Tuesday, July 23, 2024

What happened with Victor Osimhen and Finidi George? Nigeria coach reportedly resigns, as Super Eagles star rants … – Sporting News


Nigeria, one of the pre-eminent national football teams in Africa, are facing something of a crisis.
A run of poor results in World Cup qualifying have damaged morale and left the Super Eagles facing a battle to be part of the 2026 tournament in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Less than six months after they reached the final of the Africa Cup of Nations, they are in desperate need of an upturn in form.
Instead, they have become mired in a dispute between head coach Finidi George and striker Victor Osimhen, the Napoli forward who has been regularly linked with sides such as Premier League giants Chelsea and Arsenal.
What began as quiet discontent soon exploded into a very public feud that saw Osimhen deliver a furious social media rant, and will likely end with a new man taking charge of the Super Eagles’ next competitive match, which is scheduled to be a World Cup qualifier against Rwanda in March 2025.
Here, The Sporting News explains what has gone on between Nigeria’s biggest star and one of their most famous footballing figures of the past 30 years.
MORE: How Nigeria suffered a shock World Cup qualifying loss to Benin
Nigeria played two World Cup qualifying matches in June, drawing 1-1 with South Africa before suffering a shock 2-1 defeat to Benin, a team 67 places below the Super Eagles in FIFA’s latest world rankings.
Osimhen missed both of those matches after reporting an ankle injury. A statement issued via the Super Eagles’ social media channels at the time confirmed that Osimhen was expected to be sidelined for four weeks, leading to Finidi calling up Kenneth Igboke in his place.
Camp update: Africa Player of the Year, Victor Osimhen is injured and out for 4 weeks. Super Eagles’ Coach Finidi George has called up Enugu Rangers’ left back Kenneth Igboke for the WC qualifiers against South Africa and Benin Rep. #soarsupereagles pic.twitter.com/uEGaYBoG1n
In the days after the loss to Benin, several local media outlets in Nigeria suggested that Finidi had claimed Osimhen could have made himself available to play, and had questioned the overall level of discipline within the Nigeria squad.
The irate Napoli striker has since used Instagram to fire back at the coach, claiming he had even recorded evidence of the conversation they had in which his injury was discussed. The furious live rant only ended when a companion convinced the reigning African Footballer of the Year to give up his phone.
According to a transcript published by Channel STV, Osimhen said: “Everybody knows I play my heart out whether it is [for my] club side or national team. I won’t allow anybody to disrespect me. I won’t allow that nonsense. I won’t allow anyone to stain my name. I don’t care if what Finidi said is true or false. But I’ll share the video, picture, and screenshot of my conversation with Finidi on my [Instagram] story because some of you believe I would allow disrespect because I play football.
“I’ve lost respect for that man now. I spoke with him [Finidi] requesting that I join the Super Eagles camp to be with my teammates. But he told me not to bother and that I should stay with my family — I have a video of the conversation.”
A post shared by Bounce Sports (@bouncesport)
Hours after Osimhen’s Instagram outburst, it was widely reported that Finidi had left his position as Nigeria head coach. Although the national team has yet to issue a statement, Colin Udoh, the former Super Eagles media officer, said in a video posted to social media and reported by the Daily Post: “Finidi confirmed to me that he resigned his position indeed.”
Nigeria’s Premium Times later reported that Finidi had told them directly he had stepped down.
However, Udoh stated that the reason for the 53-year-old’s departure was because the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) had planned, without telling the coach, to appoint a foreign technical adviser to work alongside him.
“The NFF board met on Wednesday and made that decision,” Udoh was quoted as saying. “But it was when Findi landed in Port Harcourt after that meeting that someone called him and informed him. He [Finidi] had to park his car and read the link to see that it actually was true.
“So, he waited for two days to see if anyone would contact him but nobody spoke to him. So, he felt they didn’t want him anymore and so he decided to turn in his resignation.”
Finidi George did not enjoy a positive spell as Nigeria head coach.
Appointed in March initially as interim boss following the departure of Jose Peseiro, under whom he had worked as assistant, Finidi oversaw a 2-1 win over Ghana in his first game in charge — the Super Eagles’ first victory over the Black Stars in 18 years. They then suffered a 2-0 loss to Mali, with both friendlies taking place in Morocco.
He was then given the full-time role despite concern among fans that he was ill-equipped for such a high-profile position. His only two competitive games in charge were those World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and Benin, which left him with a record of one win, one draw, and two defeats from four games.
MORE: Victor Osimhen's contract, salary, and all-important release clause
Finidi George had a distinguished playing career in Europe. He was part of the storied Ajax side of the mid 1990s, winning three Eredivisie titles and reaching two consecutive UEFA Champions League finals, winning the first in 1995.
The winger then moved to Spain, where he enjoyed four strong years with Real Betis and one season with Real Mallorca, after which he signed for Premier League side Ipswich Town. He concluded his playing career back at Mallorca in 2004.
Finidi won 62 caps for Nigeria and lifted the Africa Cup of Nations title in 1994. He represented the Super Eagles at two FIFA World Cups, in 1994 and 1998, retiring from international football following the latter.
MORE: Why does Victor Osimhen wear a mask?
Africa’s World Cup qualifying format comprises nine groups of six teams. Only the winners of those groups are guaranteed a place at the 2026 finals; the four best runners-up will enter a playoff competition to earn a place in the intercontinental eliminator round.
After four games, Nigeria sit fifth in Group C, with three draws and one defeat to their name. They are only four points behind group leaders Rwanda and second-place South Africa, but a defeat to the former in their next qualifier would be a significant blow to their qualification hopes. 
Joe is Senior Editor (Football) at Sporting News.


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