AFRICA IS A COUNTRY

In 1989, an unknown Dutch manager, Clemens Westerhof happened upon the job of managing the Nigerian National Team, known at the time, as the Green Eagles. A year later, the team was meant to compete in the African Nations Cup, hosted by Algeria. Before the tournament, all hell broke loose as the usual issues of “fights to the finish”, “match bonuses”, “player power”, came to the fore. As a result, the senior players in the team, led by a certain Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, led a boycott of sorts by making outrageous sounding demands before playing for the country in Algeria 90. Westerhof called their bluff, and led the team consisting almost entirely of home-based players (Andrew Uwe, Rashidi Yekini and Friday Elahor being the exceptions) to the silver at the tournament. Bear in mind that this second place finish came after a 5-1 loss to the hosts in the opening game. The hosts, Algeria, were the eventual winners of the competition.

When the team arrived home, they were received as heroes, and Nigeria’s then Vice President, Augustus Aikhomu, in the reception said, “You did us proud you Green Eagles, you are my Super Eagles.” Thus the team became the Super Eagles. Thereafter, and until he left power, Aikhomu, and his eventual successor, Mike Akhigbe, took a personal interest in what was happening with the team, and for the subsequent five years, the Nigerian national team had zero issues concerning player palaver, match bonuses, and the usual brouhaha that have always bedevilled the Eagles.

What Westerhof’s “victory” in Algeria did for him and for the team, was to give him direct access to the highest levels of power in Nigeria, much to the chagrin of Alex Akinyele, the Sports Minister at the time.

If the stories are to be believed, (and they come principally from Robert Marawa, a highly respected South African broadcaster) then Nigeria’s current, Nations Cup winning coach, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, has just resigned. According to Keshi, his resignation is because of undue interference and a lack of faith in him by his employers, the Nigerian Football Federation. Speaking on a television/radio show in South Africa (the team is due back tomorrow), Keshi claimed that he was in actual fact sacked before the quarter final match against the Ivory Coast, an allegation borne out by the fact that it emerged last Tuesday that the NFF had actually booked return tickets for the squad to depart South Africa immediately after that quarter final.

Keshi’s move, then, is an astute interpretation of the current political climate in Nigeria. The fact is this, the current government is under attack from all quarters in the country, over a lot of non-football related issues. Yesterday’s Cup of Nations win, is HUGE political capital, which any Nigerian government would be foolish not to exploit. By resigning at this point in time, what Keshi would have done would be to bring the personal attention of one of the powerful state governors (who are all football fans), or the President himself, to the interference in his job. That move, would give him direct access to the corridors of power, and would enable him to do his job without looking over his shoulders. On the other hand, if his resignation is accepted, the next coach would have extremely HUGE boots to fill.

For Keshi, this move is a win-win.

Cheta was one of the few Nigerians who believed in the Super Eagles ahead of the tournament. His predictions for the team proved remarkably astute: on Keshi, on Mikel Obi, on the quality of the locally based players, on the team’s wealth of attacking options when others were lamenting the omission of Osaze Odemwingie and Obafemi Martins. The preview he wrote for Africa is a Country is well worth revisiting.

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Cheta Nwanze

Cheta Nwanze tweets as @Chxta.


25 thoughts on “Why would Stephen Keshi resign one day after winning the Africa Nations Cup for Nigeria?

  1. A wiseman decision! I knew he is at the times he spoke during afcon press conference. Don’t blame NFF, their actions led to this success though. Hope it would be settled

  2. Pls keshi reconsider your plans and have a change of heart,cos i strongly believe that you are the only man that can take Naija to the promiseland in football.

  3. Big boss reconsider your plans and have a change of heart,cos i strongly believe that you are the only man that can take Naija to the promiseland in football.

  4. Good decision frm Keshi, I knw the NFF wil not accept. His resignation as much Keshi could be given a free hand and time… Perharps that what he is looking s

  5. NIGERIA TO DEY USE COACH DO YANGA …. IS TYM FOR ONE PERSON TO USE D WHOLE NATION DO YANGA…..AM SURE U NAW KNOW WAT IT MEANS TO SACK A COACH

  6. Every reasonable man wil act d way u did bt try & luk beyond d failed NFF & serve ur fatherland. I tank God dat he was able 2 short dia trap. U jst hv 2b focused especialy nw dat d ovation is loudest. I want 2lift d confedration cup.

