But for the intervention of top government officials, who drew Stephen Keshi’s attention to the enormous task facing the national team and his place in the country’s football lore if he finished his rebuilding process, the former national team captain would have made good his resignation as Super Eagles’ coach.
Keshi rescinded his decision to resign as Super Eagles coach barely 24 hours after tendering his quit letter to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).
A source close to Keshi told The Guardian Tuesday that the coach was working under conditions unbefitting a Nigerian national team coach.
“It was as if the NFF was doing Keshi a favour and at a time even before the Nations Cup, he wanted to leave his post, but we persuaded him to use the position to prove that indigenous coaches could do better than the foreigners the federation was thinking of hiring.
“Keshi does not tolerate certain things, one of which is interference in his job. It got to a stage some people were coming to tell him how to manage the national team and for a person, who has spent more than 35 years in big time football that was unacceptable,” the source, said.
Keshi admitted on arrival in Abuja Tuesday that it took the intervention of the chairman of the National Sports Commission/Minister of Sports to rescind his decision to quit the Eagles job.
The coach said he decided to call its quits because of the way he has continuously been treated by the NFF management and technical committee.
Speaking to the media at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, the Eagles coach said he had no option than to change his mind after more than four hours meeting with the minister in South Africa Tuesday morning.
“Yes, I actually resigned over some misunderstanding with the Federation, but we have sorted out everything. I want to tell Nigerians that I am back to work for them,” he assured.”
Confirming his role in getting Keshi to rescind the decision to quit the Eagles job, Abdullahi said: “Keshi did not actually hand in any resignation letter. So, the issue of whether he has rescinded his decision does not arise.
“Actually, there was a rift between Keshi and the Federation, but the good thing is that I have waded into the crisis after several hours of dialogue and meeting with the coach. I want to assure you that Keshi would remain as Eagles coach.”
Giving an insight into the reasons for Keshi’s decision to leave the job, the source said several months after his employment as the handler of the national team, Keshi is yet to get an official car and accommodation, just as he is being owed over four months salary.
“After the final match on Sunday, some NFF officials visited Keshi in his room in a fake display of solidarity, but the coach walked them out of the room because they never believed in him.
“Normally, Keshi was expected to join the celebration in the hotel court, but he decided to stay alone in his room because he felt the people that employed him did not believe in him.
“I don’t think the NFF has treated Keshi well; even when it was obvious that the coach was on the verge of leading the team to a great feat, he did not get the support of his employers.
“The officials booked their tickets back to Nigeria a day before the Eagles faced Cote d’Ivoire in the quarterfinal of AFCON because they believed the team would not survive the Ivoiriens. Keshi pondered on his resignation before the final and I was not surprised that he tendered the letter after the game.”
The source revealed that a member of the technical committee once threatened that they would make the foreign technical director the over all boss of the Federation’s coaches, adding: “If you listened carefully, you will recall Keshi always talking about African countries’ penchant of employing carpenters and farmers as coaches because of the colour of their skin.
“Again, while the NFF was doing all these things, some other countries including Kenya and Zimbabwe were trying to get Keshi to take over their teams.
The source revealed that before accepting to change his mind, Keshi was promised free hand to do his job, while all the money owed him would be settled immediately.
“He was also promised a good accommodation in Abuja, and other appurtenances of his office,” the source said.