Picking Nigeria’s all-time is always a difficult one, but there’s one constant name in almost everyone’s selection, and that’s Sunday Oliseh.
Oliseh made his debut for Nigeria in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Ethiopia in 1993. He instantly became a key figure following his debut and was one of the first names in the team’s starting lineup.
The mid-90s was Nigeria’s golden generation, and Oliseh was part of the three squads that achieved three major successes.
First, he was part of the Super Eagles squad that won the Afcon trophy in Tunisia 94. Oliseh even played a vital role in the final, setting up the winner for Emmanuel Amunike in the 2-1 win over Zambia.
He was also instrumental in helping Nigeria qualify for her first World Cup in 1994. Oliseh was part of the team that reached the second round in the United States, where the Super Eagles lost to Italy.
The biggest triumph of all came at the Atlanta 96 Olympics, where Nigeria went all the way to win the gold medal in the male football event.
Two years later, Oliseh would again make history after scoring that stunning strike that helped Nigeria beat Spain at the France 98 World Cup.
From the mid-90s to the early 2000s, Oliseh was one of the best defensive midfielders of his generation. At the club level, he played for clubs like Ajax, Juventus, and Borussia Dortmund.
However, despite his successful career, Oliseh had a major flaw: he believes he’s always right and never wrong.
This was revealed in his new book, which he titled ‘Audacity To Refuse.’
During his playing career, Oliseh had a disagreement with the board, a player or the coach in every team he played for.
However, while it’s normal for a player to get into a disagreement with a coach or the board, Oliseh never took responsibility in his new book.
In fact, the book, which is more or less like an autobiography, was about Oliseh failing to take responsibility for some of his actions and blaming everyone else for the issues.
It started right from Liege, which was his first club after leaving Nigeria. In the book, Oliseh complained about being racially abused and getting into a disagreement with the coach in Liege.
While this is likely true, especially being subjected to racism, it also says something about Oliseh’s character that he had a problem with someone at every club he played for.
His first disagreement at Liege was with his first coach Robert Waseige. According to Oliseh in his book, he was always a ‘yes man’ to Waseige when he arrived at Liege but decided to change when the Belgian tried to punish him after he returned from hospital due to malnutrition.
“Being a ‘yes sir’ kid to Coach Waseige had not helped me in anyway,” Oliseh said in his book.
“On the contrary, it had seemed to worsen my aspirations ever since my arrival, and I decided it was time to refuse the difficult position the coach was trying to put me in, devoid of empathy.”
“I stood my ground to have my working contract honoured- I refused to accept his no,” he added.
Oliseh has always had a problem with authority, and it was also the same issue when he transitioned into management after his playing career. The 47-year-old was appointed as the Super Eagles head coach in 2015, but he only stayed in that role for nine months after falling out with the Nigeria Football Federation and some players.
Although his disagreement with the NFF is not a surprise, given it was the same when he was a player and almost every coach has always had a problem with the organisation.
However, it’s weird that he had a problem with the players, especially Vincent Enyeama, whom he dropped as the team’s captain.
Given that he also had a problem respecting authority when he was playing, Oliseh should’ve handled the Enyeama situation better.
Another point to note from his book is that he painted himself as a problem solver at every of his club. According to him, the players, managers and coaches were always seeking his advice when there was an issue in the team.
But it’s even more laughable when he appeared to criticise Victor Ikpeba for speaking to the press over the treatment he received during their time together at Borussia Dortmund.
“His (Ikpeba) tone and interview were the totally opposite of what we had discussed and agreed upon as the line to follow in order to repair the rifts he had with many in the team,” Oliseh said of Ikpeba’s interview.
Ikpeba had made a big claim that he was not being treated well by his teammates at the club because he was black, but Oliseh criticised the move, which is laughable, given it’s something he would’ve done himself.
Nonetheless, it’s good to see Nigerian players detailing their career journey in a book, but Oliseh’s ‘Audacity To Refuse’ is more of self-glorification and lacks depth.
However, the flaws shouldn’t take anything away from a successful career.