Just as Nigerians begin to savour the joy of being African champions, confusion has set into the camp of the Super Eagles with Coach Stephen Keshi announcing his resignation on Monday.
Keshi who is billed to return with his players to Nigeria Tuesday (today) was first quoted in South Africa as having resigned his position as the manager of the Nigerian team despite winning the African cup on Sunday with a 1-0 defeat of Burkina Faso in the final match.
The Eagles Media Officer, Ben Alaiya, on Monday night confirmed that Keshi indeed resigned.
“It is true,” Alaiya wrote in a terse response to a text from one of our correspondents. While speaking to a South African radio show on Monday evening, Keshi said that he handed in his resignation letter after the match on Sunday night.
“I gave them (Nigeria Football Federation) my letter of resignation immediately after last night’s game, but I haven’t heard from them yet,” Keshi told Metro FM on Monday night.
A communication line soon opened between the Presidency and Keshi after the announcement and the former captain of the national team confirmed he had resigned and was only awaiting the response of the NFF officials.
A very highly placed official in the Presidency told The PUNCH in an exclusive interview on Monday that the matter had been taken up immediately. The source added that after the discussion with Keshi, he agreed to withdraw his resignation and continue his job with the team.
The official said, “Yes, it is very true that Keshi resigned his position as coach of the Eagles. That he confirmed to us. It was quite alarming given the complaints he brought up. There were a lot on things going on that the nation didn’t know.
“He informed us about backlog of salaries, his official car that has only been on paper since he took office. Even in South Africa, money was a lot of issue. It is appalling but the key thing is that Keshi has calmed down and has agreed to continue as the coach of Nigeria.”
Apart from his car and salary, we learnt that the Eagles coach complained bitterly of not getting the cash due him in South Africa during the Nations Cup. He also complained that his players were being owed a lot of money as the promises were more on the pages of the newspapers than being fulfilled.
Keshi could not be reached despite efforts by The PUNCH last night.
It was also quite tough getting a response from the NFF on the matter.
The NFF Chief Media Officer, Ademola Olajire, did not respond to our mail.
But a former goalkeeper with the Nigerian team who is now based in South Africa, Peterside Idah, confirmed Keshi’s resignation via his Twitter handle.
Idah tweeted, “Yes, he told me so, he would resign on Saturday, spent some time with him. Will give you reasons why he quit tomorrow.”
It was learnt that the members of the Federation went into an emergency meeting on Monday over the matter.
The triumph of the Eagles at the Nations Cup indeed took many people by surprise as they were not amongst the competition favourites.
The national team came into the consciousness of the citizens after they defeated cup favourites, Ivory Coast, in the quarter-finals. Before then the NFF officials had put a lot of pressure on Eagles when it appeared that the team would not scale through the group stages.
Before the last group match against Ethiopia the NFF had issued an official press release stating that Keshi had “no excuse for failure.”
But the Super Eagles then defeated Ethiopia to qualify for the next stage and that calmed a lot of nerves.
Keshi in one of his reactions afterwards said he was virtually on the sack list until the tide turned for him.
“Nobody believed in me. They were sure that this team would not get anywhere and they wanted to sack me during the competition,” he said.
Keshi is expected to fly back with the team today for the Tuesday night reception holding at the Presidential Villa, irrespective of the situation.