Sports

A house and national honours: Was Jose Peseiro overcompensated for Super Eagles AFCON 2023 exploits?

Jose Peseiro is one of a few non-Nigerians to be bestowed with the prestigious Member of the Order of the Niger (MON).

The MON is one of the highest honours Nigeria can confer on its citizens – and sometimes friends of the country – who have rendered service to the benefit of the nation.

In his wisdom, President Bola Tinubu was convinced that Peseiro had done enough to merit a national decoration after the Portuguese coach guided the Super Eagles to the final of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.

Ironically, Peseiro came close to getting the sack on the eve of the AFCON following a string of poor results.

The former Porto manager led the Super Eagles to consecutive draws against Lesotho and Zimbabwe in the first two World Cup qualifiers in November.

Only the NFF’s financial constraints stopped the football body from showing Peseiro the door, as revealed by Nse Essien, a board member of the NFF.

Essien said at the time: “If you check the internet, almost everyone is asking for the sack of the head coach. It is unfortunate that out of six points, we have just two, and we have found ourselves in a precarious situation.”

However, events turn in Peseiro’s favour at the AFCON in Cote d’Ivoire.

After seeing the Super Eagles struggle to a 1-1 draw in their opening match against Equatorial Guinea, Peseiro changed the team’s setup and led them to the AFCON final on the back of five consecutive victories.

Despite playing against hosts Cote d’Ivoire in that title decider, the Super Eagles were the slight favourites to claim a win, having beaten the Elephants earlier in the tournament.

Nigeria were, however, out-thought, outfought, and outitted by the hosts to lose 2-1 despite taking the lead through Player of the Tournament, William Troost-Ekong.

Still, on the team’s return to Nigeria, President Tinubu hosted them at a state dinner in Abuja, where he handed Peseiro and the boys the MON honours.

Peseiro was also given a house and land in the Federal Capital City.

For a coach with only one major title – the Taça da Liga he won with Braga in 2013 – to show in his 32-year coaching career, his reward for finishing second at the AFCON is the most significant of his life.

It is unarguably the biggest compensation the Nigerian state has ever offered to any coach – indigenous or foreign – who led any of the national teams to a runner-up spot at a major tournament.

Jo Bonfrère, the last foreigner to secure a silver medal for Nigeria at the AFCON, did not receive more than a presidential handshake from the then-President Olusegun Obasanjo after the Super Eagles lost on penalties to Cameroon at the year 2000 edition.

This has raised questions about whether Peseiro was overcompensated for his troubles in Cote d’Ivoire.

For 1980 AFCON winner Segun Odegbami, Peseiro received more than he deserved for his tactical input, tagging it the ‘most generous gift in the history of football’.

Jose Peseiro
Jose Peseiro

“The country has been very generous and grateful to him (Peseiro) for the service he rendered specifically during AFCON 2023, which took us to the final match,” Odegbami wrote in his column in the Complete Sports.

“He has been rewarded beyond whatever contributions he made to the country’s football. No other nation on earth would have given him a house, a land in Abuja, all the bonuses he collected, and a National Honour, for coming second in a championship.

“It must be the most generous gift in the history of football in the world. He should go, leave Nigerian football alone, and enjoy the largesse.”

Despite President Tinubu’s generosity, Peseiro announced he would no longer continue as head coach of the Super Eagles on March 1.

Augustine Eguavoen, head of the NFF’s Technical Department, will take charge of the team in an interim capacity until a substantive coach is hired.