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Stephen Keshi: The Wind Beneath Super Eagles’ Wings

Stephen Keshi: The Wind Beneath Super Eagles’ Wings

With a little less than 2 months before the 2014 World Cup, Nigeria’s (most successful) coach, Stephen Keshi is back on the spotlight. The Super Eagles’ head honcho is under fire after alleged clashes with Nigeria’s Football Federation (NFF).


The controversy

Misunderstandings between Keshi and NFF arise as the latter compels Keshi to release a list of players that he will bring to Brazil.


The NFF argues that a “35-man provisional list” should be submitted as soon as possible, something which Keshi totally contradicts. He emphasized that he is “not in a hurry” to present the list and will only do so when the right time comes. He added that he will only include 30 players as 35 are just plain, “unwieldy.”


The confrontation against NFF was not the first for Keshi and it looks like it will not be the last. Nigeria’s big boss is already used to eating criticisms in the morning. But just like what he has shown before, he shall not back down.


The signature tactic

Keshi is readily recognized for including uncapped players in his squad, much to the surprise of many. But of course, this move garnered doubts all across the country. Yet, at the end of the day, Keshi will always have the last laugh.


At the onset of the World Cup fever, it seems that he has no reasons to change his proven strategy.


His hesitation to introduce “fresh faces” into the squad is a testament of his intention to stick with the original plan. No, it has nothing to do with being rebellious or being plain arrogant. Neither can it be called as a narrow-minded approach of not giving other players a chance.
Rather, it was more of a conscientious judgment of choosing only those who  (truly deserve) to be on the list. It is more of pleasing the whole Nigeria, not the few and selected sacred cows.”  He added that there is no reason for him to disregard the squad that he has developed even before Nigeria took home the coveted African Cup of Nations trophy in 2013. However, he made it clear to his players that certain changes are still, to be expected.


Perhaps, Keshi’s approach is a bit unconventional. It is risky if one has to look at the technical aspects of his tactics. But no matter how risky it is, it works. Indeed, it is impossible not to worry about the lack of experienced players on the pitch. Yet, this formula proved to be more potent than having senior members stricken by superiority complex. It is much better to have uncapped players, who care about loyalty than having superstars that barely convert and deliver.


Keshi has already proven his point during the African Cup of Nations. Some of the biggest names in Nigerian football such as Peter Odemwingie, Taye Taiwo and team captain Yobo were immediately dropped out after a bitter display of their offended egos. And true enough, their absence was more of a boon than bane. Nigeria won, period.


Ironically, it looks like Keshi’s non-conformist stance does not remain within the realms of Nigeria.


Miguel “El Piojo” Herrera of Mexico also treads the same path as that of Keshi. After Carlos Vela’s refusal to play for El Tri, Herrera, although he expressed his understanding of Vela’s decision, mentioned that the squad can win even without their renowned football greats.


A recipe for success

Keshi is keen on developing a “strong Super Eagle” squad—one that can soar high, but capable of keeping its feet on the ground. It is ambitious plan.


Yet, if there is anything that helps such ambition to  materialize, this is the “mutual understanding and respect” that Keshi and his players share.


To his members, Keshi is not just a coach, but also a father figure and a certified motivator. Calm and reserved, he barely engages into a marathon of long sermons and speeches in the dugout.


Instead, he lets his composure to take full control. In this manner, he is able to dig deeper into the player’s personal issues and problems. These are really none of his concerns. Keshi is a coach, not a psychologist. But perhaps, it is through speaking through the heart that he is able to communicate his message well and understand the squad’s pressing needs that must be immediately addressed.


But Keshi also emphasized that it is not just about him. It is a 2-way process. The players must also believe in themselves.


Keshi’s disagreements with NFF readily place him in an uncompromising scenario. He is in danger of being sacked. But for a man who refused to give up the squad despite not getting enough, for a man who has the heart to endure all the troubles of not getting what he truly deserves—salary wise, what he has done for the Super Eagles is truly indispensible.


As for the NFF, letting Keshi go is a grave mistake that they will forever regret. It is a move that can compromise the results of its upcoming world cup matches. It is a suicidal act.


Image Source: Khelnama


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