Oliseh: The god with feet of clay


We all witnessed his majestic comportment on the field of play. The midfield general whose audacious football enthralled fans from Lagos, all the way to Liege, Cologne, Amsterdam, Turin, and Dortmund, to name some of his career stops.

Sunday Oliseh thrilled everywhere he played. And he was awesome when with the Nigeria national team. One of the few players whose claim to fame in the World Cup is a spectacular goal on a historical day. Sunny was priceless. But that genius came with questions; many of which remained unanswered as Oliseh’s history keeps repeating itself.

We all knew Sunny is fiery, and he speaks his mind. But did we miss something about the many clubs he played for? Oliseh pulled on the jersey of 9 clubs in his 17 year career. The longest he stayed at any club was four years: at RFC Liege, his first European team (1990-94), and Borussia Dortmund (2000-04). The other teams were one and two year stops. What drove a talented player like Oliseh from one team to another? Sunny was almost a once-in-a-generation player; what factors turned this genius-on-the-ball into a nomad?

The same scenario repeated itself when the former Nigeria international transited to management; from Eupen to Vervietois, to the Nigeria national team, and Fortuna Sittard. It was always a case of ‘one season adios’. If we are not conversant with what went down at the first two places, the gap between Vervietois and the Nigerian jobs; the stories of the last two jobs, at least, are well known.

What is the issue with Oliseh? His appointment to the Super Eagles job was met with scepticism, but having witnessed his burgeoning greatness as a coach, support soared, until the incidents…it was more of the same with Sittard. The question now is; what is the probability of Oliseh getting another job as a coach anywhere? Because the idea of securing another in Europe may be moot at the moment.

The Super Eagles job was a big opportunity. The talent base was there, the reputation was there. I watched Sunny at training, studied his first game and instantly saw the makings of a great coach. A little patience with the system he knew very well would, maybe, have served him well.

His story at the last stop of Sittard wasn’t as different from the Nigerian scenario, or as ‘Fortuna-te’ as it looked. He broke and set records with that team, and looked like the ground-breaker. Until the Sunny story surfaced again.

The club told their story, Oliseh told his; two versions, two sides. Like the coin of Oliseh’s legend. A god, impressive in stature, but with feet of clay. The story of Oliseh is not yet over. But if we are to see a different ending, this god must find a way to stand on the burnished brass of a new reputation.

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