Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Keshi’s Luck Shines Through

ABOUT a week to the kick-off of the 29th Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa, I began writing an article for publication in this column titled: “Will Keshi’s Luck Hold Out?”

I had written about four paragraphs or so before I aborted the article. A few days before then, the Super Eagles had struggled to an unimpressive goalless draw with Cape Verde in a pre-tournament friendly in Portugal and I didn’t want to be accused of making Keshi look “good” when his team was playing “badly.” So, I wrote “Reality Check” instead, where I repeated my warning to fans not to expect too much from the Eagles at the Nations Cup so that they would not be disappointed.

Simply put, I DID NOT BELIEVE that “Keshi’s luck” was going to be enough to see his team through to glory in South Africa. But how happily wrong I am today.

Last Sunday, February 10, 2013 at the magnificent National Stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa, with 90,000 fans watching at the stadium and millions on television sets across the world, Keshi’s luck indeed shone through like a million stars on a dark night. Keshi’s Super Eagles defeated Burkina Faso 1-0 in the final of the 29th Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2013) to crown Nigeria as African champions again.

In the process, Keshi became the first Nigerian ever to lead the Super Eagles to Nations Cup glory, beating Adegboye Onigbinde’s 1984 runner-up record; the first Nigerian to win the Nations Cup as team captain (1994) and team coach (2013), beating Christian Chukwu’s previous record of winning as captain (1980) and finishing second runner-up as coach (2004). Keshi also became   only the second African (after late Egyptian legend, Mahmoud El-Gohary, 1959 and 1998 to win the double as captain and coach. Presently, Keshi is the only man alive to hold that double crown as winning captain and winning coach in a continent of more than One Billion people. He is now a legend!

These records are not down just to Stephen Keshi’s brilliance as a player or his expertise as a coach. They are down, in equal measure, to his massive dose of lucky aura and good fortune from God, his creator.

“I remember you have always said that Keshi is a lucky boy,” my publisher, Dr. Sunny Obazu-Ojeagbase(S.O.)  reminded me during a discussion last week when it was beginning to appear that Nigeria was destined to win the 2013 AFCON following our surprise elimination of Cote d’Ivoire in the quarter-final.

“You have always said it and now, I think he is going to prove you right by achieving what nobody else has achieved for Nigeria before,” S.O. concluded. Last Sunday in Johannesburg, it all came to pass and Keshi made history.

A cursory look at Keshi’s life and playing career confirms the lucky aura that surrounds the Big Boss. When he was suspended by the Nigeria Football Association alongside four of his New Nigerian Bank (NNB) Football Club teammates for not reporting to the national camp on time in 1985, it turned out to be a good omen for Keshi as he found himself in Stade d’Abidjan and later Africa Sport in Cote d’Ivoire en route to Belgium where he would become the doyen of Nigerian footballers in Europe. From Lokeren to Anderlecht in Belgium and later Strasbourg in France, Keshi became the reference point for the Nigerian foreign Legion and he actually facilitated the moves by many. By the time his 1985 suspension was over, Keshi actually returned to the national team as a hero and led the Super Eagles to many conquests, culminating in Nigeria’s second AFCON triumph at Tunisia ‘94 and a historic first outing at USA ‘94 World Cup.

Keshi was captain when Nigeria emerged runners-up at Cote d’Ivoire 1984 under coach Adegboye Onigbinde; captain when we won another silver medal at Maroc ‘88 under Manfred Hoener; captain for yet another silver medal win at Algiers ‘90 under Clemens Westerhof; captain for the bronze medal win at Senegal ‘92 under Westerhof; captain for gold medal and trophy win at Tunisia ‘94; assistant coach to Jo Bonfrere for a runners-up medal at Ghana/Nigeria 2000; assistant coach to Shaibu Amodu for bronze medal win at Mali 2002; and now HEAD COACH for gold and trophy win at South Africa 2013.

In all, Keshi played for Nigeria for 13 years (1981-1994) during which he participated in five Nations Cup championships with one bronze, three silver and one gold to show. He has now been involved at coaching level at three Nations Cup, winning one silver, one bronze and one gold. I can’t think of any other Nigerian dead or alive that has had such a successful run with our national football team... and still counting.

Keshi was not necessarily the most talented player of his era (lots of people will rate Henry Nwosu and Etim Esin at different times in the national team ahead of him), but he was certainly the most accomplished.
Keshi is also not necessarily the most technically gifted Nigerian coach ever (some would pick Onigbinde or Amodu ahead of him) but he is certainly now the most accomplished ever.

Whatever Keshi may have lacked as a player (make no mistake, he was an enormously gifted centre back with a knack for scoring important goals for clubs and country), he had in abundance in leadership skills and personal charisma. Keshi has a lovable, amiable, approachable and friendly disposition.

