Nigeria assistant coach: NFF boss defends Joseph Yobo appointment

Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president Amaju Pinnick has defended the choice of Joseph Yobo as assistant coach of the senior national team, amid a huge public outcry over his appointment last week.

The former captain, 39, replaces Imama Amapakabo and is expected to work with manager Gernot Rohr as third in command.

But some fans and a section of the local media have questioned the decision to appoint Yobo saying he ‘lacks the right qualifications’.

“The concept behind this is to nurture and condition former captain Joseph Yobo to provide leadership and mentorship for the young team,” Pinnick said.

“He has an incredible experience playing for some of Europe’s biggest clubs. He is one of our most-capped players ever and also won the Nations Cup.

“I believe that as Nigerians we have a chance to make a positive step forward and it’s important to give him the opportunity to succeed.”

His country’s second most capped player, Yobo won the first of his 100 caps for Nigeria against Zambia in Chingola in 2001.

The former Everton, Fenerbahce and Norwich City star, who represented his country at the 1999 Under-20 World Cup, skippered the Super Eagles to Africa Cup of Nations success in South Africa in 2013.

However, the former NFF’s head of the technical department, Kashimawo Laloko, insists there are better options. He says there are more well known names in the country other than the defender who played in six Africa Cup of Nations tournaments between 2002 and 2013 in a 14-year career.

“I don’t think we should just appoint someone because of their name. As it is, Yobo is not qualified to be an assistant coach,” Laloko told BBC Sport.

“I have nothing against him as a person but his appointment lacks logic. There are other qualified former players who are more deserving to be assistant coaches.”

Despite the criticism, Pinnick says the football authority is ready to support Yobo to grow in the role and in his effort to obtain the required licences.

He also calls for patience and public support to enable Yobo to follow in the footsteps of his former coach, Nigeria legend Stephen Keshi.

“Yes Fifa rules say that the head coach and first assistant coach must have coaching licences, but Yobo is not the first assistant coach,” Pinnick added.

“That’s how Stephen Keshi started. Who says Yobo can’t be the next Nigerian to win the the Nations Cup as player and coach.

“We can tap into his wealth of knowledge because we can not keep relying on foreigners as coaches all the time. We as a nation can help build one of our own.”

In the last three decades, Austin Eguavoen, Stephen Keshi and Samson Siasia are the three former international players to have gone from assistant coaches to managing the Super Eagles.

Yobo featured in three World Cup tournaments in 2002, 2010 and 2014, playing ten matches at the World Cup finals in total – the most appearances for the West African nation on the biggest stage.

He became the first African to captain Everton in October 2007 and made more than 250 appearances for the Toffees, helping them qualify for the Champions League in 2005 and playing in the side that lost the 2009 FA Cup final to Chelsea.

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