Meet FINIDI GEORGE’s Top Assistants

Former Super Eagles’ ace winger and victorious coach of Enyimba Football Club of Aba, Finidi George, was announced as the new Manager of Nigeria’s National Football team, the Super Eagles, by the Nigerian Football Federation, NFF, on May 2, becoming the 10th indigenous coach to manage the Super Eagles in two decades.

The former Ajax and Real Betis player was given a one-year contract and has led the Super Eagles since March. He is anticipated to continue preparing the team for the pivotal 2026 World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and Benin next month.

Super Eagles team currently third in Group C of the African World Cup qualifiers having missed out on the last edition in Qatar.

George will face a significant upheaval at the helm as he must manage the player’s egos, restore confidence and hope in the Nigerian fans, and motivate players to give their best.

You may wonder who George’s assistants are, but in this article, City People looks at Finidi’s trusted five main backroom staff that will help him establish a new era with the Eagles…

DANIEL AMOKACHI (FIRST ASSISTANT COACH)

Amokachi was a former teammate of Finidi and a key member of the Eagles class of 1994, who won the AFCON title that year and reached the round of 16 in their debut appearance at the World Cup.

The Bull, as his admirers fondly call him, just concluded his CA.F. A coaching license in Morocco. He was an assistant coach to the late Stephen Keshi when Nigeria last won the AFCON in 2013 in South Africa, before he was appointed the team’s head coach in 2014.

Since retiring from playing, Amokachi managed Nigerian clubs Nasarawa United (his last playing club before retirement in 2005) and later Enyimba of Aba and the country’s U-23s and the CHAN Eagles.

In April 2007, he resigned from his role as assistant coach of the Nigeria national team. On April 10, 2008, Amokachi was reappointed to the Super Eagles as an assistant coach under Shuaibu Amodu and later served as assistant to Stephen Keshi.

Furthermore, Amokachi took charge of Ifeanyi Ubah in 2015 but resigned after five weeks. In January 2016, he was appointed manager of JS Hercules.

On February 4, 2020, Amokachi was appointed Nigeria’s football ambassador by President Muhammadu Buhari.

He played 44 times for Nigeria, scoring 13 goals.

BENJAMIN JAMES

Nicknamed ‘Olopa’ Policeman for his skill in thwarting opposing attacks, James, much like Amokachi, started as a footballer, primarily a center-back.

Capped 11 times for Nigeria, James played for Plateau United, Shooting Stars, and the defunct Stationary Stores before he moved to Italy where he starred for Catania. After a season there, he joined Carl Zeiss Jena in Germany in 1997.

He also played for VFR Mannheim and SV Weingarten before he retired in 2003. James has been at German Bundesliga club Hoffenheim for over a decade as an assistant coach of the youth team.

OLUTUNJI BARUWA

George has retained Olutunji Baruwa as the goalkeepers  coach for the Super Eagles. The two collaborated closely under Peseiro, with George as one of the Portuguese’s assistants.

Baruwa assumed the role, replacing former Super Eagles goalkeeper Ike Shorunmu, just in time for Nigeria’s AFCON 2023 qualifier double-header against Guinea-Bissau.

CHIMA ONYEIKE (FITNESS TRAINER)

Born in Zeist, Netherlands, to a Nigerian father, Onyeike had a distinguished playing career, representing clubs such as DEV, WGW, HRC, HFC Haarlem, Dordrecht, Excelsior, VVV-Venlo, TOP Oss, Cambuur, and Quick Boys.

Upon retiring from professional football, Onyeike pursued higher education in sports, earning his diploma in fitness.

He then transitioned into personal training, working with renowned players like Roy Makaay and Aleksandr Kerzhakov. In July 2011, he assumed the role of fitness coach at Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala.

In June 2013, Onyeike joined Greek club PAOK as their fitness coach. On November 25, 2014, he began working as the fitness coach for VfB Stuttgart. From July 2018 to June 2022, he served as the Conditioning Coach for Dutch side Willem II.

MEHMET OZTURK

Mehmet Ozturk is from Turkey, not much is known about him, but George’s match reader/analyst, Ozturk, is an expert in prototype match analysis software. The 59-year-old has had stints with various European teams.

Why Big Companies Don’t Sponsor Local League

In football-loving countries worldwide, clubs are established and managed by private entities, whose motive of ownership is good return on investment.

The owners of these football clubs are often fascinated by what they hope to get from proceeds on gate takings, sales of souvenirs, TV rights, and especially, the resolute loyalty from the clubs’ ‘die-hard’ supporters, who are the drive behind the globalisation of these clubs beyond the shore of where the league is being played.

With all these in place, the league and its sponsors would thrive in all the competitions they participate.

Most of the companies that would have sponsored the local league are afraid to do so thinking that they would not get good return on their investments.

Big companies like Globacom, Etisalat and LMC had sponsored the local league at a time only to pull out later due to the alleged reason mentioned above.

Globalcom, a leading telecommunication company cut ties with the then Nigerian Football League, NFL from 2013 to 2016, when its name was changed to Nigerian Professional Football League, NPFL, because of return on investment, saying that they had three years contract and that it won’t be renewed.

