• Monday, March 04, 2024
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Keshi curse lurks again?


Is Super Eagles Coach Stephen Keshi going to be third time unlucky?

He qualified Togo for the 2006 World Cup, but was stopped from leading the West African nation to the Mundial in Germany. Some altercation with Togolese star Emmanuel Adebayor led to his unceremonious exit.

Earlier, in 2002 specifically, the Big Boss was part of the coaching crew that qualified Nigeria for the World Cup in Korea/Japan only to be sacked alongside his boss then Amodu Shuiabu.

The dark clouds seem to be gathering again! The vultures are cycling!  No sooner had the Super Eagles picked the ticket to Brazil than calls started to emerge that the team needs foreign technical assistance. It seemed innocuous, the calls that is, but that is the way they start: like someone flying a kite.

Some people it seems benefit from the whole process of hiring a foreign coach a la Nigerian style. When Lars Lagerback was preferred to take Nigeria to the World Cup in South Africa following Amodu’s sack after he (Amodu) had done all the hard work of qualifying Nigeria for the quadrennial championship, some elements benefitted from the process of engaging the Swede by way of agency fees. There were also allegations of contract inflation then.

The tendency in some quarters has been to dismiss the calls for foreign assistance as unfounded and lacking any substance, but that will not only be hasty but also naïve. Indeed what the Minister of Sports Bolaji Abdullahi said in the immediate aftermath of the calls is instructive.

The Minister didn’t dismiss the calls outright or rail against them. He didn’t sound as if the very suggestion of a foreign technical assistance was annoying. If anything he came across as if it wasn’t altogether something to be dismissed.

“If Keshi who we believe has done a very good job feels he needs additional technical support, we are going to give it to him,” Abdullahi said.

“But we are confident he is capable of doing the job. We have confidence in his ability to lead the team to the World Cup.”

Not the kind of words that would inspire confidence in the Big Boss obviously. And the true test of the Minister’s statement will come as the World Cup gets ever so near. That is when it will be known whether some elements are behind this latest scheme as is been suggested.

“To even suggest a foreign technical assistance for Keshi smacks of an ulterior motive,” says former Lagos Football Association Chairman Waidi Akanni.

“Those behind that call must be very unpatriotic people. This is a coach that has not only won the Nations Cup, he has also brought up a lot of local-based players; I think that is the kind of coach we want. Are they saying he’s not technical enough? Is that not something that is proven on the field? And has he not acquitted himself well on that score? I think Keshi has shown his worth, in which case I don’t know what the problem is. “

Howbeit, a member of the Technical Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation Victor Ikpeba is scornful of the very idea of a foreign technical assistance for Keshi, dismissing it as a no brainer.

“I don’t think that will happen. It’s just pure speculation,” Ikpeba says categorically.

“I’m part of the Technical Committee and never have I sat down with the NFF President (Aminu Maigari), Green (Chris) chairman of the Committee or any member of the Federation where the idea of a foreign technical assistance was discussed, although I can’t say if they are doing that behind the scene.

“At any rate it won’t work, I don’t think Keshi will work with any technical adviser. He should be allowed to do his job, to lead the team to Brazil; after all he has done well.”

But the former African Player of the Year in 1997 admits that there are areas the Big Boss needs to get up to speed so as not to give his detractors ammunition to gun him down.

“Yes we do have some technical problems in the team. I think Keshi has to improve his technical knowledge of how the Eagles play. It is an advice but I don’t think he is short of that,” the former Monaco star says.

“Again it could be that the players don’t play to his tactical instructions. It is one thing to tell players what to do; it is another thing for them to do it.”

President General Nigeria Football and Other Sports Supporter Club Rafiu Ladipo also vehemently reject the call for a foreign technical assistance.

“I’m not in support of any foreign technical person to take the Eagles to the World Cup,” declares Ladipo.

“Let us give Keshi the opportunity to go to Brazil; he qualified the team for the championship, so why are we looking for somebody who will not do anything for us, but will only come here and collect all the money and won’t even know how to use the players. We don’t want any foreign technical whatever, period.”

By: Vincent Eboigbe