It has been a turbulent last few days for the Super Eagles, ending with a 2-0 loss to Congo DR in Thursday night’s friendly.
A disagreement between captain Vincent Enyeama and coach Sunday Oliseh ended with the former calling time on his international career and the latter vilified and having his man management skills questioned by the majority of fans and media.
Contrary to initial reports, Enyeama’s late arrival to camp was not the issue at the root of the confrontation, but Oliseh’s decision to hand the Super Eagles captain’s arm band to Ahmed Musa.
Enyeama reported to camp after attending his late mother’s funeral, and according to both player and coach, he was given a good reception
“They were already at training when I arrived, so I drove down to the field to meet them,” Enyeama told ESPNFC. “The coach welcomed me, we had a group hug and took pictures.”
“We were very happy to see him,” Oliseh weighed in. “He had just buried his mum and to be honest, I didn’t even expect him to be in camp. I thought he would call and say he was staying back to deal with family issues.
“We are Africans and we know that times like this, a lot of family stuff comes up, and for someone like him, it would be even harder. So he could have been excused if he had stayed back.”
Enyeama took it a different way
“He said he was surprised to see me. That he didn’t expect me to come that’s why he invited four goalkeepers. Then why invite me, then?”
At the post dinner team meeting that evening, Oliseh laid into his players, furious that they had not shown enough fire and hunger in training.
At the end, he announced that he had taken a decision to keep Ahmed Musa, who had been acting in Enyeama’s absence, as team captain.
Taken aback by the news, Enyeama says he stood up to ask for an explanation.
“I couldn’t understand it, but to tell you the truth, I have no problems with not being captain. What I found odd was that as a captain and player who had played for 13 years, I should have been accorded the respect of the coach calling me into his room to tell me he was taking such a decision.
“He is the coach and he does not need to explain to me why he is choosing a different captain. But the way he announced it was humiliating for me and I wanted to stand up and ask him why he did so.”
Enyeama was not allowed to speak.
“He told me to sit down and not say anything. But I insisted calmly that I have earned the right to speak.
“He told me that if I insisted on speaking, either the team would leave the hall for me, or I would have to leave. When I continued speaking, he walked to the door, opened it and asked me to leave the camp.”
Oliseh explains why
“I told him that this was not the right time. That we could discuss it later. But he kept insisting loudly that he wanted to talk. So I told him we could either leave the hall for him, or he would have to leave.
“When he continued, I opened the door and asked him to leave.
“Some of the other players, Musa, Emenike, Mikel and Onazi were holding him and asking him to calm down. You can confirm from any of them.
“At no point did security get anywhere near him. Unless the players I mentioned above are now security.”
NFF President Amaju Pinnick called in from Nigeria, spoke to both coach and player and resolved the issue, with Oliseh agreeing to allow Enyeama stay in camp.
The goalkeeper himself, who had made up his mind to leave, was persuaded to stay
Musa and the other players continued playing peacekeepers, shuttling between both men’s rooms, even trying to get Oliseh to change his mind and reinstate Enyeama in the interest of peace.
But the coach would not budge. He told ESPNFC why he took the decision
“When I took over as coach, Enyeama was the first person I went to see. I drove to Lille, took him out to lunch and discussed my plans and philosophy going forward.
“While we were talking, he mentioned his plans to retire in about a year or two. I told him I was building a team and he should not talk about retirement now.
“On three separate occasions when we talked, including before the Tanzania game, he kept talking about retirement. That was when I made up my mind to appoint a captain I could count on for the long run.
“I cannot have a captain who is thinking about retirement. I want one who will lead the team into the future. That’s why I took that decision.”
Pinnick’s call appeared to have soothed nerves with the NFF even sending out a press release that all was now well in the camp.
Things took a turn for the worse the next morning when Enyeama made an Instagram post which suggested his late mother had been insulted.
That set Oliseh off and things went irretrievably downhill from there
“At no point did I say anything, not a single word about his late mother. That was just a blatant lie and attempt at character assassination.
“If he wanted to retire, he should have just said so, not to start making up stories.”
Oliseh called out Enyeama in the team bus
“He told me he did not know me, did not care to know me and did not think I was important to his team. That was when I decided to leave for good. If the coach doesn’t want me, there is no point.
“So I trained with the team as Carl Ikeme was the only other goalkeeper. When Dele Alampasu arrived, I went to his room, told him I was retiring and left.”
It is a sad end to an illustrious career and a messy situation that could have been avoided with a little more care.
And it all comes down to communication and patience. Both men corroborate each other’so account of events, but their point of departure is their understanding and interpretation of each other’s motives.
On a general note however, what is clear is that there were three major failings.
As coach, Oliseh is under no obligation to, but should have called Vincent and Musa privately to explain the baton change.
When asked to hold his horses and discuss the matter privately, Enyeama should have calmed down and waited to speak to the coach in private rather than undermine him in front of his squad.
After the issue was resolved by the NFF president and his teammates, Enyeama should not have made the Instagram post that reignited the flames