This article is actually a personal apology to three Nigerian sports personalities, two are deceased ex-managers of Nigeria's senior national soccer team, currently known as the Super Eagles, while one is a retired player. In the first two instances, an apology is warranted as in their time they were harshly and unfairly judged. At the time such judgments seemed to be justified but now the reviewed facts of the matter make them highly questionable. The greatest apology goes to Shuaibu Amodu, who managed the Nigerian Soccer National Team on at least two occasions. Prior to this, he had helped the BCC Lions to two consecutive continental club championship finals, winning the first.

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The apology to Shuaibu Amodu stems from the outcome of the decision by Nigerian soccer authorities to deny him the opportunity to manage Nigeria at the two #world cup tournaments he qualified the country for. The eventual outcomes of Nigeria's participation in these tournaments now make nonsense of the judgments that took place concerning them.

In 2001, Bonfrere Jo, who had managed Nigeria during the glory days of Olympic Soccer in 1996, led Nigeria's Super Eagles to a disastrous loss in Sierra Leone, which put Nigeria's qualification for the 2002 World Cup in jeopardy. He was sacked as a result, and Shuaibu Amodu was put in charge of the team, with Stephen Keshi as his assistant. With some great fortune on their side, which included the amazing loss at home of the George Weah led Liberian team to Ghana, Amodu and Keshi qualified the Eagles for the world cup.

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Their next major assignment was the 2002 African Nations Cup, which Nigeria had also qualified for. This was where Shuaibu and Keshi's problems started to emerge. They were accused of giving the 'Big Players' in the team, namely Kanu Nwankwo, Austin Okocha, Sunday Oliseh and Taribo West, all members of the team that won the 1996 Olympics, too much freedom and power.

As a result, when the team failed to win the AFCON tournament, Amodu and his deputy were unfairly given the boot. The unfairness of this decision was reflected in the choice to replace them with Festus Onigbinde, who had lost the 1984 Nations Cup final, and who did not have an impressive track record of success with any national team.

Under Onigbinde, the Eagles would record their worst world cup performance up until then, coming last in their group. What is most amazing that in spite of accusing these big boys of gross indiscipline, he lacked the courage to raise an entirely new team for the World Cup. He depended to a large extent on the same big boys for the tournament, only to blame them when the team failed to excel.

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History was to repeat itself in 2010. The previous year, Amodu had once again been saddled with the task of taking Nigeria to the World Cup. The Nigerian team he managed did well, until the last group stage, where an underwhelming away loss to Mozambique took qualification out of Nigeria's hands.

It took a spirited effort from the previously under utilized Obafemi Martins in Kenya, and an inexplicable capitulation of the Tunisians in Mozambique to secure the Eagles qualification for South Africa 2010. The bottom line still remained that whether or not in style, Amodu had once again qualified Nigeria for the Mundial. After all, even the well known foreign manager Philippe Troussier had needed some fortune in qualifying Nigeria for France 98, 12 years earlier.

Sadly, Amodu's failure to deliver victory at the 2010 African #Cup Of Nations would once again be used as a justification to deny him an opportunity to handle the Eagles at a world cup. It is noteworthy that these two injustices against Amodu coincided with Nigeria's worst World Cup outings to date!

The second apology goes to Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, arguably the greatest personality in Nigerian football history. His career profile was that of an outstanding sweeper with exceptional leadership qualities and he was arguably also one of the managers of the national team whenever he played.

In 1985, he was sanctioned by the Military-led Nigerian Football Association for not meeting a deadline to report at National Camp on account of a club side assignment. The sanction would contribute to Nigeria's failure to qualify for either the 1986 World Cup or the African Nations Cup tournament of the same year. Nevertheless, his personal career thrived within Africa and in Europe, the zenith of which was his taking Belgium's biggest club, Anderlecht, to the final of the European Cup Winners Cup in 1990.

Despite his immense contributions, and largely due to Nigerian Football's administrative shortcomings, Keshi was unable to achieve significant success in Nigerian colours until that refreshing World Cup qualification and Nations Cup victory double of 1993/94.

It was Keshi's successes in his managerial career that actually make him stand out among Nigerian soccer greats, many of whom had great professional careers. He is the only African Manager to qualify two separate countries for the world cup.

He did it first with the largely unrated Togolese national side in 2005. After a stint with the Malian side that he took to the African Nations Cup in 2008, he went on to achieve 2 major milestones. Firstly, becoming the first ever indigenous manager to win the African Cup of Nations in 2013 (using a set of Nigerian players part of whom were home based with unknown quantities, and surprising the Malian goalkeeper in the process), and secondly becoming the first indigenous Nigerian manager to qualify his country past the first round of a world cup tournament.

This article will not say much more about how Keshi's saga with Nigerian soccer ended, but it was a sad ending in which he ended up being made a scapegoat.

From a personal point of view, I feel I owe both Shuaibu Amodu and Steven Keshi a posthumous apology for holding the view that foreign managers are always best for the Super Eagles. That paradigm has proved false for the following reasons.

