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Stephen Keshi, Super Eagles Coach
Stephen Keshi, Super Eagles Coach

Nigerians want Stephen Keshi, coach of the Super Eagles, and the Nigeria Football Federation, to put the past behind them and join hands to plan for the future

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Mar. 4, 2013 @01:00 GMT

AFRICAN Cup of Nations, Afcon. may have come and gone but the controversy it generated in Nigeria is still boiling. The unexpected resignation of Stephen Keshi, Super Eagles coach after winning the nations cup and the unfair treatment said to have been given to the team by the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, in South Africa, have generated questions over the roles of the NFF in South Africa. It was alleged that the NFF wanted to sack Keshi during the nation’s cup due to the poor performance of his team.

Keshi resigned immediately after winning the third African trophy for the country. He accused the NFF of interfering with his job and threatening to sack him. Keshi also accused the NFF of plans to impose a foreign technical adviser on him, lack of faith in local coaches, non-payment of salaries, and booking of tickets for his team even before their quarter final match against Cote d’Ivoire, among others.

However, the intervention of President Goodluck Jonathan made Keshi to rescind his earlier decision. The president frowned at the incidents that led to Keshi’s resignation but assured him of his full support in the discharge of his assignment. He added that the presidency would assist Keshi to achieve greater success. The President therefore tasked the coach to get ready for the qualification matches of the next world cup scheduled for Brazil, adding that Nigeria must be part of the global football fiesta in 2014.

The NFF has continued to dismiss the allegation that it planned to sack Keshi, at the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa. Emeka Inyama, chairman of the NFF media and publicity committee, said that the federation had no plan to sack Keshi or any of his assistants. “If an employer sits down with an employee to review performance, with focus on better output, that does not amount to threat of a sack. In the civilised world, that happens every other day. The NFF never planned to sack Keshi as the head coach or the entire technical crew. The executive committee is made up of decent and responsible Nigerians and we have respect for our employees and their contracts,” he said.

Inyama lamented the desperation by some persons to discredit the NFF after the team had emerged triumphant in South Africa. “We do not have anything against people jumping on the train of success after the Super Eagles became champions of Africa. Success has many fathers and mothers. But it is uncharitable to try to take anything away from the federation that worked day and night to achieve the success. The NFF employed Keshi in the first place, gave him the motivation and incentives, and arranged friendly matches against Botswana, Zambia, Angola, Liberia, Egypt, Peru, Niger, Venezuela, Catalonia, Cape Verde and some European clubs to give the players necessary exposure and tough courage.”

But the NFF eventually accepted that it actually booked return tickets for the Super Eagles before the quarter final match with Cote d’Ivoire. Dayo Enebi Achor, Super Eagles team secretary, said the NFF action was normal and that it was done according to the directives of the Confederation of African Football, CAF.

“On the controversial issue of tickets being issued ahead of the tie against Cote d’Ivoire, it was part of CAF regulations to prepare tickets for the two teams that were playing in the quarter-finals in advance, as none of them was expected to stay in the hotel beyond 24 hours after the game. It was based on that proposal from CAF that I spoke to all the players on where they would like their tickets to be routed through and I am sure that the Ivorien federation also did same to its players. So, there was no issue about the NFF or the backroom staff acting in bad faith or not wishing the team well as we are now being labelled,” Achor said.

David Mark, Senate President, was among those who expressed disappointment over the way the NFF handled the Super Eagles team in South Africa. He said the NFF was pressuring Keshi to add a fresh clause to his contract that would place a foreign technical adviser over him. Mark lamented the crisis that hit the Nigerian camp immediately after winning the trophy. The Senate president said that Keshi confirmed to him on the phone that he had resigned as the coach and cited reasons of interference for his decision.

Taiwo Ogunjobi, former NFF secretary-general, also urged the federation and Keshi to put behind the drama of the Africa Cup of Nations and consolidate on the triumphant return of the trophy to Nigeria. He stated that it was important that the two parties have a harmonious working relationship, if Nigeria is to make any impact at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. “I expect them to put all that happened in South Africa behind and forge a harmonious working relationship. We won the Nations Cup and that was the overriding interest of all Nigerians. It is good that Mike Adenuga has offered Keshi all the incentives he needed to succeed. It will be good if the NFF supports him as we look forward to the 2014 World Cup,” he said.

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