17 November 2013

Nigeria: Third-Time Lucky for Keshi?

Photo: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images-Stanbic
Burkina Faso fan.

Super Eagles' Head coach, Stephen Keshi has done his reputation no harm among African football greats following Nigeria's qualification for a fifth appearance at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil 2014.

The achievement has puts Keshi in a league of his own and after playing significant role in the qualification of Nigeria for the 2002 edition jointly co-hosted by Korea and Japan as well as helping tiny Togo made the 2006 party in Germany, Keshi was unfortunately unable to attend the finals with Nigeria and Togo respectively. While the Nigeria's coaching crew where Keshi was an assistant to veteran Shaibu Amodu was disbanded on the eve of Korea-Japan 2002, a dispute with top Togo's national team players at the 2006 African Cup in Egypt stopped him from leading out the West Africans in Germany.

This memory was not lost on Keshi as he reflected on his latest achievement with the Super Eagles with whom he won the 2013 African Cup of Nations after breaking the country's 18 years hiatus. Keshi indeed is a man of history and love or loathe him, posterity would still be kind to him for supervising some of the best era of Nigerian football including captaining the. Super Eagles to win the AFCON at Tunisia '94 en route to the country's debut at the USA'94 World Cup.

"It wasn't easy trying to qualify for the Nations Cup and the World Cup at the same time; it wasn't easy," admitted Keshi." It was a very big battle and that's why I thanked the players because a lot of sacrifices went into this."

He continued when pressed to choose his best moment between qualifying Togo and Nigeria for World Cup under 10 years: "I would like to pick Togo because about 75 percent of my players were all local (playing in the domestic league; never played in the national team before. Nobody gave us a chance; we were in a group with Senegal, Mali, Zambia and Congo.

"But having qualified Nigeria this time, under two years that we have been around, also makes it special for me," added Keshi.

Goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who would be making a third World Cup appearance in Brazil, equally said this qualification was special. "I have been to two World Cups before at Korea and Japan 2002 and South Africa 2010 but this qualification is special because we are going to the World Cup as African champions," he explained.

Congratulatory messages have poured in far and near for Keshi's Super Eagles and not the least from his Ethiopia's Coach Sewnet Bishaw. "I congratulate Keshi and the Nigerian players, and the entire people of Nigeria," he said."Keshi, he knows how to organise a team. He will go far in the World Cup."

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