The Stanley Eguma debacle: what should Rivers United do with him?

By Ufuoma Egbamuno

At the end of Sunday’s unfortunate result against Club Africain in the CAF Confederation Cup, a group of fans started a chant at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium: “Eguma must go, Eguma must go,” they chorused in unison.

Now while the chants didn’t last that long, for once, it showed the signs of frustrations that had been brewing for embattled Rivers United manager, Stanley Eguma.

Let’s be honest, as manager of the renamed Rivers United, Eguma has not convinced a lot of fans in the last 18 months. So much so, he got an ultimatum in the middle of last season.

Fortunately, that proved to be the turning point of his season.

An away win in Warri against Warri Wolves and a hugely impressive home record proved valuable for United as they went on to finish in second place just behind eventual winners, Rangers International.

On face value, finishing second, 4 points behind the league champions, when you were expected to battle for relegation, was worth celebrating. It was indeed a good achievement.

But, for political reasons, the celebration went a step over the top.

How old is Rivers United, really?

The Rivers State Sports Ministry as well as the media department of the club consistently have tried to show the world that Rivers United is a new club.

Former commissioner of sports (there’s no substantive commissioner as at the time of writing this) Boma Iyaye did explain last year at a press conference that defunct state owned clubs Dolphins and Sharks merged to form Rivers United.

However, the laws that govern league football in Nigeria as stated by the League Management Company (LMC) show that Rivers United is a club that changed its name from Dolphins.

A statement on the LMC website published February 19th, 2016 reads thus: “Dolphins FC has been granted approval to change their name to Rivers United FC by the League Management Company (LMC) with a proviso that they comply with relevant rules dealing with specific sections of the Framework and Rules for change of name.

The approval was granted pursuant to an application for change of name endorsed by the Rivers State Government, owners of the club through the office of the Commissioner for Sports.”

If this isn’t clear enough, I wonder what will.

So, while finishing second when that wasn’t expected is a good achievement worth celebrating, the constant reminder by coach Stanley Eguma, the media department of the club as well as the sports commissioner that Rivers United is a new club who are playing on the continent for the very first time is nothing short of misinformation.

While, that can pass when for political reasons you want to blow the trumpet of the present administration (who have indeed invested enormous resources on the team), it shouldn’t be used to mask the shortcomings of the club on the continent because it is SIMPLY NOT TRUE.

Rivers United are former League champions, Federation Cup winners, CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup campaigners who should be aiming to be like their rivals on the continent.

And this brings me back to the Eguma question. For a manager who has won a league title, a cup and was an assistant manager when Enyimba won the CAF Champions League, a lot is expected of him.

This season, Rivers United have signed some of the best players in the land; have had first class preseason training that saw the team going to Spain; and have not had major issues with salaries or bonuses.

So, it is only natural that a lot is expected of them.

Or, should we accept that they are a new club who have done tremendously to remain the only Nigerian club on the continent?
Languishing in 16th place on the league table –albeit with 2 outstanding games against Akwa United and Kano Pillars- as well as facing exit in the CAF Confederation Cup isn’t good enough. For me, the buck stops at the manager’s table.

What is wrong with Stanley Eguma?

Eguma’s tactics, at least this season, has left a lot to be desired. Like most NPFL clubs, Rivers United have been good at home but horrible on the road. I have only been privileged to watch all 4 games in the group stages of the Confederations Cup – the game against Club Africain of Tunisia and KCCA of Uganda have one similarity: reactionary football.

Only when the team went behind did you see some level of seriousness. Add the FUS Rabat home game where they only won courtesy of an offside goal, and you wouldn’t have been shocked about last Sunday’s defeat.

I had the chance to speak to KCCA manager Mike Mutebi when they visited Port Harcourt a fortnight ago. He told me point blank that his philosophy is to play attacking football regardless of the venue.

Despite conceding a first minute goal against Rivers United, KCCA stuck to their guns and could have probably gotten a point from the Yakubu Gowon Stadium.

Juxtapose that philosophy with Kennedy Boboye’s league leaders presently or Imama Amapakabo’s Rangers International last season, you will understand why Rangers won the title; Boboye is well on his way to replicate that; and Stanley Eguma’s team have  been poor this season.

You can blame referees, poor pitches, security concerns all you want for the seeming tendency for NPFL teams to win at home most times, you won’t be wrong.

But, make no mistake, the greatest problem stopping teams from getting results outside their home ground is the mentality passed on from managers: setting up not to lose instead of trying to win games. Eguma is no exception!

Rivers United needs its long-standing manager to change from his sometimes reactionary style of play or better still, get a new manager with fresh ideas and a more daring approach if they are to move to the next level.
But guess what, don’t bet on it to happen anytime soon!

Someone close to the club confided in me that former Rangers manager, Imama Amapakabo has been a long term target to replace Eguma. But making that decision is a difficult one. One that may have far reaching consequences than just football according to my source.

First, Imama is from the Okrika region as the former commissioner Iyaye (who would most likely return when the governor constitutes a new cabinet) while Eguma is Ikwerre. It’s quite easy for Iyaye to be accused of nepotism if that decision is made.

Secondly, Eguma is a relative of the governor. With the way we do things in Nigeria, you have to have enough cogent reasons to sack someone that close to the governor. For now, there doesn’t seem to be any.

So, some fans of Rivers United can chant all they want about wanting Eguma out of the team. Truth of the matter is that a camel would most likely pass through the eye of needle before Eguma is shown the exit.

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  1. Then we'll force the camel through the eye of the needle by fire by force. #Egumamustgo

  2. This sounds too political.
    Foskolo is now a politician. Lolz