The Amaju Pinnick-led Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) took a daring decision by hiring former Super Eagles captain Joseph Yobo as assistant coach of the team. Yobo, 39, was named as replacement for Imama Amapakabo, a 1985 FIFA Under-16 World Cup winner.
Amapakabo, in addition to his role as assistant coach, oversaw Nigeria’s Olympic team and B side of the Super Eagles that let the country down in their respective qualifying campaigns in 2019.
It is uncertain if Yobo would be given the same responsibilities.
The former Super Eagles defender is “a thoroughbred and dedicated professional who played his club football in five countries, including sterling appearances for Olympique Marseille in the French top flight, Fenerbahce in Turkey and Everton FC in the English Premiership,” a statement from the NFF read.
Yobo represented Nigeria at U20 level during the FIFA World Youth Championship in 1999. He made his debut for the senior team in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Zambia in Chingola in April 2001, and played at three FIFA World Cups in 2002, 2010 and 2014.
“Joseph Yobo scored several crucial goals for the Super Eagles in important qualifying matches for the FIFA World Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations. He was also among the scorers when the Eagles thrashed South Africa’s Bafana Bafana 4-0 in a group phase match in Tunisia 16 years ago,” the statement added. Yobo, who played a total of 100 matches for Nigeria at senior level, skippered the Super Eagles to Africa Cup of Nations success in South Africa in 2013 after he had featured for the country in the 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010 editions.
“Delighted to announce my appointment as the new Assistant Coach of the Super Eagles. I’m honoured to be given this opportunity to serve. I’m ready and looking forward to this new chapter,” Yobo posted on his Instagram page. “I’m grateful to God. I thank you all for your overwhelming love and support since this announcement, it means a lot.”
But in spite of Yobo’s accomplishments as a player, his appointment as assistant coach to Gernot Rohr did not go down well with many Nigerians because since he retired, the former Toffee, who owns a football academy, has only worked as a television pundit, never as a coach. It was against this backdrop some football enthusiasts argued that the NFF’s hiring of the former Super Eagles captain was a step in the wrong direction.
However, the argument about Yobo not having a coaching experience or that he should have started with the junior teams does not hold water as the former Everton defender is an assistant coach which implies that he will gather the required coaching experience on the job.
After all, Samson Siasia, who coached the Flying Eagles team that finished second at the FIFA U20 World Cup in 2005, and won silver and bronze medals with Nigeria’s U23 teams to the Beijing 2008 and the Rio 2016 Olympics, failed with the senior team.
Also, former head coach of the senior team Stephen Keshi started with U20 (Flying Eagles) in 2001 African Youth Championship. He performed woefully. But the same Keshi, after working as an assistant coach of the senior team, sparkled when he had the chance to call the shots. He qualified Togo and Nigeria for the FIFA World Cup finals in 2006 and 2014, and also won the Africa Cup of Nations with Nigeria in 2013.
“I was informed by Amaju Pinnick, in a telephone call, before it was made public,” BBC journalist, Osasu Obayiuwana, quoted Rohr as saying in the German’s reaction to Yobo’s appointment. “I have the responsibility to develop coaches from Nigeria as agreed with NFF. I am more than happy to do that.“Joseph (Yobo) is welcome to the team, of course. I have heard that he has no coaching diplomas, so I will talk to him, about this.
“If what I have heard is correct, I will tell Yobo that he needs to do the training required, to grow as a coach.”
Therefore, Yobo’s hiring could, in the long run, benefit the team, since he has played under some of the best coaches. Also, this appointment offers him a chance to learn from the head coach.
Furthermore, the new assistant coach is expected to be of positive influence to the players, having captained Ahmed Musa and Kenneth Omeruo. So his charisma, as well as his ability to promote mutual cordiality, will be invaluable.
Yobo is expected to begin work in the build-up to Nigeria’s 2021 AFCON qualifier against Sierra Leone in late March.
By John Andah
Photo Credit: FIFA