Stephen Keshi says it is time for him to move on following his dismisal Thursday morning as the caretaker coach of the Super Eagles.
“It is about time for me to move on, my dear. This is not the end of the world for me,” he reportedly told PREMIUM TIMES a few hours after his ‘sack’.
Keshi’s dismisal seems to have got the support of majority of soccer loving Nigerians who chanted before Wednesday’s 3-1 hammering of Sudan in the reverse fixture of the 2015 AFCON qualifier in Abuja that the Big Boss should quit his job.
Keshi’s relationship with the Nigeria Football Federation before yesterday’s final nail on his coffin as Eagles boss was anything but cordial.
He replaced Samson Siasia in late 2011 after he (Siasia) mfailed to qualify Nigeria for the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea in 2012.
Keshi restored order to the team and was able to return the team to the biggest stage of African football by qualifying for the 2013 AFCON held in South Africa.
Nigeria hadn’t won the tournament for 19 years before Keshi led them to the 2013 Cup of Nations, with what is, it’s widely agreed, a weaker squad than many that had tried and failed in the previous two decades. After the final, though, there was little celebration.
The mood rather was tense and Keshi offered his resignation amid reports that the NFF had approached Hervé Renard, who had just left his job as Zambia manager, to replace him.
Keshi was persuaded to stay on but he hasn’t exactly been feted. He went seven months without pay last year as the NFF pleaded poverty – while at the same time looking for “a foreign advisor” to work alongside him. In June last year, after Nigeria had gone out of the Confederations Cup in the group stage (having hammered Tahiti and played relatively well but lost against Spain and Uruguay), the then-NFF president, Aminu Maigari, announced Keshi would no longer have sole responsibility for selecting the squad.
In March, the NFF sent Keshi a letter – one that was widely leaked to the press – upbraiding him for attending a media roundtable and lunch with TomTom, which sponsors the national team, rather than going to a technical meeting in Abuja. Another letter added the further complaint: “You travelled out of Nigeria before 13 February 2014, the day President Jonathan received the Africa Nations Championship [Chan – the international tournament for players based in Africa] team, causing us huge embarrassment.”
But with characteristic cussedness, Keshi stayed on and, in Brazil, he became the first African coach ever to take a team into the knockout rounds of the World Cup. Had the referee Mark Geiger sent off Blaise Matuidi for a foul on Ogenyi Onazi – as he surely should have – Nigeria might even have beaten France to reach the quarter-finals. Keshi’s contract ran out after the tournament but, with no clear decision on whether he should be offered a new one, he stayed on.