decision, and the dangerous precedent it could set for the future.