When Onigbinde made the young 22-year-old Keshi captain of the national team to the 1984 Nations Cup, he wasn’t the most senior player in the team which had the late Mudashiru Lawal. Keshi was made captain because he was talented and examplary. Clemens Westerhof would later confirm this when he said Keshi was the Eagles coach on the field while he (Westerhof) was the coach on the bench. Coaches love players who can take charge and lead a team to battle. Keshi was such a player. He is a born leader of men.

However, it has not always been a totally lucky ride for Keshi. Two episodes that stand out as probably the unluckiest in his coaching career were when he qualified Nigeria (as assistant coach to Amodu) and Togo (as head coach) for the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cups but was denied the opportunity of going to the Mundial on both occasions.

I ran into Keshi in Accra, Ghana in 2007 and he didn’t spare me at all for his 2002 World Cup “misfortune”
with the Super Eagles. “Mumini, I hold you and Larry Izamoje personally responsible for our sack in 2002,”
Keshi told me point blank. “Even if the whole of Nigeria was asking for us (the technical crew led by Shaibu Amodu) to be sacked, I expected you in particular to support me because you know my story, you know how committed I am to this country. You are also my friend, but you let me down.”

To be honest, even though I stood by the position that I took during the 2002 episode referred to by Keshi, I had to apologize to him anyway for old times sake.

Indeed, our “friendship” dates back a long way to when Keshi played in Belgium and I used to visit him and the other Nigerian players based in what was then the Mecca of Nigerian professionals. On one occasion, we rode together in his car from Belgium to the Super Eagles camp in Holland as Nigeria prepared for the 1994 World Cup final qualifier against  Algeria and I have always been an admirer of his passion to represent Nigeria and fly the green-white-green flag. But, you know, the “friendship” between a football player or coach and a journalist is always a difficult one. You can’t always agree with each other and there are bound to be frictions.

After we settled our “quarrel” in Accra, Keshi told me in an extensive interview about his still burning desire to lead the Super Eagles. “I love Nigeria to bits, it’s killing me,” he said to me. “I don’t know why the people at the FA don’t want to see my face. But if I get the opportunity one day, by God’s grace, I will show my countrymen what we are capable of doing as a people.”

That day came last Sunday in Johannesburg.


Leading a technical team composed entirely of Nigerians (former internationals Daniel Amokachi, Sylvanus Okpala, Ike Shorunmu, and others), Keshi overcame several European coaches to take Nigeria from the bottom (we didn’t qualify for the last Nations Cup, remember?) to the zenith of African football as champions. In the process, he shattered a lot of myths, including the one established for more than two decades by both local and foreign Super Eagles coaches that home-based Nigerian footballers were not good enough for the national team.

The super stars of Nigeria’s triumph at AFCON 2013 included home-based boy Sunday Mba who scored the winning goals against pre-tournament favourites Cote d’Ivoire in the quarter-final and against Burkina Faso in the final; and centre back Godfrey Oboabona who, like Keshi in his playing days, marshalled the Eagles defence line so boldly throughout the tournament.

There were other super stars like Vincent Enyeama, Victor Moses, Mikel Obi, Emmanuel Emenike, Kenneth Omeruo, Elderson Echiejile,  Ambrose Efe, Ogenyi Onazi, Fengor Ogude and others who all performed creditably  to make Nigerians proud again. But the biggest star of all was the Big Boss himself, Stephen Keshi. Yes, his luck finally shone through.

*This article was written BEFORE Keshi’s resignation drama.

Bance Bounced

I AM postponing my full analysis of the Nations Cup so that we can concentrate only on celebrating the Eagles triumph this week. While we enjoy the moment, let me say that what stood out for me in the final was the manner our defence completely silenced the Burkina Faso forwards, Aristide Bance and Johathan Pitroipa.

Those two had terrorised the Ghana defence so much in the semi-final that it took questionable officiating by the centre referee  to rescue the Black Stars from certain defeat in regulation and extra time. Justice was eventually done when the Stallions won the penalty shoot-out and the ref was suspended by CAF.

Against the Eagles, I thought Bance would be a terror again, but his only showing in 90 minutes was a shot that went miles off-target, while the much hyped Pitroipa was also neutralised as Nigeria completely dominated in defence and midfield.

Had our forward line also been as sharp and not lacked  cutting edge due to Emmanuel Emenike’s injury-enforced absence, the Eagles would have won by a wider margin rather than Sunday Mba’s solitary goal. It was such a comfortable victory for Nigeria in the end. Viva, Super Eagles.

Eagles Number One Supporter

NOW that the Super Eagles are African champions, Nigerians are falling over themselves to associate with them. That’s what success brings to a team. Now, everybody is a believer and an admirer.

