To Achieve Is To Lose - The incredible story of Coach Amodu


Football is the most watched, most played and most talked about game in the world.

But my beloved country India, which houses 1/6th of the world population, is woefully ignorant about this beautiful game.

We are content being the No-1 cricketing nation (a newly acquired status in the longer version of the game called the “Tests”) in the world; a game played by not more than a dozen odd countries.

To me football was a game played by robust people who tackle one another most bravely in an effort to get possession of the ball and put it into the other team’s net.

A nation like India, comprising largely non-meat eaters can’t hope to have players with leg muscles that can sustain them for a 90 minute plus game as intense as football.

Indian diet is good for gentler games like badminton, in which we are among the Top 5 nations. Games requiring less brawn but enhanced mental prowess like chess, billiards and snookers are also good for us. And we are very good at the shooting range too.

The reason for such a long preface is to confess that my knowledge of the game of football is as scanty as Hillary Clinton’s knowledge of diplomacy.

Both of us are trying though.

The only difference is that I don’t make a living out of football but she does earn her salary by being the Minister of State of the great US of A.

The Eagles that soared to semis
And talking about football takes me to the saga of Coach Shuabibu Amodu, the coach who MAY be axed tomorrow in spite of ACHIEVING the targeted task of taking Nigeria to the World Cup in 2010 and reaching the semi-finals of Africa’s Nations Cup.

Let us also be mindful of the fact that the Coach achieved this despite the fact that the Flying Eagles squad comprises of stalwarts who hardly ever played together as a close unit, much unlike the young Ghanians and the mature Egyptians.

Why is it that Coach Amodu, instead of being feted is being subject to so much humiliation?

Is it the case that the Nigerian team did well, not because of the coach but in spite of the coach?
In which case, why did the same team did so badly under the previous coaches?

Or is it that the team won its matches by successive strokes of good luck although the team didn’t play hard enough to win them?

Or is it that we as the people, reward EFFORTS and not RESULTS?

I hear people say that the only time Nigeria played really well was in semi-finals of the Nation’s Cup when they lost 0-1 to Ghana.

So are we OK to play well and lose and NOT OK when we don’t play well and yet win

What do we reward? RESULT or EFFORTS?

What is good performance?

Let’s leave football aside for a moment and discuss the concept of performance. A paid or unpaid performer performs badly, averagely or handsomely against the previously set targets.
The CEO of a company may lead a company to a 1 Billion Naira profit in a financial year but he may still earn the tag of being a bad performer if the target set for him was to rake in a profit of 3 Billion Naira.
Similarly a business leader may make a loss of 1 Billion Naira to achieve the desired market share and may yet be called successful if the shareholders had mandated him to aggressively fight the competition and grab that market share by employing the strategy of cutting the prices up to the extent of making a maximum overall loss of N 2 Billion Naira.
So Performance is closely linked to results. Isn’t it?

You may say that I am digressing and discussing business.

But isn’t Football a big business and aren’t all big businesses a bit like the game of football now-a-days?

So if my hypothesis is correct then the following equation emerges:

GOOD Performance = Meeting Targets
BAD Performance = Failing to meet the targets

Now let’s come back to the game of football

As I said earlier, I am trying to familiarize myself with the game of football. I support the Flying Eagles of Nigeria and even though I may not know the names of all the players of Flying Eagles team, I know that they were earlier coached by a German man who went by the name of Berti Vogts.
Berti frequently threw tantrums at not being paid in advance and largely tried to manage a Nigerian national team by living outside Nigeria!

The guy resigned (mind you RESIGNED, he wasn’t SACKED) after 13 months and during his stint that ended in early 2008, this guy did such a shoddy job that no one gave the flying Eagles even a slim chance of being in the World Cup in 2010, if the team were to continue under him.

Coach Amodu not only ensured that the Flying Eagles qualified for the World Cup 2010, he ensured that Nigeria finished third in the Nation’s Cup.

But what’s the fate of Coach Amodu?

From the Taxi driver to the Oga Pota Pota, all are baying for Amodu’s head.

“He has no strategy Sir,” says the Okada driver who wears his helmet with its front side backwards.

“The guy is just lucky that the other teams played badly,” says my friend who is the Executive Director of a new generation bank in Nigeria.

But isn’t a bad strategy worse than NO strategy, even if I were to assume that the man had no strategy?
And why is it that when my team wins, the other teams played badly and when I lose, I played a horrible game?
Why can’t we say that this Flying Eagles team was undone by a stroke of bad luck in the semis?

Why hang a Coach who achieved his targets?

But as I said that I still new to the game of football!

And I am still learing.

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Comment by Ogba on February 6, 2010 at 5:41am
I like the simplicity of this blog.It is very easy to understand.The 'Super' Eagles have failed to achieve the required expectation or more or less the set objectives every Nigerian wants to see in a national side.I love your sense of acuity and the way in which you have handled this topic I must say it shows great insight into the nature of the Nigerian soccer mind. Soccer is a Nigerian game.Its the only game Nigerians singularly invest so much time both monetarily and in the investment of time.We used to do well in the Track and Field but as we all know government funding is largely insufficient to carry on with this immensely lucrative sport.The Semi's was the only time Nigeria played well and they lost.The other matches they played were very sloppy and showed a team that had no cohesion Whatsoever.No desire,no motivation and no commitment.This is what gets spectators like me very irked.The shoddy arrangements and irritating manner the NFF has shown to the spirit of this game and has undermined the sport of soccer at every level.The levity at which this players treat the game is so bad that it is no longer a hidden thing.Every Nigerian just waits for the team to lose.Sadly negative but its the truth.Football is also part of the makeup of our national character and If we lose a match it immediately draws criticism from all angles the citizens will even blame the President for making them fail even if it's not his fault.To lose a match in Nigeria is 'heinous' and so every Nigerian folks hates seeing the National team lose because we don't have any sport.The semi's was applauded as Nigeria's best game because look at the match it was more entertaining and when I mean entertaining there was a bit of scrappy play but you could see a faster team and a more optimistic side.The game of Soccer is not really about targets its about patriotism,commitment and love for the game.When I put on my TV I want to see Nigerians who are willing to put on the national colours like Osaze,Shittu.Not a bunch of 22 players who do not give a damn about the people on the other side;their fans and spectators alike want to see something good.I want to see something good and you want to see something good.Am passionate about soccer and I believe there are many people like me who want the best if not the 'perfectly' best.
Comment by IceQueen on February 5, 2010 at 7:02pm
Dear Sudhir(can I call you that?)...I had a classmate named Sudhir!

I remember seeing a footage of thousands of people coming to see Sachin Tendulkar, when word got out that he was in their neighborhood having a hair cut! Yeah Indians love their cricket!

Equate that to Nigerians and football. The only difference is that Nigerians lose their thinking hats when it comes to football(maybe the same happens in India?). It's a shame really because any nation in the world would have realized that the man, Amodu, has over-achieved, especially considering the very bad system he has had work in (as you alluded to when querying the previous coaches' performances).

The good thing is that a few people who separate emotion(or try to curtail it) from football, realize how well he's done, but there are very few of us unfortunately.

A third point is that people in the position to educate the others, have decided to use the situation to achieve their personal political gains.

Finally, football isn't just a physical game, it requires a massive use of the grey cells as well. That is why players like Kanu, who have long lost it physically have continued to perform at the highest level of the game!

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