The Moment (London)

2 November 2011

Nigeria: NFF to Announce Keshi as Eagles Coach

Photo: Vanguard
Newly appointed Super Eagles Soccer Coach Stephen Keshi

NINE years after his unceremonious exit as an assistant coach to the Nigeria national soccer team, Stephen Keshi is poised to return as Head Coach of the Super Eagles.

The former Nigeria captain, barring any last minute change in the plan of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) would be named today as replacement for Samson Siasia, whose contract was terminated last week after failing to qualify the Super Eagles for the 2012 African Cup of Nations.

Keshi, a former coach of the Hawks of Togo and the Eagles of Mali, had been lurking in Siasia's shadows since last year when both of them contested the Super Eagles job.

The candidates

Indeed a motley crowd of ex-internationals including Keshi, Sunday Oliseh, Daniel Amokachi, Emmanuel Amuneke and even Chelsea technical director had been linked to the job since Siasia's exit, but the NFF narrowed down their choice to Keshi, specifically based on experience and financial consideration.

Worrying antecedents

During his first stint as a coaching staff of the Super Eagles, Keshi had a brush with the sports authorities on the suspicion that he was encouraging indiscipline among national team players.

It was a problem that came to head at the 2002 African Cup of Nations tournament in Mali where players threatened not to file out for Nigeria's semi final match against Senegal until their World Cup qualifying bonus was paid.

Indeed, his subsequent jobs with the Togo and Mali teams had also been dogged by controversies. For instance, despite qualifying the Togolese Hawks for the 2006 World Cup, Keshi, who earned the sobriquet 'Big Boss' for his leadership qualities as captain of the Super Eagles, was relieved of his duty as Head Coach after falling out with the Togo Football Federation.

Cautious optimism

A former secretary general of the Nigeria Football Association, Sani Toro, though described Keshi as a competent coach, but expressed reservations about his choice as Super Eagles coach.

'Keshi is a good material,' said Toro. 'But for him to be the coach of the Super Eagles, I have my reservations.

'Nigerians are impatient when it comes to achieving results; Nigerians expect miracles in one year and it is not possible because he would be working with the same set of players.

Toro added that Keshi may also not stay long on the job due to his temperament. 'He may resign because he would not want to accept what the technical committee will say,' said Toro, who was in charge of the FA secretariat during the early 1990s when Keshi as captain led the Super Eagles from conquest to conquest.

Wrong remedy

When contacted on the choice of Keshi as new coach of the Super Eagles, a former captain of the Nigeria team Segun Odegbami declined to comment on the personality involved, but attributed the current travails being experienced in the nation's football to administration.

'I was a supporter of Siasia, a very strong one at that, that is why I will not say anything about Keshi.

'The issue is not about the coach. Would I be recommending a coach to an illegal body? Whoever is appointed will fail. 'The issue is about football as a whole; the administration, technical, structure and what have you.

'A house built on quicksand can never stand. They've only succeeded in making Siasia the scapegoat; the whole system is flawed,' said Odegbami.

Keshi, The Moment gathered, would be given a short term contract, specifically the target of qualifying the Super eagles for the 2013 Nations Cup, but details of the agreement as regards salary and other perks of office were still sketchy as at press time.

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