Posted by Vanguard on
Stephen Keshi captained the Nigerian Super Eagles for many years. He was captain when we lost the 1984 Nations Cup final to Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium, Abidjan.
Stephen Keshi captained the Nigerian Super Eagles for many years. He was captain when we lost the 1984 Nations Cup final to Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium, Abidjan. Only 20 years of age, Keshi had made the fast progress from an U-20 player in 1981 to become leader of the new team that Adegboye Onigbinde was building after the spectacular failure of Libya 82 compelled a disbandment of the 1980 squad.
Four years later, Keshi was also captain when the Eagles lost to the same Cameroonians at the Mohamed V Stadium, Casablanca, Morocco, also in the final of the African Nations Cup. Four years later, in 1992 in Senegal, Keshi was captain when the Eagles defeated Cameroon 2-1 to win bronze in the Cup of Nations, after both teams lost their semi final matches. Nigeria were beaten by Ghana and Cameroon by Cote d’Ivoire.
Keshi led the Eagles to win their first World Cup finals ticket, by drawing 1-1 with Algeria at the July 5 Stadium, Algiers on October 8, 1993. The same man was captain when the team won its second African title, beating Zambia 2-1 in the Nations Cup final in Tunis on April 10, 1994. He was injured, so played only bit-part at the 1994 World Cup finals, where the Eagles made an impressive debut.
Keshi retired, then became assistant coach of the team when Dutchman Johannes Bonfrere requested him when he was preparing the team for the 2000 Nations Cup finals. Keshi and Bonfrere watched the Eagles lose on penalties to Cameroon in the final at the National Stadium, Lagos, and two years later, he was with Amodu Shaibu and Joe Erico to steer the team to a bronze-medal effort in Mali.
So, when Keshi speaks on Nigerian football, people listen. He has been involved in our progress in the past two decades, and is a massive voice on the game. Not just because he has just qualified tiny Togo for next year’s World Cup finals, which the Eagles would be watching on TV!
On Thursday, when Keshi spoke at a reception at the National Stadium, people listened. He was being hosted by the Lagos chapter of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria after his splendid feat with the sparrow-hawks, whom he qualified for the World Cup finals after they could not even make the last edition of the African Cup of Nations in Tunisia.
Keshi himself was only in Tunisia as a commentator for the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC. But in a couple of months, he would be joining the likes of Henri Michel, Roger Lemerre and Artur Jorge in leading teams to try and win the biggest prize in African football.
Michel played at the World Cup as a player and led France to win bronze at Mexico 86. He was coach of Cameroon at USA 94 and Morocco at France 98, and has now led Cote d’Ivoire to their first ever World Cup ticket. Two years ago, he led Raja Casablanca of Morocco to win the Caf Cup.
Roger Lemerre is the record breaker who won two regional titles in two different continents in quick succession. He led France to the European title in the Low Countries in 2000 and led Tunisia to their first African title in 2004.
Artur Jorge was a national team coach of Portugal before taking the job of the Indomitable Lions, after the sack of German Winfried Schaefer.
Keshi is now in this class. On Thursday, the former libero lambasted Nigerian authorities for their usually -tardy handling of events. He also blamed the federal government for non-fulfilment of pledges made to the team in the past.
"How can the government fail to fulfil past promises to sportsmen and women and expect miracles from then? If you make promises to footballers or other sportsmen and women, you should fulfil them.
"Administrators have long maltreated our players. When we came back from Tunisia with the African Cup in 1994, we were promised houses in Abuja.
It is more than 11 years after and those promises have not been fulfilled. "There are so many instances like that. The players who campaigned in the qualifiers, how did we take their welfare? How could they have been forced to play in the scorching sun of Kano, against Angola in such a crucial game.
"How well did we treat the coaches? These are the simple things we have to learn to do well if we’re not to stumble like this again".
Keshi led Togo to qualify for the World Cup finals from a pool that included Zambia, Senegal and Mali. But Nigeria failed to qualify from a group that included Angola, Gabon, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Algeria.
Failure to comply with these rules may result in being banned from further commenting.
These terms and conditions are subject to change at any time and without notice.