EXCLUSIVE: Why I resigned, by Keshi

Stephen Keshi left his post as the head coach of the Super Eagles after Nigeria’s loss to France in the second round of the World Cup. He spoke with TheCable at the Brasilia Palace Hotel a day after the ouster.


TheCable: Knowing what you know now, what would you have done as regards the preparations of the team before this World Cup?

Stephen Keshi: I would have loved to have had them in camp a lot earlier. The European season made a little bit difficult as I did not want to have only one half of the squad in camp before the others joined. We had less than two weeks to perfect our plans and it showed as it was only when we got to the tournament that we started picking up our rhythm. We had only three friendly matches which are really not enough to get ready for a tournament like this. So, those are what I would have liked to change.


Have you really quit your post?

Yes. I have done my bit. I am tired of all the intrigues and backbiting and insinuations I get. The criticisms are nothing really because even siblings criticise each other. In this job sometimes it goes overboard and my family and those of my players get called names. I have had to tell the players many times to ignore those criticisms and just focus on the tasks at hand.

There are many Nigerians who support you. Many who would like to see you continue the work you started with the team. Can you not change your mind for them?


The same ones who were calling for my head after the Iran match? That “the World Cup is too big for Keshi”? I know there are many who truly support what we have been trying to do over these past months but I just cannot continue in this job anymore. To start with, my contract ended with the last match and the Federation never approached me for a renewal. What does that say? It says to me I’m not wanted. I am going to go and rest, spend some time with my family and then hopefully get another job where I am wanted.

After the AFCON win, President Goodluck Jonathan intervened and sorted things out. What if he does this time?

As much as I respect and appreciate the number one citizen of the country I am afraid that this time it is going to be difficult. I am totally done with some of these people.

If you were the Sports Minister of Nigeria what is it you will do or try and put in place to make the job of the national team coach a lot easier.


Make the Federation pay his salaries on time and those of his assistants. Build a training centre and facility for the national team to train. We never had anywhere decent to train. The Abuja National stadium is filled with sand and the worst kind of sand. That means when someone goes to ground he will have skin wounds. I and my assistants spend our own money to buy training cones and some of the things we use for training sessions.

In most countries of the world when a coach is hired he brings in his own coaching team. Well for two years now I have been told to pay the salary of my assistant Valery Houandinou, someone who has been with me from Togo through to Mali – where those countries paid his salary alongside paying mine.

In two and half years, I had no official residence. I stayed in a hotel. I had no official car. I thank God for Chief Mike Adenuga for those two cars he gave to me after the AFCON win. However, these federation officials will continue to trumpet that “they gave Keshi everything to succeed”. Mali is one of the poorest countries in Africa but I was given my place of residence and an official car within three days of me taking on the job. I also had a house in Togo and was never owed salaries.

What will happen to the young players you have built up into internationals as it means that Nigeria is losing out on the continuity that you staying on would have brought on?


Well, there is a nucleus of a team to work with there so a new coach will have the players there. In my mind I could set out two equally strong squads with the players available to me. However, the new coach might come in and say that these players would not fit into his style and so it will be. Not going to be my problem again (smiles).

Clearly your experience with Togo and Mali has helped you at this job?


Oh, without a shadow of doubt. God took me to those countries to give me the experience of dealing with people. It is far more difficult to work in your own country I have just found out. When I qualified Togo for the AFCON and the World Cup I got their national honour and diplomatic passport. Such was their gratitude. They make you comfortable and of course results followed. God was awesome in taking me through that route.

Did you take a risk with the squad you took to the tournament?


I did not take a risk. From the training camp and from the friendly matches I chose the players I believed would give me what I wanted on the field. People say I took players to sell them and I laugh. Michael Babatunde has not even started playing. Ramon Azeez will be a top player and he has a big heart. It is unfortunate for Reuben Gabriel that he has suffered a lot with injuries because he has every attribute to be a super player. Many Nigerians who are sincere know his qualities. I trust that he will come through.

But would you be his or their coaches then?


No. My job with Nigeria is done. I just hope who comes in will give them the opportunity to showcase their talents. When I took over there was no standing team and I had to build from scratch really but am gone. I have loved serving my country but I believe I am done.


