Home News Chuks Iloegbunam: Coach Stephen Keshi deserves reappointment

Chuks Iloegbunam: Coach Stephen Keshi deserves reappointment


Watching television news on Wednesday August 20, 2014, it was reported that 23 Coach-less Super Eagles players have been invited to camp in preparation for the qualifying series of next year’s Africa Nations Cup. Why are the Eagles still without a coach? In searching for an answer to this question, I remembered ‘Time To Call Keshi’s Bluff’, an Internet article published on July 25, 2014 by Olusegun Adeniyi, a friend and professional colleague.

On re-reading Mr. Adeniyi’s article, I became firmer in my conviction that certain powerful forces are strongly against Stephen Keshi returning as Manager of the Super Eagles. My thinking is that the powerful forces are wrong and that Mr. Keshi deserves to be immediately reappointed so that he can continue the good work he started doing for the Eagles in 2011. But, let us first address the issues out of Mr. Adeniyi’s intervention.
The man is the chairman of Thisday’s editorial board and has ample space to ventilate his views in the newspaper. Why did he instead opt to publish only in skytrendnews.com? That question may appear to be begotten of a separate mother, but it is actually tied to the author’s rather peculiar advocacy in the piece. Adeniyi wants Stephen Keshi out of coaching the Eagles for three reasons: 1) Keshi threatened to resign his job once he led the Eagles to continental victory in South Africa in 2013, and had to be persuaded to stay on. 2) Keshi resigned immediately after the World Cup in Brazil. 3) Keshi went about giving conditions under which he would accept a job that had not been offered him. For these reasons, Adeniyi concluded in this astonishing vein: “Now that Keshi’s contract with the NFF has ended, he should be encouraged to go. Given his rich CV in football management not only in Nigeria but on the continent, he will definitely not be lacking in lucrative offers. All factors considered, I do not think that Keshi is the manager that the Super Eagles need going forward.”

Why is justice on leave? After South Africa 2013, Keshi threatened to resign because he felt he hadn’t been properly treated. Is that a good reason for a competent coach to be separated from his job? It is not true that Keshi resigned after the World Cup and, given his unlimited sources of information, Adeniyi would have known this because Keshi himself refuted the report that claimed he resigned.

His disclaimer was widely published in Nigerian newspapers and on the Internet. According to Adeniyi’s “news now”, Keshi “has started to give conditions under which he would accept a job that he has not been offered.” Well, the authentic news from the NFF and from Mr. Emma Ado, Keshi’s media assistant, is that a draft contract was handed Keshi. And it was on its strength that he spelt out the conditions under which he would continue as Eagles coach.

What is outrageous in giving conditions under which a would-be employee feels he could best be of service? If a man were to enlist in his country’s armed forces or was to be conscripted for military service, the question of a prior discussion on the conditions of service would not arise because the authorities alone have the final say on such matters. It is not the same thing when an expert is to be considered for a top, non-military national assignment. In this circumstance the proper procedure is to examine every issue at stake point-bypoint, in order to determine whether there are aspects of the proposed conditions of service that could be deleterious to optimum performance.[eap_ad_2]

For instance, if Keshi asked for a salary of $1 billion a day, the NFF would reserve the right to say, “No, we can’t meet that demand. Our offer is N1 a decade.” Genuine negotiations are a matter of give and take. With time and good will, both employer and employee would arrive at a modus vivendi. And all systems are go! So, why should Keshi’s insistence on a mutually agreed contract be to his disadvantage? I thought Olusegun Adeniyi’s position was unfortunate and I have already contacted him to indicate my exception to it.

There are many points in Stephen Keshi’s favour. His love for the beautiful game and his patriotism are not in doubt. As one of the earliest Nigerians to star on the international soccer stage, he was instrumental to the introduction of numerous Nigerian footballers into the European football scene. Many of the footballers in question lived in Keshi’s Belgian home when he was an Anderlecht defender, even without having any contracts with any clubs. Keshi’s debut with the Eagles was in 1981 when he was just 19. He had 64 caps with the national side over 14 years until his retirement in 1995.

He captained the Eagles to Africa Nation’s Cup glory in 1994, and he repeated the feat as coach in 2013. Only he and Egypt’s Mahmoud El-Gohary hold the distinction of winning the Nation’s Cup both as captain and as coach. As coach, he qualified Togo for their first and only World Cup finals, and he qualified Nigeria for Brazil 2014. Above everything else, Keshi commands the respect and admiration of his players. Against this background, is it fair to say, like Adeniyi, that “Given his rich CV in football management not only in Nigeria but on the continent, he will definitely not be lacking in lucrative offers.

All factors considered, I do not think that Keshi is the manager that the Super Eagles need going forward.” Is it right for Nigeria to discharge a good coach simply because Keshi will be deluged with “lucrative offers” outside our shores? There is another question. Is it not true that Keshi was treated poorly as national coach? His right hand man, Silvanus Okpala, an Eagles veteran in his own right, was fired without justifiable cause and without Keshi’s knowledge or consent. When did it stop being the prerogative of a coach to choose his lieutenants? Keshi was owed eight months’ salary arrears in this country without his saying a word on it to the media.

In which other country does this kind of thing happen? Keshi never had an official car and he never was given an official accommodation. Yet he made no noise about these shortcomings. Early this year, I paid Keshi a visit at an Abuja hotel in which the Eagles were lodged. At the reception, I was pointed to his room on the ground floor without anyone verifying my identity. There was no security whatsoever. I knocked and Keshi himself opened the door of the single room, not a suite. I was speechless.
Was Keshi abandoned in what could pass for a hovel because Abuja had run out of suitable accommodation for the achieving coach of the Super Eagles? Should Coach Stephen Okechukwu Keshi be punished because he is indignant to the idea of being supine, because we have in him a man that knows his rights and wants things properly done? Or is the new and rising agitation for a foreign coach the ploy of faceless agents with an eye for dollar-denominated commissions? I think the NFF should do the right thing by promptly reappointing Keshi on the basis of a mutually agreed contract. The man has a chance of winning the Africa Nation’s Cup back-to-back for Nigeria.[eap_ad_3]

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