But I know a few Nigerians who have supported and prayed for the Super Eagles consistently and who never doubted their ability to win the trophy like some of us. One of them is my mum, Alhaja Ayisat Omofemi Alao.

For several years now, my mum would assure me on the telephone each time the Super Eagles had a match that “Nigeria will win, we will take the cup and your paper (Complete Sports) will be the largest selling paper in the world.” I would say amen.

She didn’t watch most of the AFCON 2013 matches but the moment she heard her neighbours jubilating, she knew Nigeria had something to celebrate so she would call me to repeat the prayer that “we will win the cup.”

Last Sunday, my mum finally watched the Eagles play against Burkina Faso and you could imagine her joy when Nigeria finally won the cup. “A ku oriire” (Congratulations), she said on the telephone. “Baba ti bawa se. Ti a ba dupe eyi, aatun gba miran, Alhamdulillah a dupe (God has done it for us. If we show gratitude for this victory, we shall win it again; we give thanks to God) she sang animatedly.

I wish to dedicate the Nations Cup victory to my mum for her unflinching support for the Super Eagles. Thank you, sweet mother.

Transition

I WAS shocked to receive news on Saturday of the passing of Joe Ighile, who was Manager-Sports for Channels Television. He reportedly died on Friday night after feeling unwell while presenting a live programme, Sports Tonight. He called for a break, asked to be taken to hospital but he never made it.

I have been a guest on Sports Tonight several times and I can attest to Joe’s total commitment to his job. We also spent time together at the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals in South Africa and he was such a likeable, humble fellow. He called me “Oga mi” (My boss).

My heartfelt condolence goes to all his colleagues at Channels TV, particularly Toyin Ibitoye who had to abort his trip to the Nations Cup when he heard of Joe’s death. I pray that God will give Joe’s family the fortitude to bear the loss, amen.

39 comments:

  1. Mumini,
    Haba!! Your emphasis on "luck" takes the shine off Keshi and the Eagles' achievement. Keshi's luck is his vision to have recruited the right players and his instilling in them belief and confidence.
    That Nigeria played the best football in the tournament had little to do with Keshi's luck.
    This was one AFCON where the champions won deservedly.
    Chikena.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oga Mumini I have always respected your analysis but on this one I sdtand to differ with U. Its being a long time I saw a Nigerian team knock the ball around in such a manner from the defence to the midfield and when the ball gets to any of the lively strikers up front they burst in to the opponents defence like lightening ... (Mali keeper attested to this). The only problem there is we went to the tournament with many attackers but 1 striker. if IK Uche had maintained the form he had during the qualifiers.... Ideye would have no business in that team. I believe the field affected the first two games. In the third game the goals did not come early and many would feel they did not play well. Pls watch the first 15 mins against CIV and observe the ivorians asking themselves...who are these or are these nigerins or brazilians.... So it was a well deserved victory and not luck sir.

    ReplyDelete
  3. @ ADA ORILE. I don't agree that this article takes shine off Keshi's achievement. There is no doubt that Keshi worked hard but HARDWORK MINUS FAVOUR=LABOUR (IN VAIN). Keshi's hardwork would not have shone through if God has not favoured him - a trait that has been following him since he started his career. That is what Oga Mumini was trying to say. To be the first Nigerian to captain his country to the world cup; first to win the nations cup outside Nigeria + first Nigerian coach to win the Nations cup! Keshi is simply blessed!

    @ Oga Mumini, Keshi was not the captain at Algiers 90 because he was not there. Keshi played in 82,84,88,92 & 94 Afcon (1 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze). Was Asst coach at Afcon 2000 & 2002 (1 silver, 1 bronze) & coach in 2013 (1 gold), giving him a total of 2 gold,3 silver & 2 bronze medals at Afcon

    ReplyDelete
  4. "...while the much hyped Pitroipa was also neutralised as Nigeria completely dominated in defence and midfield".

    I think Pitroipa (all credit to him for his performance throughout the tournament) was given the player of the tournament based more on emotion rather than performance. My player of the tournament was Victor Moses (as attested to by a Poll on Supersports.com) followed closely by John Obi Mikel.

    To all Nigerians, CONGRATULATIONS ONCE AGAIN but let's refrain from "crucify him tomorrow" should Keshi fail to perform at the Confederations cup coming in Brazil in June. Let's learn to stand by our own in thick and tin. Hopefully Keshi will also be first Nigerian to win the world cup for us in future (NOT BRAZIL 2014). To these generation of Super Eagles players, I say YOU ARE NOT YET BIG BOYS UNTIL YOU WIN AT LEAST 2 OF THE NEXT 3 NATIONS CUP, QUALIFY & PERFORM CREDITABLY (AT LEAST S/FINAL) AT THE NEXT 2 WORLD CUP.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think these Journalist should just swallow their pride and accept that the were absolutely wrong writing off the eagles and their coaches. All these white coach canvassers should just apologize to the Eagles. See this one calling it Luck. what a shame!

