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The renaming of the Asaba stadium to STEPHEN KESHI was a fantastic decision by Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan. Stephen Okechukwu Keshi took Nigeria from the doldrums of failure to the pinnacle of success in 6 weeks. The manner he did it is even more glorious than what Otto Rehhagel achieved with the Greeks. The former Mali and Togo manager proved all the doubters wrong by bringing home a trophy that has eluded the most populous black nation in the world for 19 barren years.
When assembling the Victorious team, he left out so many so-called stellar names like Osaze Odemwingie, Obafemi Martins, Victo Obinna Nsofor, Chinedu Ogbuke, Taye Taiwo, John Utaka, Yakubu Aiyegbeni to mention but a few. People growled, frowned and groaned regarding his stance on players who he deemed surplus to requirement because of their lack of respect, indiscipline, poor form and unpatriotic attributes.
Osaze was adamant that he was the right choice for the position of Super Eagles skipper which was never vacant in the first place. How he wanted to topple Joseph Yobo and Vincent Enyeama was inexplicable. His rudeness, arrogance and disregard for constituted authority simply exemplified his unacceptable behaviour.
Keshi made decisions based on what he thought best suited the team. He didn’t want a repeat of the mafia and sects that characterized previous squads. The ‘Boss’ Keshi is no saint. Judging by his antecedents when he was a player and skipper of the old Super Eagles. But his managerial career has been built on discipline, unity and oneness since it commenced and that has brought him the success he has garnered up till this present day.
His blend of home and foreign based players was seen as experimental to a lot of Nigerians. He paid deaf ears to criticisms, jeers and negative opinions to focus on the job of accomplishing his set objectives. The road to success is very narrow and thorny. The first two matches didn’t go well. Consecutive draws v Burkina Faso and defending champions, Zambia were crushing blows to Stephen’s ambitions. But he remained resolute, calm, and goal driven.
The final group match v Ethiopia was almost going to end in disappointment until a certain Victor Moses stepped up the gear and made himself an instant hero with two well taken penalties in the last 10 minutes of the game. 2-0 it ended and the Super Eagles were in the Quarters to face massive favourites, the Ivory Coast. Then the NFF struck.
The Nigeria Football Federation led by Aminu Maigari directed its Secretary, Mr Musa Amadu to book tickets back to base for the Nigerian contingent before the match v the Ivory Coast. The boss was furious on getting wind of this information, but decided to lead his boys to go all out v the Ivorians. At the end of the game, the unfancied Eagles dominated the highly favoured Ivory Coast team in a 2-1 win.
Keshi was ecstatic and told former Super Eagles goalie cum Super Sport analyst, Peterside Idah of his dream and objective to hoist the AFCON and afterwards tender his resignation letter. The semi-final was more straightforward. Mali were put to the sword. The 4-1 bashing of the Aigles sent shock waves round the African continent.
In the final, the Burkinabe met with a reinvigorated Nigerian team that couldn’t afford to lose. It ended 1-0 Nigeria and the 3rd ANC was sealed in exemplary fashion. KESHI and his CHOICES were VINDICATED!
It wasn’t only the Nations Cup win that made Keshi loved, adored and respected. It was his man management, timely substitutions and mastery of the game when it became difficult that stood him out as a man who was well groomed and brilliant.
For the first time since the 2005 WYC, Mikel Obi played extremely well much to the admiration of those who disliked him (including me) for his sluggishness and boring play. The midfielder was at his best at the just concluded Tournament and led the way in passes made and passes completed.
It was seen as a huge surprise when Jonathan Pitroipa of Burkina was named Player of the Tournament ahead of Mikel, Moses and Emenike. Perhaps the Technical Study Group of CAF had other ideas. Emmanuel Emenike bore the burden of being the main striker as Ikechukwu Uche failed to show up.
The former Getafe striker was useless and ineffective throughout the tournament. Sunday Mba, scorer of the winner v CIV and the Championship clinching goal v the Stallions of Burkina Faso warmed his way into the hearts of Nigerians who sang glory songs with his name after the final whistle was blown.
It was a successful journey for the BIG BOSS who resume is now intimidating. He made do his promise of resigning immediately after the Tourney ended. Nevertheless, after due consultations with Bolaji Abdulahi, the Minister for Sports, he rescinded his decision to resign and then re-signed.
He and the Super Eagles were well received by the Government of Nigeria. National honours, land, and cash rewards were among the goodies doled out to the team after an amazing and successful two weeks of competition in South Africa which culminated in excitement, merriment and mission accomplished.
Written by Ohireime Eboreime
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