2014 World Cup: Let Keshi lead, but not as Big Boss, By Olukayode Thomas

Stephen Keshi
Late Stephen Keshi

Looking for a static institution? You don’t need to look further than the Nigeria Football family; they are right in front of you. It is the same old depressing story every day. As it was twenty years ago, so it’s today and so it may probably be in the next decade.

Football players’ union sit-tight leader Harrison Jalla is still in the business of fighting the National Sports Commission (NSC) and Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) instead of coming up with ideas that will turn the goldmine he is sitting on into polished gold.

As it was twenty years ago when NFF went cap in hand to government, begging for fund, so it is today in a densely populated country where football can be used to sell air.

NFF marketing and sponsorship is in the hands of a Voodoo Marketer, though called World Marketer by clowns, who is bereft of ideas that will make NFF financially independent.

The latest is the hiring of a foreign coach to assist Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi at the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup. Speaking on a television programme last week, spokesman of the NFF Technical Committee, Paul Bassey revealed that the NFF met with Keshi and proposed a foreign assistant to him which he turned down.

“Stephen Keshi was offered the chance to choose a foreign assistant, who will work under him but he made it clear he was fine with his current assistants and backroom staff. The federation did this because they felt Keshi needed additional assistance. But Keshi said he wanted one of his assistants, Sylvanus Okpala, to be recalled. The federation told him Okpala can’t be recalled because he was sacked for insubordination,”

The madness of sacking coaches that qualified us for World Cup and replacing them with a new one was started by Jim Nwobodo as Minister of Sports. Frenchman Philippe Troussier had led the Super Eagles to become the first nation to qualify for the France’98 World Cup after the host and the defending champion Brazil.

One assumed that Nwobodo, a fashionista, well groomed in the act and science of looking good, a lover of  silky French suit, and well-manicured and pedicured body will like a man from a country regarded as the global capital of fashion, but he just does not believe Troussier has what it takes to lead Nigeria to the World Cup.

In came Serbia Bora Milutinovic. The much travelled coach probably took the job for the money because he soon realized the level of indiscipline of our players and recklessness of our administrators. Eagles’ failure at France’98 is an accident waiting to happen. Many were not shocked that our boys were humiliated by Denmark in the second round.

Home boys Shuaibu Amodu and Keshi qualified us for the Japan/Korea 2002 World Cup. But like the Biblical Moses that never got to the promise land, the duo were sacked for ‘insubordination’ and other crimes by the NFF.


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The mantle of leadership did not fall on a Joshua, but on Festus, only that Adegboye Onigbinde performed worse than Milutinovic before him; he failed to advance beyond the first round.

We failed to qualify for Germany 2006 World Cup, but as soon as we qualified for the South Africa 2010 World Cup, the clamour for a foreign coach began.

Before anybody could say Jack, Amodu that qualified us for the World Cup was sacked. Sweden’s Lars Lagerback was signed after it emerged that our preferred choice Glenn Hoddle will not deal the Nigerian way.

Like his predecessors, Lagerback failed like failure, managing only one point out of a possible nine.

Once beaten they say twice shy, but we have been beaten thrice, yet we have failed to learn from our mistakes. The spin doctors and marketers who stand to benefit are again clamouring for a foreign assistant or coach.

I think what genuine lovers of Nigeria and our Super Eagles should be clamouring now is a functional technical committee made up of individuals who are highly credible and knowledgeable about football.

This body will vet the list of players selected by Keshi and the coach must justify the inclusion of each players.

With the Super Eagles and the CHAN team, Keshi has proved that he is not capable of selecting 23 Nigerian players for a major championship based on merit.

Many complained about Chigozie Agbim, but there are so many like him in all the departments, as attackers, midfielders and defenders. There are also insinuations that Keshi may have signed a third party management contract with these players, it could probably be true, it may not be, but Keshi’s list must be scrutinized, and all Agbims and Agbim-like players must be dropped.

Keshi also needs to be told that players are selected on current form. If the likes of Kalu Uche, Joseph Yobo and Osaze Odemwinge are playing well for their clubs in the weeks leading to the World Cup, Keshi must open the door of the team for them.

Those arguing that they have offered enough service to the country need a rethink. Countries go to the World Cup with their best players, they use minor championships to build teams, but for the World Cup, it is their best and most experienced players.

That is why Frank Lampard and Steve Gerrard may be in Brazil for England, the same reason Andrea Pirlo will be there for Italy, Iker Cassillas, Xaxi, Alonso and others for Spain.

Keshi has been the Big Boss for a long time, this bossy attitude caused problems for him as a player in Nigeria and abroad, as a coach in Togo and Mali, and it is probably responsible for the problems he currently has with some of his senior players and his employer.

Keshi, you are on the other side of fifty, start being a leader and not a boss.


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