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Ada Orile, be sure that my intention in this article is not to belittle Keshi's achievement. On the contrary, and as @Ayodele rightly noted, the whole idea is to draw attention to the fact that we've always had a "God-anointed" jewel on our hands but we didn't realize it as a country. I hope we do now.- Mumini.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Luck or no luck, we were the best team at the afcon and deserve the trophy.
    I expect MUMINI AND HIS CO-JOURNALISTS TO APPOLOGISE TO KESHI AND HIS BOYS AND AS WELL, CARRY OUT A "FIRE THEM ALL" CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE NFF BOARD THAT WERE BUSY PLANNING TO RETURN THE EAGLES BACK TO NIGERIA WHEN THEY HAVE NOT BEEN KNOCKED OUT OF THE COMPETITION. AFTER ALL, THEY WOULD HAVE DONE SO TO KESHI IF HE HAD FAILED.THE JOURNALIST HAVE SEEN SOMETHING TO WRITE NOW, SO WHAT IS STOPPING THEM?

    ReplyDelete
  8. @Ayodele. Yes, you are right. Keshi was not at Algiers '90. Even as I wrote the article, a sixth sense reminded me of that fact. I planned to double check, but I forgot. Thanks for the correction.- Mumini.

    ReplyDelete
  9. @Ada Orile, be sure that my intention in this article is not to belittle Keshi's achievement. On the contrary, and as @Ayodele rightly noted, the whole idea is to draw attention to the fact that we've always had a "God-anointed" jewel on our hands but we didn't realize it as a country. I hope we do now.-

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oga Alao, What should be done to the NFF Board that were causing distraction in the Eagles camp at South Africa?
    Those that made arrangement for the Aircraft to return to Eagles back home before their game against Cote D'iviore, what should be done to them?
    What should be done to those that were busy negotiating with a certain Gullit about taking Keshi's job when the Eagles were about to face what was to be their toughest opposition at the touney?
    Now that Keshi and his boys have overcome their enemies at the Glass House and surprised their doubters (including you)in Nigeria, what should come from all is appology and not talking about how lucky Keshi has been in football, afterall all of us pray for success in our various careers, but still work hard towards achieving the success, Keshi is not an exception.
    Simply put, he worked for it, prayed for it, believed in his tools (players), and made them believe in themselves as well,this is what brought what we all are celebrating now and not just being lucky. Kanayo Vitalis

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have always respected your views on football and sometimes i wonder that some coaches in Nigeria depends on your analysis for thier decisions. However,you got this wrong totally. How come you now ascibe the whole of our success on luck ? Nothing goes to 1, Skill, 2, Discipline 3, hardwork, 4, team unity, etc. Yes, luck played its role but everything that went right was not on luck. On this you scored 2/10.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I beleive what mumuni is trying to say is that the favor of God is on Kechi. Mumuni PLEASE pass this infor to Keshi; we do not have a second eleven. I don't know how many people noticed it. Because Emenike was injured we found it hard to score. I can see we have the first team now, i think the next assignment for Kechi is to scout for the second eleven. Let our bench be as strong as the starting eleven then i think when someone is injured or red carded we sure of a good replacement.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I quite understood what alhaji was trying to say in this article and of course it's not to take anything away from this laudable achievement of the great nigerian coach Stephen okechukwu keshi.
    But as a believer,we need to understand that nothing could be achieved by sheer brilliance and hard work alone except by the will of Allah almighty. Congratulations nigerians!! this is a victory made in nigeria by nigerians. so let's all savor it.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Mumuni,Steve Keshi participated only in 4 Nations Cup as a player and not 5.----'84,'88,92 and '94.He was absent in'90 and Nigeria didn't qualify in'86.Thanks for a lovely job you have always done.May the LORD keep you for us,amen

