–Commences Fresh Negotiations With NFF,
Says Eagles Will Get Better
Determined to return Super Eagles to winning ways after a lackluster performance in Brazil 2014 World Cup, Super Eagles Gaffer, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi relays his World Cup experience and opens up on his future in this chat with Complete Sports Saturday’s DAVID MESHIOYE
The World Cup is over now but the memories still linger. What would you say were your highs and lows of Brazil 2014 World Cup?
Firstly, I want to thank God for the opportunity to serve this great country called Nigeria. Before the World Cup, our expectations were high and our dream and vision was to get to the semi-final or at least do Africa proud. The World Cup gave me great memories that will live with me for the rest of my life. Back in Togo, my dream of going to the World Cup was truncated then but here I am today, living those dreams. My highs and lows of the 2014 Mundial? Well I was happy we were not disgraced out of the World Cup, rather we gave it our best shot and it was worth it. My high was seeing Nigeria break that jinx of not going beyond the group stage since France ‘98. But my low was our loss to France in the knock out stage. We had injuries to battle with especially when Onazi was deliberately played out of that game which really affected us a great deal. All of that is in the past, though I will say it was painful losing out in that manner.
Based on post World Cup reactions from top football aficionados, it was obvious that some players have no business in that team. What is your take on this?
I take responsibility for all that happened regarding players’ selection in Brazil. I took my time out to study the long list of players in front of me and the technical crew took time out to pick the best at that time. We had our time for training while friendly matches were played. It afforded me the opportunity of seeing everybody at close quarters, that was when we made our choice. That some of the players failed to live up to expectations is another thing entirely.
The issue of appearance fee according to many was a factor that dealt a huge blow to the team’s campaign. Many saw it coming before the loss to France especially when it was revealed that the players had not enough time to concentrate on the second round match against France. Do you think you could have averted such imbroglio?
I gave it my best shot to talk to the players that the Federation could be trusted. I insisted that my employers will pay them but things did not work out between both parties until the President stepped in. I really don’t want to talk about it again; it was not a good experience.
If you have another opportunity to coach at that higher level, are there any mistakes you would love to correct?
Like I said, lessons were learnt and I would like to keep those things personal at this point in time, for reasons best known to me. I am happy that new players were discovered. A player like Ramon Azeez is one who has a bright future and he should be encouraged in the nearest future. I know the team will only get better as time goes on. It is still a young side and this team can still conquer Africa again, given the right preparations. There are lots of good and quality players that are World Cup materials but I could not take more than 23 to Brazil.
The South African job is on the table if news making the rounds is anything to go by. Where do you go next from here?
I have been reading what the media have been writing lately; some said SAFA denied contacting me and in the following week it was reported that SAFA are to determine Keshi’s fate soon. I don’t know why people keep confusing themselves. I went to Brazil to do my country proud and I won’t say we had a bad tournament even though I agree we did not surpass our own expectations. That is football; you win some and lose some. But people kept calling us names and said Keshi is not a good coach. I told them I am not a miracle worker and that they could get Nigeria one if they can. This is my country and it is my desire to serve with all my strength.
Now that the Federation insist on negotiating a new deal with you in the aftermath of Alhaji Aminu Maigari’s impeachment, will you be giving it a second thought?
(Smiles) Where did you hear that from? Well, we shall see how it goes. Nigeria is my country and I am always willing to serve this country. Right now, I just want to enjoy my holiday here in Benin. We can always talk once they are willing to agree with my terms. I love this country and I am ready to give her my best. There is a lot that we need to put in place, money is not the number one issue here, following which we can go on from there.
Finally, should Nigerians expect to see the return of some players like IK Uche, Haruna Lukmon and the rest who missed out of the World Cup?
All things being equal, every good player deserves to play for the country and should therefore be given the chance to showcase his talents. Nigeria is blessed with so many talents, but these talents can only showcase themselves if the right tools are in place. I hope the lessons of Brazil 2014 World Cup will serve as the right platform to move this country’s football forward.
Thank you sir for talking to Complete Sports Saturday.
My pleasure always!