Eguavoen sacked as Nigeria coaching rollercoaster rumbles on

Augustine Eguavoen has stepped down from his role as Nigeria coach in the wake of failing to qualify the Super Eagles for the World Cup, and his staff have been terminated, but the NFF say the Executive Committee will not be resigning.

Nigeria drew 1-1 with Ghana in Abuja on Tuesday, a result which saw the Black Stars qualify for the World Cup at Nigeria's expense on the away goals rule, after the first leg ended 0-0 in Kumasi. It was an outcome that left the former defender's position untenable, and 'stepped down' is surely putting it kindly.

An NFF statement on Thursday said Eguavoen "has stepped down from that position with immediate effect."

Eguavoen was seconded to the team as interim coach after former coach Gernot Rohr was fired. Eguavoen led the Super Eagles to the Africa Cup of Nations, emerging with a perfect record from the group phase, before losing to Tunisia in the round of 16.

The NFF then opted against hiring the coach who they'd lined up, namely Jose Peseiro, and sticking with Eguavoen in a permanent role. He lasted less than two months.

His resignation proved to be the catalyst for other actions by the NFF, who added in a statement that the contracts offered to Eguavoen's support staff prior to the playoffs have also been withdrawn.

"The NFF has in the meantime withdrawn the two-and-half years contract offered the coaches and terminated the appointment of the entire technical crew of the team with immediate effect," said NFF Communications Director Ademola Olajire.

He added: "A new crew will be announced after a proper review to lead the new charge of reinvigorating the Super Eagles to face future challenges appropriately."

NFF General Secretary, Dr Mohammed Sanusi said: "We thank the coaches and team officials for their service to the nation and wish them success in their future endeavours."

Eguavoen, 56, returns to his position as NFF Technical Director but that situation does not appear to be permanent, according to a top official of the NFF.

"For now, yes," said the official who spoke anonymously to ESPN. "But every realist knows that is not realistic. What would he be telling the coaches that would be employed?

"The honourable thing for him to do would be to take a walk."

Eguavoen's departure from the role is in line with the expectations of fans after the World Cup playoff failure. But that is only the first step, with demands on social media growing for the NFF Executive Committee, led by President Amaju Pinnick, to also resign.

But NFF Second Vice President Shehu Dikko says the federation did everything they could and have nothing to resign for, telling ESPN: "The NFF Exco can only be held accountable if it can be established that they failed in their responsibility to provide the enabling environment and logistics for the team to thrive.

"In this case, what is it that the Exco an d the Sports Ministry did not do to or failed to do to get the team over the line?"

Sanusi, while apologizing to Nigerians over the disaster, said the NFF did everything they could have done to help the team succeed.

He said: "There was nothing the team needed that was lacking. The Government provided necessary support; the NFF put all logistics in place with the active support of the Sports Ministry and; Nigerians turned out en masse to support the team.

"The truth is that we left nothing to chance. It is sad that things turned out the way they did.

"Sport is about winning and losing. Nobody wants to lose but sometimes it happens that way. We are quite sad that despite playing a draw in Kumasi, the Super Eagles could not win here in Abuja. We apologise unreservedly to the Government and people of Nigeria for this non-qualification."

Dikko added that the federation would now turn to long-term, grassroots football planning to develop the game in Nigeria: "The World Cup ticket is the icing on the cake. It does not and should not reflect football development.

"What has hindered our football development across the board goes across all the way to club football and below. Everything is about results and nobody cares about development. It is the reason administrators and clubs do everything to win matches so they can be termed successful."

The next, logical step, according to Dikko, is to help improve the league: "I hope we can now use this unfortunate failure to put on our thinking caps and redirect our hearts, minds and energy towards the domestic game to support the vision the LMC have been pursuing to get a solid foundation off the ground."

Eguavoen's departure marks the first step in what promises to be a very intriguing rest of the year, with further firings expected. This will culminate in an election into the board of the federation.

Pinnick has not officially declared his intention, but it is an open secret that he wants to win for a third term. His challengers will be licking their lips at the opportunity to use the lack of World Cup ticket as the counter-argument.