    olufemi

    ReplyDelete
  15. Sir, another well written article. But I want to make my analysis. Keshi played a 4-3-3 formation in our first three matches, and we found it difficult to win those matches. IK Uche was not positioned well. We all know when he played so well and scored goals for Nigeria, he was our main striker. Those two chances he missed against Burkina Faso in our first match was because of this. Also, when we played Cote d'Ivoire in the quarter finals, we played a 4-4-2 formation and you saw what happened. The Eagles came alive. That was also what happened against Mali in the semi finals. In the finals, we resorted to 4-3-3 again. This is an alien formation to the Super Eagles and the other national teams. 4-3-3 is good for the Super Eagles only on Play Station 2 or 3, of which I play but not in real life. We are ball jugglers and not ball runners. Keshi did a good job with the team but work still needs to be done on that team. Some players need to be called back into that team. Players like Obinna Nsofor, Bright Dike and Uche Kalu, (not kalu Uche, Ik Uche's brother, although he's still good). The guy that replaced Echejile in the second half in the Final, has great potential. I saw it the few minutes he was on the field. Now we have a first team, we need to build a solid second and third teams for the Super Eagles. The time starts now. No time for complacency. We must qualify and win the 2014 world cup in Brazil. The confederation's cup is just a rehearsal and we also need to take it serious. I'm proud of Keshi. KESHI FOR PRESIDENT IN 2015.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Mumuni, your reference to luck has taken the shine off the victory . Anyway I want you to analyze the team and identify the areas that needs urgent attention. We should not allow this victory becloud our sense of judgement. Mumuni, ask you friend, do we have a good bench for the team? The guy that replaced echejile is still giving me concern. Do we have a good replacement for Emenike? Ike Uche did not click et. al. Please be frank and bold to tell your friend the truth

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, @ writer, you didn't understand Keshi's formation in the QF n SF. It was 4-4-2 that looked like 4-3-3. Moses, Mbah, Onazi and Mikel all played in the midfield, but moses kept running the flanks. Remember ideye didn't run at the flanks but was a supporting striker to Emenike. This confused the Ivoriens and Malians.

      Delete
  17. A great day for the super eagles, Keshi and nigerians - congratulations. I believe Stephen Keshi has a big personality and it shun through and won the nations cups. I hope many trophies to come. Perhaps, Once Stephen Keshi becomes bored of football he should run for presidency and sort out the mess Nigeria is in.

    ReplyDelete
  18. @ Cheta, Keshi, did not play 4-4-2 in the QF, He played his usual 4-3-3 (Mikel -Onazi -Mba) in the middle while upfront (Ideye-Emenike-Brown), with the front three always switching positions. Go rewatch the game again. as per Uche, I think the injury he had was the loss of form, hopefully he will bounce back.

    ReplyDelete
  19. my bad, i intend to write Moses as past of the front three instead of Brown

    ReplyDelete
  20. Mummini,
    You have been one of the very few sports writer i respect from that part of the world but i must say that I feel very disaapointed with your seeming submission that Keshi's victory was by luck. No matter how you try to paint it to the contrary, inherently you implied in your write up eagles victory was by luck. They had their problem at the begining, but from the knockout stage, the team played the best football in that tournament and were deserved winners at the end. Of course luck is needed in all we do, but it comes along with hardwork and Keshi deserves all the credit.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I agree with Oga Munini about the luck aspect. No matter how hard you try in football, you need a final push of luck/favour to be a success.
    Please note his observation on how Bance and Pitriopa were marked out of the game - it was not about luck.
    The truth is that so many things worked for us than against us. There were 2 goals deflected into d net. Mba's goal against CIV could have been deflected outside or into the goalkeeper's hand but somehow ended looking like a perfect lob.
    Emenike's goal against Mali is another that put the game beyond the Malians.
    Beside these, were errors that could have been punished but were fumbled by the opponents.
    In the final match, the ball falling into Mba's path was providence although the execution was nothing short of pure skill.
    The SE played really well and Keshi and others did well too, but we should thank God luck and favor never deserted us. The last AFCON final we lost in 2000 is a stark reminder.
    Having said this, it wasn't only Keshi's luck that shone through, but also his qualities as a coach and manager. These too should have been captured in the headline.
    For those asking the media to apologize to Keshi, please sheath your swords. Except if they had intentionally malign Keshi based on personal bias and sentiment, they have no business apologizing for doing their jobs.
    Regarding NFF, Nigerians should take it easy. They might have goofed in South Africa, but they also made several good decisions ahead of AFCON. They employed Keshi, gave him a free hand to pick his team, helped prepare the team with provision of fund, arrangements of several international friendlies most of us didn't bother to watch, etc.
    The way some condemn NFF now, you would think Keshi employed himself, used his own money to gather a team from the street and just went to South Africa and won. Let us not make the victory a one-man show or posterity would not be kind to us.
    Its often said that a man's greatest time of weakness is often just at the end of a great victory. Let us tread carefully...

    ReplyDelete
  22. Good write up Sir, i think your article is good. Though, i think the choice of the word "luck" made it seem you were trying to deny Keshi the credit due to him. But sir, i think its time you and your colleagues begin a furious campaign against the men in the glass house at Abuja, enough is enough, we must not let them escape with that stunt they pulled against Keshi in South Africa. Its time we send them packing once and for all, cos if we don't? These things will continue to happen again and again in the future.

