Arrogant, confrontational, edgy, selfish etc, call him whatever you want, use any adjective to describe Stephen Okechukwu Keshi; it does not take anything away from the success that characterized the Keshi era as manager of our dear Super Eagles of Nigeria.
I have gone on various media outlet, radio and here on; www.halftimeng.com asking for the sack of Stephen Keshi, the reason was simple, I felt we had come full circle and the big boss had taken the team as far as he could. Once, this happens as is common in football the manager takes the blame and eventually gets the boot; however I struggle with the stats or historical data of how many managers have lost their jobs immediately after a victory; I am sure they are few, very few in fact.
The sacking of Stephen Keshi did not come as a shock, it was the announcements afterwards that were shocking, but then that is a matter for another day. Keshi really should have left immediately after the World Cup since contract talks were not concluded (that’s if it commenced at all); it was the professional thing to do, but then what ensued afterwards as far as I am concerned is nothing but blind patriotism. On what basis, was Keshi being patriotic at the expense of been professional especially since he dealt with an unprofessional FA that has consistently failed to put its house in order. Keshi would have left the job with his head held up high, leaving when the ovation is loudest is an essential commodity and quite invaluable too, a number of great men have suffered the same fate and will continue to suffer the same fate.
I am fully behind the idea of getting a first class foreign coach (as said by the new NFF President), now the issue with this are quite extensive, but can be narrowed down to the following:
- What is the definition of a First class foreign coach?
- Can we afford it?
- Is the Nigerian environment enabling?
- Will this foreign coach be willing to get down and dirty?
- What does this portend for the NPFL Players?
- Are we willing to give him time to develop our game?
For all of Keshi’s shortcomings, he provided us answers to all of these and no other local coach does that, forget the so called consortium of coaches, who for me you can not quantify their achievements in actual trophies and laurels over at least the last five years.
The Big Boss’s cup was fully, public opinion was swayed against him from the World Cup and the record on the pitch didn’t do much to inspire confidence in the populace. Two wins in Thirteen matches does not make good reading on the pages of newspapers or on your Radio or Television Sports shows. It was time to go and the time was now; even if Keshi had the aces in his hands at some point. As they say in Poker, the NFF read and called his bluff as he had dealt a wrong hand and was not in any position to actually bluff.
Its time for Nigeria to move on and charge a new course for our football, focus on providing a new long term plan, setting milestones for reviews and appraisals with minimum requirements in place. Creating a blue print to develop grass roots football to evolve in the development of youth football, eliminating age cheating and the so called win at all cost syndrome with a view of ensuring that over a space of five to ten years; we can see that an appreciable number of our youth internationals have made the necessary step up to the Super Eagles. All this will only be achievable if we continue to fund our league properly and make it attractive for players to continue to compete in it with the view of being considered eligible to play for the Super Eagles.
Whether we like it or not the Stephen Keshi legacy remains intact as he has left an indelible mark on our game, made us interested in our League again with the emergence of the likes of Mba, Agbim, Ogbabona, Egwueke etc. He has achieved the minimum requirement of success for a Nigerian coach, joining greats like Clemens Westerhof, Bonfrere Jo, Otto Gloria; interestingly he is the only ‘Local’ coach to in such exalted company; hence his name will forever be written in Gold.