Keshi’s long winding road to glory

| February 10, 2013 | 0 Comments

The final of the 2013 African Cup of Nations will be surely be one
full of retrospect for Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi as the journey that
took all the way to the final wasnt a walk in the park. The path to
glory was filled with thorns and many obstacles and many might not
remember the origins but might dwell on the sweet music of perceived
success.

When Stephen Keshi was saddled with the responsibility of tinkering with
the Super Eagles, a lot of people didn’t welcome him with the fanfare
that was accorded his predecessor,Samson Siasia. The big boss got down
to business along with his assistants Daniel Amokachi, Ike Shorunmu,
Sylvanus Okpalla and the Beniniose Valere Houandinou.

The first inkling of what to expect was when Keshi called up a
plethora of locally based players for a training camp in Abuja. The
usual Nigerian Premier League players were on the list but he went a
step further and shocked Nigerians by including Stephen Morah, who at
that point was undertaking his National Youth Service Program.

It was unheard of but hardly surprising given the fact the Keshi was
involved in such circles in his youth days. That was the beginign of a
revolution that is yielding fruits today as the Super Eagles gear up
to face the Stallions of Burkina Faso.

The “big boss” as he is fondly called picked wholly home based team to
Liberia and defeated the Lone Stars a game where Sunday Mba scored
twice, at that point, it was evident something different was in the
offing. He was willing to give home based players an opportunity to
stake claims for positions in the Super Eagles.

A lot of Nigerians didn’t believe the local players were good enough,
but Keshi had other ideas. Subsequent games against Peru and Egypt
prosecuted with a squad consisted mainly of local players showed
glimpses of what to come. The turning point was the away game to
Liberia were two goals by Sunday Mba gave the Eagles victory and
launched the local plays into national consciousness.

Still there were doubts to what Stephen Keshi was hoping to achieve by
this experiment, but performances by Gabriel Reuben in Blantrye,(
against Malawi ), Ejike Uzoenyi in Kigali ( against Rwanda) and Juwon
Oshinawa gradually relegated favorites like Taye Taiwo, Dickson Etuhu
and a host of European based players to also rans in the team and
competition for shirts became a reality.

It was evident Keshi was towing the line of his former coach Clemence
Westerhof who went about rebuilding the national team in the late
eighties through to the early nineties by using the local based
players to create a framework that will jolt the system and was the
catalyst to the heroics of the national team at the worlds cup in 1994
and the Olympics in 1996.

The inclusion of 6 local based players for the Africa Cup of Nations
in South Africa drew a lot of criticism from home, especially as
players like Osaze Odemwingie, Obafemi Martins and Taye Taiwo failed
to make the cut, but as it stands today, Keshi has been vindicated and
the fruits are beginning to show. Sunday Mba’s stunner in the
quater-final against Ivory Coast is surely a contender for the goal of
the tournament. Godfrey Oboabona’s heroics in the heart of Nigeria’s
defence has to be applaud, it clearly goes to show that there is life
in the local league and Keshi surely does know his onions.

If the Super Eagles go one step further and lift the title, then he
would have reached cult status in Nigeria and the players too will
write their names into the annals of Nigeria’s football history.

Stephen Keshi has truly shown that given the support and
encouragement, he can do the job and return Nigeria back to the glory
days, and that will surely start with a win against Burkina Faso to
give Nigeria their third Nations Cup victory and cement his place
among the legends of African Football along with Mahmoud El Gohari as
the only individuals who have won the nations cup both as a player and
as a coach.

Culled from :Here

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Category: Sports