    ReplyDelete
  23. @Eloka. The only thing to do is encourage them to learn from their mistake and move on. Even Coach Keshi did not get it right immediately @ AFCON. The first team only tool shape after the group stage, but for the last minutes heroic of Moses and the inexperience of the Ethiopian team, we would not have qualified from that group.
    NFF has also shown that they are willing to learn from their past mistakes - that was why Keshi had no problem with preparation and selecting his team. Or have we forgotten that the same NFF that supported Osaze in the Osaze-Siasia rift years ago allowef Keshi have his way this time around. Considering the outcomes of both incidence, is Keshi and Siasia not justified in not calling Osaze even though we all called for their heads. Was NFF not wiser in supporting Keshi's selection this time around? Didn't Keshi himself acknowledged before AFCON that NFF have been very supportive?
    Based on Peterside Idah's account which he got from Keshi, Keshi problem with NFF started in South Africa especially after the SE shaky start. Keshi was called to a meeting with the NFF where he was told he was not doing well compare to some other coaches. That with the demonstrated loss of confidence in the SE chance of surviving the group stage seems to be the bone of contention. This are common issues between coaches and FAs both at both club and national teams that are always 100% resolved through performance.
    In this euphoria of winning AFCON, let us be careful what we wish the NFF because it would affect Keshi too. Keshi is now the hero and NFF the villain. Some are even calling for Keshi to contest for the Presidency in the next election and I laugh! My main submission here is that we should give credit to whom its due. Its for the good of all.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Oga Alao...........Which luck, what luck? Tactically from planning to execution Keshi and the team got it right. If anything, Nigerians never actually understood what was going on in the first 2 matches coupled with the “Siddon Look” approach we took towards the team.

    For once, I saw a team that played like the Eagles of the Nineties as well as took Siasia’s attacking phylosohpy to another level by being better and more physically direct when going offensive.

    Keshi loves power playing forwards and this worked to effect.......I love that style up from and is dying to see an Anichebe / Eneramo combo as an alternative to the Ideye / Emenike combo. Keshi's Eagles are capable to producing fireworks..I repeat fireworks cause the potentials are there in this team. By team, I mean the Coaching crew as led by Keshi , their choice of players and playing patterns.........Exemplifies the Nigerian spirit.

    If luck has got anything to do with it, I would say we were unlucky not to score more goals against B/Faso,Zambia and again B/faso in the final match.

    I will round off by accepting your camouflaged apology submitted via your response below.....

    @Ada Orile, be sure that my intention in this article is not to belittle Keshi's achievement. On the contrary, and as @Ayodele rightly noted, the whole idea is to draw attention to the fact that we've always had a "God-anointed" jewel on our hands but we didn't realize it as a country. I hope we do now.-

    ReplyDelete
  25. @Cheta, No you are wrong. Moses is not a midfielder but a winger (as a winger he helped in the midfield and defence when opponents are on the attack). Go and rewatch the match again. By the way Keshi is a strong believer of 4-3-3 system.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hi,folks. For the record, I repeat that by my reference to Keshi's "lucky aura" in this article is NOT to belittle his AFCON achievement in any way. I'm relieved to see that some Forumites ( Ref: @ediseye abiamowei above) understood the message, but it's important for me that EVERYBODY understands it as well. Thank you all. Up next: Keshi and the NFF.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Oga. it is unfortunate u came up with this write up.and it has further put a dent on your soccer analytical artistry. This is a man that has qualified Togo for her first world cup.. he did same wt Nigeria and He was the younger player to have captained Nigeria. He did what several top coaches will never do..He took 17 debutants to a nation cup and he did not only take them there he stake them in important matches. I know you as a coach will never try that. I also believe you dont not have a locus standi in this Nation Cup glory because you succeeded in killing NIGERIA's DREAM in 2002. I also believe you dont know Keshi like u claimed and like u have analysed. If you truly believe in what you have analysed as his profile you should know that Keshi is a special person.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Oga Mumini. You have said ur piece and for the discerning, it should be enough. Anyone who dare do anything apart from praise Coach Keshi at this time would be accused by most Nigerian fans as anti-Keshi. But we have seen this before. Once upon a time, Westerhof, Bonfrere, Fanny Amun, etc once made records for Nigeria. The same fans that shouted hosannah today shouted crucify them the next day. True friends are d once who not only celebrate u but are also bold enough to tell you the truth even when it is unpopular