  7. Kudos Kechi,you have left a big shoe for your eventual successor. Keep your resignation on,don’t be swayed with petty agreement. Stand firm for the following reasons:
    1• Let us see if presido won’t clean up that glass house.
    Your resignation will bring about the much needed clean up will desire at that stinking glass house.

  8. Nice decision keshi. Cus d nigerian celebratin u nw wil b d 1 to crucify 4 any little mistake. Go on wit dat. @ least ur name is alredi ringin bells.

  9. Wise Man!!! Keshi has earned the right to brag! The silly people who were busy looking for a white man ( probably a carpenter ) to come and be their house boy must now wake up and coach the team. Thats what happens when Novices run your football!!

  10. kudos 2 keshi, i would do d same if i where u. Bt if NFF is sorry, pls accept their appology

  11. In as much as Stephen Keshi needs a free hand to operate, one can not totally isolate the team’s success from the pressure mounted on him by NFA. The fact that the team’s tactics and pattern of play during the just completed 2013 AFCON drastically changed after the reported meeting the NFA members had with Stephen Keshi also confirms that position.
    The association also has responsibility to ensure that constructive criticism are given where appropriate to ensure that the country is not disgraced at international tournaments. They might have overdone this by booking a return ticket just before we played Ivory coast though.
    A good percentage of Nigerians were also disappointed at the performance of the team during their first two matches. I believe that the disappointment expressed by Nigerians and maybe NFA was borne out of the love for the country after all, the direct beneficiaries of the success are the players, the coaches and members of the association.
    Nobody is good enough in any field to be totally left without any iota of supervision or criticism. As long as the criticism is constructive and targeted at building up. Having said this; it is a good thing that Keshi has reconsidered his decision to resign and has promised to continue his job as the coach of the Super Eagles. I believe, all the parties concerned have learnt several lessons from the event.

  12. In as much as Stephen Keshi needs a free hand to operate, one can not totally isolate the team’s success from the pressure mounted on him by NFA. The fact that the team’s tactics and pattern of play during the just completed 2013 AFCON drastically changed after the reported meeting the NFA members had with Stephen Keshi also confirms that position.
    The association also has responsibility to ensure that constructive criticism are given where appropriate to ensure that the country is not disgraced at international tournaments. They might have overdone this by booking a return ticket just before we played Ivory coast though.
    A good percentage of Nigerians were also disappointed at the performance of the team during their first two matches. I believe that the disappointment expressed by Nigerians and maybe NFA was borne out of the love for the country after all, the direct financial beneficiaries of the success are the players, the coaches and members of the association and not Nigerians.
    Nobody is good enough in any field to be totally left without any iota of supervision or criticism. One great philosopher understood this concept better when he said ‘an un examined life is not worth living’. As long as the criticism is constructive and targeted at building up. Having said this; it is a good thing that Keshi has reconsidered his decision to resign and has promised to continue his job as the coach of the Super Eagles. I believe, all the parties concerned have learnt several lessons from the event. Hopefully, theses lessons will further help to move our football forward.

  13. Keshi has got to think about what suits HIS career best.I truly believe leaving now, while the ovation is loudest is just it. There’s no where to go but down.Leave now you leave a legacy, even a myth of your own.No coach WILL in the eyes of the fans be as good as you, except perharps he wins the world cup, and even then people will still wonder if you couldnt have done so too easily.Ask mourinho he’ll tell you.

  14. Keshi was playing a high stakes game of poker, and like Cheta said he has a winning hand…the NFF will blink and fold.

  15. Keshi, you have done wonderfully well, Nigerian still need you. So, don’t be disappointed by the action of NFF.

  16. NFF,no future ambition or what did they call themselves are just conglomeration,of people who know nothing about football.They sit down in that broken house they call Glass house, to select coaches that will favour their .’stealing policies’ i.e largerback or largerfront. i sorry for nigeria

  17. keshi is still the big boss, with him Super Eagles will bring world cup to Africa Soon

  18. Move on Keshi. don’t allow your aspiration go down because of the Nigerian political factor. Sooner or later, every bad egg in NFF shall be exposed. Enough is enough for them.

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