Keshi As A Distraction, By Clement Nwankpa Jnr

Cllement Nwankpa

Just how did we find ourselves in this messy situation with Stephen Keshi? I have been monitoring the contract negotiations between him and the NFF and must point out that it is both a huge distraction and an embarrassment. Keshi has become like the proverbial ‘boil on a scrotal elephantitis’. If you leave the boil, it creates a lot of discomfort and pains but if you hit it so hard, the scrotum ‘explodes’.
At this point, Keshi is a big impediment to the growth of Nigerian football. We needed to fast-track the rebirth of Nigerian football after the Super Eagles’ failure to qualify for AFCON 2015 under the supervision of the same man. Ordinarily, we shouldn’t negotiate with him as he shouldn’t be among those to be considered for the job. The simple thing to do would have been to give him the Samson Siasia treatment. Incidentally, there was a precedence. Siasia failed to guide Eagles to AFCON 2012 qualification and was immediately eased out. The moment Eagles missed the AFCON 2015 ticket, Keshi should have become history. But here we are stuck with him. Not because we are willing to have him. Far from it, as the consensus among the Nigerian football faithful is that he should quit for breaking our hearts.
Even the NFF Board is not well disposed to having him around. The board’s will was done when, immediately after the Sudan game in Abuja, he was sacked. But days after, the man was reinstated via a presidential fiat. Obviously his ‘influential’ friends had intervened hence the board’s decision was rescinded. One thought Keshi would pull the chest nut out of fire and engineer our safe berth at AFCON but he couldn’t. After six matches Eagles were bundled out of the continent’s showpiece event. Every step of the way, there was an escape route until the last day when a victory over South Africa in Uyo would have guaranteed qualification. The fact that the team failed to make it showed how abysmal it had gotten in Keshi’s latter days.
After the Uyo game, our choice of a new chief coach was simple. We didn’t need Keshi. We needed a new lease of life and that didn’t factor him in as he seemed to have run out of ideas on how to take the team to the top. If there were no encumbrances and the football administrators were allowed to do the needful, the process of getting a new coach for the national team would have commenced immediately and by now would have been consummated. The job would have been declared vacant. There would have been a myriad of applications and we would have been spoilt for choice. Yes, the Nigerian job is still a hot cake because of the avalanche of talents within a coach’s disposal. The fact that Keshi failed to make good use of the resources available to him does not take the shine off the Nigerian job. An ambitious coach would salivate over how much he could achieve with the Nigerian team. So we would never have had problems securing a new coach before the new year. Those who argue that there was no other applicant for the job should not play with our collective intelligence. The job was never declared vacant, so no other person applied. Despite the fact that Amaju Pinnick and co knew what to do, their hands were tied. Keshi was option A,B,C.
Here was a national team in dire need of instant rejuvenation yet three months after, no chief coach has been named. The teams that participated at the last AFCON are already consolidating but our national team still lacks a coach to decide the direction we should take. That Keshi is a distraction to our football is an understatement. I was so elated when I learnt he had been shortlisted for the Burkina Faso job. I prayed he got the job so that we could be left off his hook but to my chagrin, he was snubbed by the Burkinabes. For the umpteenth time, he has been denied by one of his numerous touted suitors. He is left with no option than to cling unto the Nigerian job. And as long as he remains jobless, it is now obvious our national team will remain ‘coachless’. So whoever wants Keshi off the way, should pray another team comes to our aid. I thought he said he was the best thing after sliced bread and the most coveted bride in African football. Why has no other team found him good enough? The fact is that if his influential friends did not force him on the NFF, he would still not be in the running for the Nigerian job.
Now, to the negotiations, it is very insulting that he is still trying to dictate the pace. Here is a man who has no basis for a fresh contract. Whatever he gained by winning the AFCON had been eroded by his failure to qualify for the next edition. This is a man who plunged the nation into avoidable shame and embarrassment by his faulty selections. The most heartwarming thing would have been to move on without him. From Amodu Shuaibu to Adegboye Onigbinde, Christian Chukwu and James Peters, the nation’s elite coaches had advised him not to accept the job as he didn’t deserve it. Amodu, who is the NFF Technical Director, opined that if Keshi ‘had integrity, he shouldn’t take up the job. Otherwise, he would hang around like a beggar’. These captured the opinion of the Nigerian football faithful.
Even the NFF’s delay in handing him the contract papers as well as the stringent terms means his employers are not well disposed to having him. If they have their way, they would want him to reject the offer, walk away and pave the way for them to appoint a coach of their choice. Even the blind could read the body language of the NFF so why is Keshi still desirous of working with employers who don’t want him? Since he has refused to heed to Amodu’s advice, he should be ready to accept the job on the terms of the NFF. As the saying goes, ‘a beggar has no choice’. There is nothing wrong in the provision that he must report directly to the Technical Director because he has not proved his competence beyond doubt. He has not proven he can pull us out of this doldrums without some form of supervision. Keshi must be made to know that he is not getting this job on merit. He must come down from his very high horse and face the reality. He doesn’t have a strong bargaining power at the moment. He should accept the job on NFF’s terms and work his way back to prominence. Otherwise, he should take a walk and allow us get a coach who would heal this wound he has inflicted on us. AFCON qualifiers are just three months away and we can do without his distraction.
Nwankpa is an Abuja-based journalist and author.

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