Editor’s note: In the second part of the interview, Keshi speaks more about the World Cup and the players.

  1. Well done big boss! So proud to call u Nigerian! May God guide n bless your future endeavors as u continue to make us proud!

  2. Mr keshi ƔƠ̴͡U̶̲̥̅̊ have don U̶̲̥̅̊я best, thanks, continue with the Ğoº°˚°ºϑ work ƔƠ̴͡U̶̲̥̅̊ no how to do, God will see ƔƠ̴͡U̶̲̥̅̊ through.

  3. Boss_
    Over 100million Nigerians were with you and still love n respect you til ur dieing day. You should be happy because we LOVE you from d depth of our hearts. If a whiteman did wat u did for Nigeria, he will be rated above even the mighty WESTERHOF(who is a blackman from Nigeria by the way). Let God bless you_ forget about the evil men who are just distractors to your success going forward. EVERY ‘ordinary’ NIGERIAN(as the ordinary crooks will call us) LOVE YOU!!! Tnks for making us happy in the midst of tears and pain.

  4. I like Keshi. People get very passionate about football and we are all experts on the game. I will advise him to be strong, patriotic and remain boldly steadfast. It is a job dominated by passion. If you win, you are the messiah but if you lose, you are condemned as a traitor. As a good coach, you stay strong and true to your self and stand tall.

  5. I am highly elated and proud to be called a Nigerian. Most especially I am proud of you Coach Keshi for your fight to get us through. Whoever that says that you’ve not done well; should come and seat where you sat. I have never taken so much interest in watching but this world cup got me so inspired that I made up my mind to watch it. Like I posted after our match with Argentina on FB this past Monday that; this is the best match I’ve ever watched. You guys played with your whole life… Well done! I am only pained that you had to resign almost immediately. I wish you the very best in your new endeavour and pursuit in life. Be fruitful on all sides!

  6. Wait and see what the next coach will offer us, then you will be happy with yourself. I can bet it, no coach can be active and determined as you were. Love you always. As far as football is concern, you are a boss!

  7. Keshi you are a hero any day, forget the sadists at NFF you will surely make somewhere and they will continue to envy you.

  8. Keshi tried his best with his limits. A match reader would have made much difference. In one of the matches between Nigeria and Ghana, it was clear Ghana was going for penalties during the second half of the extra time. Keshi didn’t see it. Now the match with France, the French were not ready for the extra time, so they threw every energy in the last ten or less minutes. Keshi was focusing on extra time to defeat France. It didn’t work. He has tried, he could do more but not to over rate himself. The weather in Brasil dealt with the European teams, going into second round as the first local coach to achieve is for history only. In 1994 we lost to Italy in same manner, by losing focus at the dying minutes of the game. It is 90 minutes and not 85. The second goal from France was an insult to that match, that could have gone either way but for last minute drop of guard.

  9. well done, keshi…u d best we ever had…too bad most can’t see….God bless u and your family… God bless super eagles…God bless 9ja

  10. My grouse with keshi still remains his indiscretion to drop many gifted MFS for the wc and over labour Onazi with a sloppy Mikel.

    On the basis of character and resolve; undoubtedly, he is the best. But technically, he still has a lot more to do. Whether you stay or not, you’ve done your best, Nigerians are grateful and super eagles will soar once again.

  11. Keshi’s first problem is his arrogance. Stop the bickering already and move on since that’s what you’ve decided to do. All this talk about Nigerians calling you clueless after the Iran game is just you looking for excuses. The performance at that game was poor and the comments rightly deserved. My advice to you on your next job is focus. Keep your focus on the job and that will get you through the side comments and remarks. Even Sir Alex Ferguson got criticised many times but why didn’t he quit his job? My point is criticism is part of your job as football is a passionate game. If you can’t stand the heat, leave the kitchen. We all know you’re off to coach South Africa so good for you. I would take it if I were in your shoes. Your problem is not the fans or necessarily NFF Keshi but your own arrogance and over confidence. You have done well in your short career but have a very long way to go so calm down and learn. Even players like Di Matteo who played during your era have risen to become much better coaches quicker than you have so what’s the noise? I like you and think you will do well but my 10pence advice for you is to keep a level head…simple. All the best.

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