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NFF, this is your decision/choice

NFF, this is your decision/choice
April 22
11:22 2015

Finally, during the week the Nigeria Football Federation named a substantive coach for the senior national team the Super Eagles in the person of Stephen Keshi. For the record, after the defeat to France at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Stephen Keshi’s contract with the country’s football body ran out – expired/whatever they want to call it. In an exclusive interview granted to this medium in Brasilia the man himself felt he had had enough.

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Nine months after, Stephen Keshi has again been hired to the post of the head coach of the national team. In between, Nigeria failed to defend the AFCON tournament won in South Africa two years earlier; a new Board was elected/selected to run the Football Federation; Nigeria hosted and lost to Uganda in a farcical friendly match in Uyo and of course the country now has a President-elect during elections that saw off an incumbent for the first time in our history.

Folks please bear with me here. Personally, Stephen Keshi is one of the few authentic national heroes we have as a country especially in sports. In my years of watching Nigerian football I will put him in the top five of our greatest ever players, for his activities on the pitch and for his longevity in the national team. As a coach, he has no superior because he won the Nations cup, qualified for the world cup and went beyond the first round. Nobody has done better. Yes, he failed to defend the tournament but he is not Nigeria’s first coach to fail to qualify for that tournament.

In Sao Paulo after the world cup days after we had lost to France I spoke to some of my sources on then NFF and asked them what the plans were post Keshi. What alarmed me then was that there seemed to be no plan to get a coach quickly. I asked one of them if they realised that the AFCON qualifiers were not far away he replied that they will sort it before then. I was blissfully unaware that elections were coming up for a new Board and that was far more important to these people than getting the playing side in order so as to make sure we qualified for the then Morocco based tournament. The rest is history.

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When eventually Amaju Pinnick emerged as the president of the NFF one of his first acts was to discontinue/sack/disengage Keshi from the ad-hoc arrangement he had coaching the team during the Afcon qualifiers. It was all over the media world and he was unequivocal in his views that Keshi was not good enough to for the job. Apparently, “pressure from on high” stayed his hands so that Keshi remained in the position till the qualifiers ended. A home win over South Africa in Uyo and the team would have been at the tournament instead they managed only a draw and were out.

I have heard it spoken in many places that no one in the Technical Committee wanted Keshi to get this job. I can put even more clearly: The majority of them do not like the former National team skipper and they have voiced it that their hands have been tied in giving him this job. My friend and former national team striker Jonathan Akpoborie has said it that Nigeria will still not qualify for the next Afcon if Keshi returns as coach. Akpoborie strongly believes Nigeria needs a proper European coach.

I have been made aware that Pinnick’s absence from Keshi’s contract signing was his way of showing his dissent at the way things have panned out. None of these will wash with me or with the Nigerian People should Nigeria fail to qualify for the next tournaments. I think it is utterly hypocritical of ALL of the NFF Executive Board to cry out that their hands were tied in giving Keshi the job. It is self-serving too and cheap cop out should things go wrong. The only thing wrong – in my view – is they are so wrong and way off the mark. This is totally their decision. Pure and simple. In saner climes, when a Board feel they are being undermined and they sincerely want to get the job done they resign. I had expected this Board or the President to have offered his resignation if he genuinely felt that he was being undermined. That way he and his Board will be respected by the Nigerian People.

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What will be unforgivable will be if the Board decide that the best way around this will be to frustrate the man they have offered a contract so he can resign or the team loses matches due to infighting. That will not be acceptable. That is why they would have been better advised to hire their own person because many of us are still traumatised by the events of watching the last AFCON at home when we were defending champions.

They also need to find time to let us know the terms of the new coach’s contract not the tit bits that are dropped in the ears of select journalists and social media campaigners. His salary is not funded by an individual but from the commonwealth of the Nigerian People.

Personally, I have no faith in this current Board and the leadership. They have engaged in cheap populist actions that have little or no bearings on the state of Nigerian football. A “Capacity Building Course” was undertaken in England a few weeks ago. I asked them what criteria was used to choose those who were sent on the course with the money belonging to the Nigerian People and I got no answer. I wondered why coaches not attached or employed by the NFF were sent on this course with the money belonging to Nigerians and I got no reply.

It will be to the greatest benefit of the country the day we can find a legal way around Government not funding the NFF. It needs to happen very soon. It is ridiculous that the NFF President seems to be so powerful whereas he is absolutely no different from the Chairman/President of the Tennis Federation/Association or Boxing Board/Federation. The power and especially the money available to the NFF has to be checked and properly audited.

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I will write to Stephen Keshi here in due course.

You can follow me on twitter @CalvinEmeka

2 Comments

  1. DT
    DT April 22, 16:25

    My worry is when the Federation President says they had to stick with Keshi because the Federation does not have the resources to hire a foreign coach! The same President who boasted about getting sponsorship to cater for situations like this. Also worries me when Keshi’s contract stipulates that Keshi would work under the supervision of Amodu Shaibu, head of the Technical Department of the Federation. Welcome back dark age football! Oh and what’s the Technical department’s blue print for our football ?

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  2. piro
    piro April 22, 20:37

    Emeka. Well written but the whole national team affair is farcical on all sides. How long and what other humiliation will it take Keshi himself to walk? If the conditions are not conducive, can’t he leave the job, make a tell-all statement and go on to greener pastures? But you see, that scenario belongs in fairy tales much like your expectation that the NFF president or board would resign because their hands were forced. In the real world, all the animals feed from the trough (that is the NFF). They might jostle, fight each for better positioning at the trough but they will never depart from it willingly.

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