His name is Sunday Ogorchukwu Oliseh, arguably one of the most controversial characters either to captain or coach the senior national team of Nigeria, the Super Eagles. All his life Sunny, as he is widely known, has been audacious:
He had the audacity to dream. His dream was simple; he was born into a quasi-middle class home, he wanted a better life for himself and his family and he had a dream to change the family fortunes. Unlike many other youngsters who had a dream without a plan, Sunny had a simple plan – work hard, refuse to accept limitations, apply tremendous will power and have an absolute belief in God. He put his plan into action, and started on a journey to actualizing his dream
He also had the audacity to believe in himself. There is not a single journalist, who came in contact with Sunny when he strolled into Clemens Westerhof’s Super Eagles in 1993, that doubted the gift and the self-belief of the precocious midfielder. Oliseh had left Nigeria as a teenager after barely playing a year of professional football, to try out with RFC Liege in Belgium, and the wiry midfielder never doubted his ability to make the grade. That same confidence was on display when he made his debut for the national team, and made the defensive midfield position his exclusive property.
Sunny also had the audacity to stand up for himself. When it was clear that the system was not designed to protect him, Sunny acted. In March 2004, the Borussia Dortmund midfielder, who was on loan at VfL Bochum confronted a team mate that had racially abused him. The consequence of that action was that his contract was terminated; but he had the satisfaction of standing up to a racist bully. He also had the audacity to speak up and stand up to the Nigeria Football Federation when the allowances and bonuses of the Eagles were unpaid. And finally,
He had the audacity to refuse what many had accepted, and walk away from the Super Eagles job. In the history of the Nigeria National team, no manager had walked away from the job after accepting the offer and assuming the office. Nobody, that is until Sunday Oliseh finally threw in the towel eight months after taking up the responsibility of leading the national team. That action seen by some as rash, and seen by others as heroic, given the clear circumstances at the time, meant that Sunny had created for himself a special place in the history of the Super Eagles. But he did not stop there. Two years later, he again had the audacity to refuse. He stood to to toe with the owners of Dutch Eerste Divisie side, Fortuna Sittard, and demand they do the right thing.
Oliseh is not just intelligent, he is never afraid to tell his side of the story. And the fact that he expresses himself well, not only confounds, but also infuriates whoever goes against him. That is the burden whoever finds himself opposite Sunny, carries.
And it is that clarity of thought and expression we all eagerly await as his autobiography, “The Audacity to Refuse” launches later next month. Even before the book is released, one is anticipating: what does the man who says a lot, but keeps a lot more close to his chest, have to say? What were the things that went on behind the scenes as Nigeria battled to the gold at the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996? What went wrong with the Super Eagles at US 94, when the ambition died at the feet of Italian legend, Roberto Baggio, as fans back home waited to celebrate a team destined for immortality?
So many questions; and if there is a man who can provide clarity, it has to be the one who had the audacity to say enough is enough.
You can pre-order the book on https://www.sundayoliseh.tv/