7 Minutes with China: What has Finidi George gotten himself into?

As Finidi George is unveiled as the new coach of the Super Eagles, he may soon be asking what on earth he got himself into.

When he was announced as coach of the team two weeks ago, there were probably four groups of Nigerians who reacted to the appointment.

The first group that would not take kindly to the appointment had to be those that preferred a foreign coach for the team. They do not care about the quality of that foreign coach, they just want a person that is not African. Then the second group are those who wanted a Nigerian coach, but had another candidate in mind, while the 3rd group wanted him, There is also a fourth group of indifferent people. They love Nigerian football, enjoy the Super Eagles, and want them to win, especially at the AFCON, but do not care who the coach is.

Let us destroy Finidi and tear him apart

That is what the first two groups will be doing to Finidi George, even though it may not be intentional. He just was not their candidate for the job so they will second guess everything he does. Do you all remember what happened at the friendly games against Ghana and Mali? The issue with the Spain-based attacker was blown out of proportion to, maybe, discredit the coach. When his squad list for the games against South Africa and Benin is made public this week, the coach will be torn apart regarding his choice of players. He will be harassed for who he invites, and for who he does not invite; he will be harassed for the number of home-based players in the team, regardless of the number, if there will be a number. He will be harassed if the team plays well and does not win. He will be harassed if the team wins by just a lone goal. He will be harassed if we score many goals and don’t play well, Finidi George will be harassed for daring to accept the job of Super Eagles coach. He has not seen anything yet.

But he will have his supporters

There will be needless debates on social media between two camps of people. Those that will be referred to as, Finidi George haters, and others who would feel it is their responsibility to defend him from the oppressors. They will be there to support everything he does, whether good or bad and make excuses on his behalf if there are mistakes made.

It will get messy a lot of times because George will be criticized to the point that he may begin to doubt himself, while he will be praised to the high heavens to the point that he may begin to believe the hype. Both ways, he will be heading to destruction if he takes these two camps of people seriously. But I am sure he knows all these already. The truth is that these two groups of people will end up destroying the new coach with lies. These lies will be told for him and against him. It is his choice to sieve through them and do his job as coach of arguably the most difficult National Team in Africa to coach.

What has Finidi George gotten himself into?

The press statement that announced Finidi as the coach had a certain paragraph that read thus- George’s immediate task will be to guide the Super Eagles to victory in two 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches against South Africa and the Benin Republic in Uyo and Abidjan respectively, in a little over three weeks. The matches are must-win encounters, with the Super Eagles lagging in third place in Group C of the African campaign behind Rwanda and South Africa.

Finidi’s immediate task as stated by his employers is something that should put him under pressure. He must win two games against South Africa and Benin. A draw will not be good enough and will be taken as a loss. This is because the team has drawn its first two matches.

What should Finidi do? Play fancy football and risk not scoring? Or go gung-ho and risk a backlash if something terrible happens.

One thing Finidi will learn after his first game as Super Eagles coach is that Nigerians take no prisoners. He will soon realize that playing for Sharks FC is completely different from playing for the Super Eagles, which is completely different from coaching as an assistant at Super Eagles or being head coach at Enyimba.

He will meet players who will return to Nigeria in the 3rd week of May but choose not to join the team until a few days before the game. Yes, they would rather party in Lagos and Abuja. He will meet journalists who will quote him out of context just to fit an agenda or narrative, not minding how that hurts the team or Nigeria’s qualification chances. Heck! He will meet officials of the Nigeria Football Federation who will suggest to him who to invite or who to play. But most of all, I am very sure his phone has not stopped ringing since he was announced as coach because agents all over the world will be throwing their players at him, a lot trying to entice him with financial or material offers. Finidi, wetin you enter like this?

But who is this Finidi George?

Two years ago, Finidi was a guest at my home, and I posted the photos and videos on my WhatsApp Status. Immediately a friend of mine from Trinidad and Tobago, Jewel Barton asked after him. I was shocked she knew him and her response was, “Is that not Finidi George? The former Super Eagles player who scored that goal against Greece at the World Cup with that funny celebration?”

Now, many people still see Finidi as that quiet boy from Port Harcourt. In his time at Sharks there was no scandal in his name, and so was his time at Calabar Rovers. At the Super Eagles, he was seen as cool-headed in a side that had much more outspoken players like Stephen Keshi, Daniel Amokachi, Sunday Oliseh, etc.

A lot of people still see him as that Super Eagles player who scored a World Cup goal against Greece and celebrated funny, while as a coach, people believe he is that quiet assistant to Jose Peseiro.

During the race for the Super Eagles job, he hardly ever spoke about it publicly, nor did he get into arguments and controversies about the job, leading some to think that he is too laid back and maybe pushed around by the NFF members.

But inside that calm outward nature, is a mind that thinks for itself, a personality that wants to carve its niche, and a human that wants to succeed and etch his name in gold.

Finidi George has not bitten more than he can chew. He has taken on a job that comes with a lot of pressure, but what is pressure for a man whose parents are from Bayelsa State but is a Port Harcourt boy.

Welcome to Hell’s last bus stop, Finidi, but Stephen Keshi, your former captain did it, so can you.

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