Saturday, April 19, 2014

Keshi's long walk to Brazil

Stephen Keshi is the man saddled with the responsibility of leading Nigeria to the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil, and to say he has his work cut out is an understatement.

The 'Big Boss' was the obvious choice for many when Samson Siasia failed to qualify Nigeria for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, and when he was appointed in late 2011, a new chapter in Nigerian football was heralded.

Keshi, who had also had stints with Togo and Mali prior to his appointment, has gone on to be arguably one of the most successful coaches in Nigeria's rich football history albeit without a barrage of issues despite his successes. takes a look at Stephen Keshi, the man who is expected to lead Nigeria's charge at the Fifa 2014 World Cup. We delve into his triumphs and travails, and also examine what to expect from the 'Big Boss' when the football fiesta kicks off in June.
Nigeria qualifys for Brazil

Keshi, an enigma of sorts
When Keshi was appointed in November 2011, he came in with a vision to take Nigeria to higher heights. After the disappointment of losing out on a place at Equatorial Guinea/Gabon Africa Cup of Nations in 2012, it became evident Nigeria had to start from the basics.

Keshi knew exactly what he had to do. His vision was clear and risque as his personality. He called up a plethora of home-based players to camp which bemused a lot of people. Many weren't convinced.

He stuck to his guns and went about his business quietly, introducing the likes of Azubuike Egwuekwe, Godfrey Oboabona, Ejike Uzoenyi and Sunday Mba (who would later go on to be Nigeria's hero at the 2013 Nations Cup) into the team.

What culminated after a year of hard work and diligence was a first Africa Cup of Nations title for Nigeria since 1994, when the Super Eagles triumphed in Tunisia. Doubters, began to take him serious.

Despite qualifying Nigeria for the 2014 World Cup, rumours abound of a foreign coach being brought in to replace, although those rumours have also been quashed by the football house.

Keshi, the man

The former NNB FC upstart came into national prominence when he led a band of players which included Henry Nwosu, to take flight abroad to play after some altercation with the hierarchy related to club versus national team duties in the early 80's.

He landed in the Ivory Coast from where his career took him to RWD Moleenbeek, and Anderlecht in Belgium, Strasbourg in France and the United States amongst others.

The 52-year-old, who captained Nigeria to their first World Cup outing in the United States in 1994, where the Super Eagles got to the second round, will attempt to go further as the coach of the national team.

His first foray into coaching in Nigeria didn't end on a good note. As the coach of the Flying Eagles in 2001, he led a team that included the likes of Greg Etafia, Christian Obodo and Rafiu Salaudeen to a dismal outing at the African Youth Champion hosted by Ethiopia.

Nigeria finished last in their group that had Mali, Angola and Ghana and were knocked out of the tournament that Angola went on to win. This definitely prepared him for the future.

Keshi went into the coaching wilderness for a while but returned in grand fashion as he qualified unfancied Togo for the World Cup, but rows with players (especially Emmanuel Adebayor) and officials, meant he missed leading the Hawks to the World Cup held in Germany as German coach Otto Pfister took charge.

Mali were not too different as he also left the Mali job in January 2010, after failing to get out of the group stage at 2010 African Cup of Nations.

He led Nigeria to the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations title in South Africa then tendered his resignation, but was that issue was swept under the carpet as the Nigeria Football Federation insisted all was well and Keshi was still on course as the Super Eagles gaffer.

He has been accused of insubordination severally by the NFF, and was recently served with a query by the football house for failing to honour prior engagements.

Keshi on the WCup draw

Keshi, the coach

Keshi has had a mixed bag of fortunes with the Super Eagles since he took over in 2011. The former Strasbourg defender has the honour of being the only Nigerian and second African to win the Nations Cup as a player and head coach.

He is a proponent of the 4-3-3 system and this has been his preferred style since he took over. Being a defender in his playing days, he has also set up his team to be a solid defensive unit while not losing the attacking flair which Nigerian teams are known for.

Keshi, despite his achievements has insisted he doesn't have a team yet. When this writer put the question across to him after Nigeria beat Ethiopia in Calabar to seal their berth, the coach said: "I don't have a team yet. We are on course, there are areas we need to improve on.
"We will see how far we have come in June. This team have potentials, we hope to make Nigerians happy."

He has also come under attack from various quarters because he shut out certain players from the team, but Keshi has also insisted that is not the case as everyone has a chance in the team.
"We didn't shut the door to anyone. We want to form a cohesive unit, discipline and respect is paramount in the team," he told

"Everyone has to be on board and take in what we put across, that is the only way we can forge ahead, anyone who cannot do that has no place on my team."
Keshi has come a long way since his debut match with the Super Eagles against Botswana at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium.

The World Cup will be a true test for the 'Big Boss' and will show how far he has come with the team.

Keshi's reign in numbers

44 - number of matches in charge

22 - Number of wins

16- Number of matches drawn

6 - Number of losses

9 - Highest goals scorer (Emmanuel Emenike)

74- Number of goals scored

38 - Number of goals conceded

1 comment:

  1. Hoping for a peaceful event this June. Many people are anticipating the world cup. How I wish I will be able to watch the games live. Anyway, I'll just focus on the world cup odds.