Globacom has been at the forefront of sports sponsorship in Nigeria since it commenced operations in 2003.

During the period, Globacom sponsored the league, it spent over N8 billion to promote the Nigerian Premier League apart from the huge sums committed to sponsorship of the national teams and other sports.

“The League Management Company is expected to unfold a new multi-sponsorship arrangement which will see different companies sponsoring the league through different platforms.

Zenith Bank and telecommunication firm, Etisalat and the LMC are said to have entered into talks with regards to the sponsorship of the Nigeria Professional Football League,” says former Super Eagles media officer and respected sports journalist, Colin Udoh.

He posted on Twitter: “Glo sponsorship of the Nigerian Professional Football League has ended with the conclusion of the Super Four on 05.02.2016 in Uyo.

“Both parties (Glo/NPFL) have agreed to a mutual parting of ways. @LMCNPFL is replacing title sponsorship with a 6-tier elite partnership model,” he concluded.

In 2022, Bitnob announced that it had signed a multi-year partnership with the NPFL, managed by the League Management Company (LMC) as an Elite sponsor, making it the exclusive Fintech partner for the league.

Bernard Parah, the CEO of Bitnob said the partnership is a vehicle to reach the people who need their solutions in business and wealth creation and at the same time provide the company the opportunity to contribute to the development of the domestic league which is a national asset.

According to Parah, “This partnership takes us to the people that need our solutions and helps us work with the NPFL to develop our league for more possibilities. Bitcoin, just like football, is about hope, oneness, and freedom, and at Bitnob, we are excited to be making this happen to inspire hope and showcase possibilities in our league. If we don’t believe in what is ours, then who will,” he said.

Bitnob has established itself as a trailblazer and a company that sits at the cutting edge of leveraging Bitcoin to solve everyday problems. On her website, Bitnob says one of its core values is crazy, and that means they think limitlessly, break barriers, and do the impossible.

In 2023, MTN announced that it had entered into a partnership with the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL), GTI Investment Ltd., and Propel Sports Africa to sponsor the Nigerian league.

Andrew Ekejiuba, Media Officer of GTI Investment Ltd., said this in a statement in Lagos, saying that following the recent announcement of the joint venture between the NPFL, GTI, and Propel Sports Africa to stream NPFL games live, Propel Sports was delighted to announce that it has signed a deal with MTN Nigeria for the exclusive broadcast of the league.

He said the sponsorship would cover eight live games each weekend, which would translate to over 300 games per season.

Also speaking at the announcement, Basil Kabbani, Chairman of Propel Sports Africa, stated: “The engagement with MTN has been amazing, from the Digital VAS to the Marketing and Commercial team, their approach has been consistently professional.

“The enthusiasm for the NPFL content has been infectious. From the very start of our negotiations, we knew MTN was the right partner to give our great content, the platform it deserves,” he said.

However, these companies didn’t last with the league because they claimed that the league was not breaking what is expected of them for the company to be known, some said that they barely watch the matches on TV, so why would they put in money without return on investment?

In December 2022, just some days before the kickoff of the 2022/2023 NPFL season, Waidi Akani, Former Lagos State Football Association, LSFA Chairman, said that the league has not been enjoying quality television coverage and security, amongst many others reasons have caused the NPFL not to be able to attract sponsors.

If there is one commendation that has been given the 2022 /23 Nigeria Premier Football League, it is the number of away wins it has recorded so far, something that was never witnessed in times past.

Meet FINIDI GEORGE's Top Assistants

However, the major challenge before the Interim Management Committee, IMC is how to attract sponsorship to the league.

Adducing reasons for the lack of sponsorship for the league, Akani said as long as clubs were still recycling players the NPFL would never attract sponsors.

“The league still parades a bunch of old men that have been playing for 15 years or more which is something that is not good for the game. Rather, it should be a mixture of both young and old players and until we go back to the basics which is schools’ sports, we will continue to sing the same song every time. If you look at the major leagues in Europe, you will see players aged 18/19 breaking into the league.

“We need to go back to schools’ sports if we want our league to be attractive and get sponsors’ attention.

“Players like the late Stephen Keshi, Henry Nwosu were known when they were playing Principals Cup and people followed them to the league. I know a number of spectators I attracted to the stadium while I was playing for NEPA FC because they’ve been following me right from the time I was playing the Principals Cup,” he said.

The former Nigeria international also believes that the league will never attract sponsorship until the matches are shown on popular electronic media.

“The Nigeria Television Authority NTA has proven it does not have the necessary equipment and capacity to televise a football match. The management of the league should therefore partner with an independent television.

“I am not saying compulsorily  that the league management should go back to Super Sport, but there are still some very good independent television stations with quality equipment they can partner with,” he said

According to him, the league needs to put in place also good security at the different stadia before any organisation or company can think of coming to sponsor the league.

“Until our stadia can boast of adequate security where people can bring their families to watch football matches without fear of molestation, no right-thinking organisation would want to partner with our league. No organisation would want its name rubbed in the mud,” the former NEPA of Lagos midfielder noted.

“For our league to attract sponsorship, officiating must be top notch and the managers of the league must be people of unblemished character that sponsors could trust. Transparency should be their watchword,” the former LSFA Chairman concluded.

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