Home-based players have vindicated Keshi — Okocha

| February 10, 2013 | 0 Comments

Jubilant Stephen Keshi after Eagles beat Mali

Former captain of the Super Eagles, Jay Jay Okocha, has said the Eagles do not need financial promises to win the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations today.

Nigeria will take on the Stallions of Burkina Faso in the final of the tournament at the National Stadium in Johannesburg and speaking at the Soccer City on Friday, Okocha said reaching the final was a huge motivation to do well in the final.

“When you get to this stage of any tournament, you don’t need any motivation to win it. Once you are part of the team and filling in for someone, you are naturally motivated to play well for the team. I am not sure that any of the players is here on holiday,” he said.

The former Bolton Wanderers captain, who is now a member of the Nigeria Football Federation Technical Committee, praised the attitude of the players and coach Stephen Keshi he however warned that the cup was not yet won.

“We are all happy with their achievement so far. They have worked hard to reach where they are today. They just have to stay focused and finish the job. The good thing is that we are so hungry to win it and nobody gave them the chance to win it. It’s not won yet, one more game to go and if we do it right, we have done the job,” he stated.

Highlighting the importance of all the players Keshi has picked to do the job, Okocha singled out Chelsea’s Victor Moses as the most outstanding because of his background which he says is alien to African style.

“Moses has impressed me more than anyone in this tournament. We used to see him as a European player who might not fit into African system. There is no doubt about his talent and he has responded well to the demands of African football,” he said.

Reacting to the injuries suffered by Moses and Lokomotiv Moscow striker Emmanuel Emenike in the semifinal against Mali, Okocha said there is enough quality in the squad to fill the positions in case both players lack the fitness to contribute their 100 per cent effort on Sunday.

“Without any doubt, Emenike and Victor Moses have had a good tournament so far. But I think whatever happens, we came here with 23-man squad and if they cannot make it fully, it could be a blessing for another person in disguise to impress. I can remember that in 1994 when we won it, Emmanuel Amuneke did not start any of the games until in the final when he played and won it for us,” he stated.

With the exploit of home-based players in the squad at the tournament, Okocha said their success was a challenge to the NFF to rebuild the Nigerian league.

He said, “I must congratulate the coach for the courage to drop some of the players that he dropped in order to accommodate the home-based players. It shows that either we like it or not, the future of the national team belongs to the players from our league at home. The exposure he has given them now is priceless. They have proved him right because it is disappointing when a coach puts his trust in you and you disappoint. He has done a very good job and I think they have paid him back.

“It’s also a challenge to us to make sure that we structure our league well because this is a proof that we have the talent at home. We need to organise it now.”

Asked if he had noticed his successor in Nigeria, the once revered talented midfielder condemned the search for another Okocha, stressing that there other features possessed by Nigerian players.

“Every player has his own gift, it’s just that a player must identify his own talent. Football is a team work, you have to believe in yourself and know that whatever quality you have, you must bring it out for the team to excel.

“We might say that there is no other Okocha but that does not mean that we don’t have players with other qualities. We should accept every player the way they are and bring the best from them. We don’t have to compare players,” he answered.

Okocha also decried the slide in the production of players with special qualities.

“The standard of African football, the organisation and welfare of the players have improved greatly but the talents have not really developed. There are no many talented players like in the 90s. But we have improved tactically and know what it takes to prepare for tournaments.

“In the past, allowance issues destroyed many great teams but that is no more common in Africa. The smaller countries have also picked up; so no more underdogs in African football. It makes the game more competitive but the talents are not springing up.”

Calling on Nigerians to support Keshi as he gradually takes the nation’s football to its desired place in Africa, Okocha condemned the insinuation that there was a plan to sack the former Eagles captain.

“There was never a time that it was discussed that Keshi was going to be dropped. I did not hear anything like that and I was never part of any meeting to discuss his position. To me, his position is not in doubt. We appointed him and have faith in him. We had a plan before the tournament and it was centred around him. He has a long-term contract and he has made us proud. It shows that if we encourage our own coaches, we can be successful,” said the former Rangers player.


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