Stephen Keshi withdraws his resignation

Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi has allegedly withdrawn his resignation, which he announced on radio Monday evening.

It was gathered this morning that Keshi has taken back the resignation he announced on Metro FM yesterday, after an emergency meeting with Nigeria’s Sports Minister Bolaji Abdullahi. In the meeting he received “certain assurances”, presumably financial ones.

Stephen Keshi

It appears that Keshi has called the bluff of the Nigerian Football Federation, in spectacular style. He alleged on Monday that the federation had already “sacked” him before his side’s shock victory over Cote d’Ivoire – a sacking that would presumably take effect as soon as the Super Eagles were knocked out.

That didn’t happen, of course. And then it seems the Nigerian Football Federation forgot or declined to approach him after Sunday’s triumph.

According to Mail & Guardian, Keshi was insulted first by their distrust (officials had allegedly booked return tickets for the day after the Cote d’Ivoire quarterfinal) and then by their complacency in victory. Good coaches have big egos, and big egos need stroking. Diplomacy and manners have never been the strong suit of Nigerian football bosses.

With hindsight, Keshi’s comments prior to the semifinal triumph in Durban were a not-so-subtle advertisement of his availability to other employers.

“If God grants me the tournament, the next day I could join another country,” he said. “I’m a professional. It’s the same with [José] Mourinho, if he gets a call from a rich team, he goes. I’m here for now, but we’ll see if there’s anyone out there who wants me.”

The first black coach

On Sunday night, Keshi resoundingly substantiated his argument about the thwarted potential of black football coaches in Africa. With a little help from Sunday Mba, he turned his tough talk into hard silverware – by becoming the first black coach to lift the Africa Nations Cup title since Cote d’Ivoire’s Yeo Martial in 1992. He and his players have also rehabilitated the battered pride of a mighty footballing nation.

But Keshi owes Nigeria more glory. And he owes the continent more of the precious patience he loves to preach about.

If the Super Eagles are to build on their triumph in Johannesburg, Keshi will need to stay in his job until the Fifa Confederations Cup in Brazil, where the greatest stage of all beckons.

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