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Sunday Oliseh: NFF warned me about Enyeama, Mikel, Emenike

Former Super Eagles coach Sunday Oliseh has opened up about the challenges he faced with key players during his tenure as head coach.

In a candid interview with ELEGBETE TV, Oliseh revealed that upon taking the role, he was warned by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) about issues involving senior players John Obi Mikel, Emmanuel Emenike, and Vincent Enyeama.

Inherited Problems

Oliseh, who had a celebrated career with the Nigerian national team before transitioning into coaching, took over the Super Eagles in 2015. He was informed by the NFF that the team had failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in 2015 due to problems with certain players. The federation advised him to cut ties with these players to restore harmony and improve performance.

“When I was signed to coach the Super Eagles, they told me that they had not qualified because they were having problems with certain players,” Oliseh explained. “These players also had problems with Keshi, and that’s why Nigeria did not qualify [for AFCON 2015].”

Attempt at Reconciliation

Despite the NFF’s recommendation, Oliseh chose to approach the situation diplomatically, attempting to mend fences and give the players a clean slate. He recounted his efforts to engage with the problematic players, particularly focusing on Emenike, whom he found to be cooperative, and Enyeama, with whom he tried to establish a good working relationship.

“Now what I told them was, ‘You know I myself as a former captain, I know NFF is not easy,’ so I told them to let me talk to the players. Let me talk to them. Let me try to get them on board. Let me share my philosophy with them and let’s see how it goes,” Oliseh said.

Oliseh narrated how he personally traveled to meet Enyeama to discuss his plans and philosophy. “I took my own car and drove almost 200 km to his players… with my assistant coach. Took him out to lunch, paid for it, watched him train in the morning, spoke to his coach, spent a whole day with my captain and spoke to him and gave him the philosophy of how it was going to be.”

Resistance from Mikel and Enyeama

However, Oliseh’s attempts were not always met with positive responses. Mikel, for instance, was unresponsive to Oliseh’s outreach efforts. “I sent a message to Mikel, he never answered my call; he never called me back. He never did anything. He totally ignored and played a super diva,” Oliseh remarked.

The situation with Enyeama also deteriorated, particularly when the goalkeeper delayed joining the team before a crucial match against Tanzania, citing a personal matter. “We were playing the game on Friday, everybody came into camp. On Wednesday, the man was still not there, only to phone us on Wednesday evening that he wanted to bury his mother, who died three months ago.”

Challenges and Regrets

Oliseh expressed his frustration with the lack of commitment from some of the senior players and highlighted his strong principles and personality as factors that may have clashed with theirs. Despite his best efforts to manage the squad and foster unity, the tensions ultimately contributed to his brief 14-game stint as head coach.

Reflecting on his experience, Oliseh underscored the importance of having a strong personality as a coach and maintaining principles, even when faced with difficult situations. He remains proud of his approach and the efforts he made to bridge gaps with the players, even if those efforts were not always successful..

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