1. Achievement factor

Lars Lagerback would handle the Eagles at the 2010 World Cup, ending in a woeful bottom of group exit. The man who had qualified Sweden for an unprecedented five straight major tournaments, and would later help Iceland to their best moment in soccer, apparently lacked ambition when it came to the Nigeria job.

Just as Berti Vogts, who had won the European Nations Cup for Germany in 1996, could not take Nigeria beyond the quarter finals of the 2008 version of the African Cup of Nations, Lagerback could not justify his employment in 2010. The bottom line is that these at least fairly accomplished managers could not match the achievements of Amodu and Keshi with the Nigerian national soccer side!

2. Special 'arrangements'

Assumptions that getting accomplished foreign managers to handle the Super Eagles will work wonders no longer holds water as there are allegations that some of these managers ‘play ball’ with officials, and officials get some undisclosed benefits from what the foreign managers are paid! It may be that these managers are not motivated primarily by the desire to succeed. It is possible that Lagerback for instance merely saw in the Nigerian job a temporary source of income, period.

3. World Cup winning reality

The World Cup winning statistic is something Nigeria and the rest of Africa must face, and it is this: No country has ever won the World Cup with a foreign manager. The nations that have won soccer’s elite National team competitions have done so because they have raised managers locally who had the aptitude and competence to turn players from their countries into World Cup winners.

Apparently, winning the Mundial requires managers who understand the distinct way in which their nation’s players think as regards the game and know how to fashion a world beating strategy around this. We can speak for instance of Brazil’s Samba and Spain’s Tiki Taka.

Interestingly, both Keshi and Amodu died within three days of one another in a sad week for Nigerian soccer, early in June 2016.

Gernot Rohr is doing well with the current Super Eagles squad. The Eagles have maximum points from two matches, and considering the quality of opposition, may secure Nigeria’s most impressive World Cup qualification to date. However, he won’t be Nigeria's handler forever, and a way must be found to ensure that Nigeria and other African countries improve the quality and confidence of local soccer handlers.

The third apology, on behalf of Nigerian football, is to Taribo West, and the apology is on behalf of a dysfunctional Nigerian system that often fails to discover real soccer talent on time, leaving that to foreign club sides.

While his career in Europe was successful enough by African standards to warrant acclaim, many Africans will not agree that West is probably the greatest Centre Back to have played African Football.

Žarko Zečević, Former General Secretary at Partizan (Once Partizan Belgrade), where Taribo once played, asserts that Taribo was actually 12 years above his official age. That Taribo never challenged the claim with a lawsuit makes it believable, when one considers the reality of age falsification in African and particularly Nigerian Soccer.

This would imply that Taribo West was actually born in 1962 and was actually 34 when he helped Auxerre win their first French League title and also helped Nigeria win Africa's first Olympic Soccer Gold Medal in1996. That would have made him 36 when he helped Inter Milan win the UEFA Cup in 1998, and 40-years-old when he was rated one of the best Central Defenders of the 2002 African Cup of Nations..

It is noteworthy that the Nigerian defence Taribo led at the 96 Olympics conceded no goal in half of the six matches they played. They only conceded six goals in three of these matches in which Nigeria came up against the best attacking talent of the 1990s such as Ronaldo, Bebeto, Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos and Hernan Crespo. Nigeria would share the best tournament defensive record with co-finalists and Silver Medalists Argentina.

If Taribo could achieve all these while approaching the age of 40, it can be imagined what he would've achieved if he had been discovered in the early 1980s (as should have been the case) and gone to Europe with age on his side. This would probably have seen a faster and even better version of Taribo that would have been so good he may have been snatched from Nigeria by one of the strong European National soccer teams.

On the other hand, this version of Taribo could have partnered Stephen Keshi in defence in the mid to late 1980s and quite perhaps Nigeria's story in the 1988 African Nations Cup and 1990 World Cup qualifiers would have been of success rather than painful failure! A Taribo discovered early could have made a Nigerian, rather than Cameroon's Roger Milla, the African hero of the 1990 World Cup. If the strong characters of the two defenders did not lead to conflict, an ideal Taribo West, Stephen Keshi partnership at the heart of the Nigerian Soccer National Team defence of the 1980s would have produced more success for the country.

What really took place in those years when Taribo plied his trade in the Nigerian soccer league? Could his vocal nature, which eventually got him in trouble with European Coaches and Paolo Maldini, have been a reason for his inability to gain qiuck recognition in the highly corrupt and anti-merit prone Nigerian Soccer League system? There is room for further research on this, but surely, had Taribo been born in some other soccer playing country, he would almost certainly have been discovered earlier, allowing for an even more glittering career.

That Taribo actually felt he was better than Paolo Maldini in the few years he spent at AC Milan should not be dismissed as a madman's fantasy. Taribo was probably reasoning that he could out-perform Maldini had age been on his side as was still the case with the legendary Italian at the time.