Return of the ‘Big Boss’

By Frederick Mordi

Nigeria's coach Stephen Keshi carried by players

After months of suspense, the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), finally reinstated Stephen Keshi, as Head Coach of the Super Eagles, yesterday. This has ended speculations that the NFF is shopping for a foreign coach to manage the national team, following the perceived below average performance of the Super Eagles in the last couple of months.

For Keshi, 53, who has been in charge of the Super Eagles since 2011, it has been a long wait for the renewal of his contract. While the waiting game lasted, Nigerian football suffered greatly. The last two recent outings of the national team attest to this. The team lost 1-0 to Uganda at home in Uyo, Akwa Ibom, and drew 1-1 with South Africa.

Keshi, who won a third African Cup of Nations (AFCON) trophy for Nigeria in 2013, after a 19-year wait, also took the Super Eagles to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. However, the team failed to qualify for the 2015 AFCON hosted by Equatorial Guinea.

Keshi, who is expected to restore the lost glory of the nation’s football, has called on Nigerians to join hands with him to rebuild the team.

“I appreciate everyone and the NFF leadership for this opportunity to serve,” he said in his acceptance speech. “We all have to join hands to ensure we get the desired results in all our games.

“There is so much to be done and I can assure you that I will give you my very best. I know that Nigeria is a great country and I am sure we will get to the highest level possible not just in Africa, but also in the world.”

Keshi’s first assignment would be to ensure Nigeria’s qualification for the 2017 AFCON in Gabon. Nigeria is placed in group ‘G’ along with Egypt, Tanzania and Chad. The qualifiers start in June this year.

Meanwhile, the Media Officer of the Super Eagles, Toyin Ibitoye, has commended the NFF’s decision to sign a new contract with Keshi. He expressed the confidence that Keshi will deliver as he has the right pedigree for the job. However, he appealed to Nigerians for their understanding and support for the new coach.

“With commitment and dedication, we will go places,” Ibitoye said.

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