    ReplyDelete
  29. You spoiled my reading by comparing Keshi with Onigbende and Amodu, go back and check your records, the highest Nigerian coaches have achived in soccer is Keshi winning African Cup of Nations and Siasia taking Olympics silver medals, no respect for any sentiments (age or experience), be guided only by record, so I do not know where those name are coming from before Siasia which I wont even compare at this point, he stands alone. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Dear sir, I have always wondered where are the video clips of the Nigerian football teams since we started playing international football especially from the 1970s? Do you have a solution here? Can we have Nigerian classics? It will be nice to have DVDs of Nations cup in 78 to date, Under 21 in 83 etc

    ReplyDelete
  31. My colleagues and I have thought severally on this initiative and it doesnt even have to be for profit? Just sheer preservation of history? As a journalist of repute; can we work with you to explore this? Just like the ESPN Classics channel, an NTA or whatever classics content channel can be developed? Will you be interested in this?

    ReplyDelete
  32. I think it's very understandable the diverse views on this topic here. An older follower of Nigerian football can easily relate to some of the things mentioned in the write-up but same can't be said of the younger ones who are more likely unfamiliar with the achievements of Onigbinde, Amodu etc...Although i have never been a big fan of Keshi based on some off-field incidents in the past, i however accord him his due respect for his achievements despite my reservations on the latest one.

    The Keshi i knew as a footballer was very good in his prime, Powerful, a leader and above all fearless.
    Keshi was so powerful that he had his say in players that made the team. Keshi, as a pioneer of Nigerian footballers exodus to Europe(mainly Belgium then) wielded some much power in the team that some players never featured for the national team as they were deemed as a threat to what was evolving as a players cabal then. Chidi Nwanu was a classic example, but his sheer qualities meant he couldn't be ignored forever and he got his place in the 94 team which ultimately spelt the end of Keshi in the team. As far as footballing reasons were concerned, Keshi had no place in both Tunis & USA 94. Keshi suffered a career threatning injury in 93/94 which meant he limped when he walked, yet he was always in the team. This trend was passed on to the Amokachi era, which also accounted for better players ignored in 98 world cup finals. Amokachi was so influential that he played in the group matches despite being unfit and this was how he aggravated his injury which he never recovered from thus ending his playing career. Therefore, when i saw Yobo in 2013, My mind flashed back to 1994 when Eguaveon was denied his glory moment as he 'allowed' the non-playing captain Keshi to lift the cup. Keshi was sympathetic to Yobo's situation and he saw the similarities in their later times in the National team.
    Keshi's luck started to shine when Yobo got injured and he had to replace him with Omeruoh in the centre of the defence, otherwise he would have played Yobo in all the matches despite the very first match as well as earlier matches indicating he had lost his pace and he was easily turned inside out by younger strikers.
    Keshi's luck shone through again when card suspension meant Fengor sat out the last game which paved the way for Mba and Onazi to be a main-stay. As offensive-minded players (deployed to do defensive duties) with better fitness and finnesse, these duo did all the dirty work for the eagles as well as support the attack well. This was something Fengor couldn't do but Keshi relied on him for his strength without seeing the minus in the midfield not linking up well with the strikers. This is what you get with 3 defensive players in a 3-man midfield of Fengor, Igiebor and Mikel. The first 2 matches exposed this formation as the gap between the middfield and attack was too wide, meaning the attackers had to fall back too often to collect the ball before working their way upfield.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Keshi as a good schemer, told the world that what he had in mind for Nigeria was a 5 year plan in order to build a good team. While that may sound as a good plan from an organised individual, i instead saw it as an alibi for when failure comes. Tell me, which sector in Nigeria (private sector aside)gets that luxury of time to build...we as a country simply do not have that patience, and yes he knew this as well.... Keshi was still changing and shuffling his team 2-3 weeks before the tournament and he even admitted that he was still building and re-building bla, blah, blah...I therefore find it rather contradictory when after winning the Nation's cup he came out to say that he knew he was going to win the cup before the tournament kicked off. Oh please.
    Whether his reasons for taking so many home-based players to the tournament was to secure pro deals for them or for his genuine believe in these players' abilities, the fact is for whatever reasons, he won the tournament and he has earned the right to lord it over us. But he should bear in mind that same Nigerian hailing him today will easily abandon him if he fails to qualify for the world cup, afterall, Nigeria is Africa's best at the moment.

    Luck or genius or perhaps luck of a genius, i stand by Keshi as the National team's coach and hopes the luck doesn't run out until perhaps after the world cup.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Oga Mumuni, I have read it in almost all major newspaper and heard it in almost all major radio and television stations in Nigeria that Keshi is the 2nd person to win as a coach and player.

    However, contrary to your position above, he remains the 1st and only person to win as a Captain and Coach.

    The legendary Egyptian Mahmoud El-Gohary was not the captain when he won in 1959.

