11 February 2013

Nigeria: Keshi Silences Critics

Despite dislodging Rwanda en route to qualifying for the 2013 Africa Nations Cup in South Africa, Nigeria were not genuine contenders for the tournament.

But Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi, who was beaten to the Amavubi coaching job by Milutin 'Micho' Sredojevic back in 2011, defied the odds as he became only the second man to win the competition as a player and coach.

Sunday Mba's first half volley proved enough in Sunday's final against Burkina Faso to end the country's 19-year wait for a third continental title.

Keshi, who has continuously slammed African countries for choosing European coaches over local coaches, also used the occasion to prove that even local coaches can succeed at the highest level.

"The white guys are coming to Africa just for the money. They are not doing anything that we cannot do. I am not racist but that's just the way it is," he said in the build up to the tournament.

"We have quality African players, or ex-African players, [who are] coaches now that can do the same thing, but they're not given the opportunity because they are black. To me, this is very unfair."

Keshi also lauded the team for a job well done. "I am so proud of what the team did in this tournament, they kept their concentration throughout, so I am happy about that and I hope it continues.

"There is a lot of quality in the players that right now I might say is about 80 percent of what they can give. With hard work and a lot of motivation I think they will be right up there," he was quoted as saying.

As a player, Keshi triumphed with a golden generation of Super Eagles in a 2-1 victory against Zambia in 1994, with 'Big Boss' - as he is affectionately known - lifting the trophy in his third attempt at the title as coach, having suffered first-round knockouts with Togo in 2006 and Mali in 2010.

The only other man to lift the trophy as player and coach was Egypt's Mahmoud El Gohary, who helped his country defeat Sudan 2-1 in the 1959 final and guided the Pharaohs to a 2-0 victory over South Africa 39 years later.

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