    I stand to be corrected.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I wanted to add my thoughts to this article, though,
    the African Nations Cup, has long ended.
    While I recognize the tendency to accentuate the role of luck
    in winning a championship, I believe that Keshi
    must first be applauded for wading through numerous challenges in leading Nigeria to a championship. That would be a more fair way to analyze what happened in South Africa. Despite attempts by the writer, to suggest that he meant well in his analyses, it feels very weak,
    and looks unprofessional even. The analysis should have focused on
    the technical reasons for victory....not a suggestion that Keshi
    was luky.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Thanks for publishing my comments. I just, a few minutes ago, sent my thoughts as "Anonymous". My name is Nosa Eke. Like every Nigerian,
    I was elated that Nigeria won the African Nations Cup, against all odds. Like the previous Nations Cup victories in 1980 and 1994, this championship brought an enormous anount of joy to Nigerians all around the world, and was a reminder of how easily we bond around football. I still remember the pride that I felt in 1980, while living in Benin-City, when Segun Odegbami's two goals, and Muda Lawal's strike, gave Nigeria the trophy for the first time. It all feels so vivid, even now. I can still see Christian Chukwu mounting the podium to receive the trophy from then president Shehu Shagari.

    By 1994, I was living in the United States, when Nigeria won the Nations Cup
    for a second time. Once again, we felt such great pride, though, it was evident that we had some of the best crop of players ever to grace African football. Even so, victory is never certain, until the games are played, so it was a joyous scene, when Stephen Keshi lifted the trophy, despite himself, not playing in the game. It was a just reward for a man who had worked very hard to raise the stature of the Nigerian team from the first day that he stepped on the field for the senior national team in 1981, in a World Cup qualifier against Algeria. We lost that game, but I still remember marvelling at this young player who gave his heart to the team, and though it was hard to acknowledge at the time, it was evident that he would be a worthy successor to the great Christian Chukwu.

    It was no surprise that coach Onigbinde made Keshi captain
    of the national team at the 1984 Nations Cup. By then, his leadership skills were hard to ignore...and it should be noted that he was in the first eleven of the best players at the tournament, as selected by the Confederation of African Football.

    As far as the tournament itself, it's fair to say that he was still learning the best way to use his team, when he fielded Joseph Yobo and Fengor Ogude and Ahmed Musa in the first game against Burkina Faso. That was a mistake. Yobo should not have been given a start, and but for his yellow card offences, Ogude would have remained a fixture in the starting line-up, which would have stiffled the frontline, and would not have helped Nigeria advance. Musa was always out of his depths as a first eleven player, though, there is some value to his speed.

    Once again though, Keshi proved to be a quick learner in the next game by dropping Yobo and introducing Kenneth Omeruo to the central defence role. The tandem of Omeruo and Oboaboana should handle the heart of the Nigerian defence for several years to come. He also made the wise move of fielding Onazi in the place of the red carded Efe Ambrose, thereby establishing him as a utility player. It was no surprise that Ogenyi Onazi went on to retain his position in subsequent games. Such players are hard to find.

    Once Ambrose served his suspension, Keshi made the decision to return him to his right full back position, showing confidence in a player whose confidence might have been shaken by a red card. Ambrose went on to make the all tournament starting eleven, which once again shows Keshi's aptitude for selecting the right players, most of the time.

    In the game against Cote D'Ivoire, Keshi's tactics were perfect as Yaya Toure could not operate, while the pair of Omeruo and Oboaboana skillfully caged Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Gervinho, etc...It was a masterful plan once again by the coach. Similarly, he had his tactics right against Mali and in the final against Burkina Faso. So, all in all, this was a series of tactical maneuverings that were spot on!..It had very, very little to do with luck!...

    Let's give Keshi credit for showing great tactical awareness, identifying the right players, making the correct substitutions, and above all, maintaining an atmosphere of discipline in the team.


    Nosa Eke
    USA

    ReplyDelete
  37. Nigerian Football team has finest players in the world - http://www.ngr24.com/

    ReplyDelete
  38. I was handling a project in a village I Cross River state when AFCON was being played, so I dint have access to complete sport, Iam I Lagos now and I knew about this site in last week soccer talk and I have to read many of ur past articles and I want to really commend ur great writing and analysis skill. I developed interest in reading ur articles since early 90s, I still remember the complete football that was published after USA 94, u wrote a lot of interesting articles there, u remember ur Bulgarian name, (Muminif Alaof) and how u liking ur name to an Italian name like Paolo Maldini and others citing that their names normally ends with I & O. U are indeed a great writer and analyst, see the way u profile Keshis life, that's a touch of genius, I pray for more wisdom and strength sir. From Kenny, Lagos

    ReplyDelete