Stephen Keshi: Finally, the Big Boss Goes Down

keshiThat Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi was sacked by the Nigeria Football Federation did not come as a surprise to many following the hullaballoo between him and the NFF eggheads since Nigeria’s victory at the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa. It was clear that Keshi’s reign as Eagles boss was just a matter of time. When he was reported to have applied for Cote D’Ivoire’s coaching job and the NFF said it would investigate it, it was obvious the end of the ‘Big Boss’ was near. And the NFF finally nailed the coffin last Saturday by confirming his sack. Kunle Adewale x-rays the crises between the two gladiators
His contract with the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, expired after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and in spite of being linked with several other jobs outside the shores of Nigeria-notably South Africa, Equatorial Guinea and Burkina Faso, the ‘Big Boss’ carried on with the Super Eagles job even without a contract.

After erstwhile Super Eagles coach, Samson Siasia failed to qualify Nigeria for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations jointly hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, Stephen Keshi took over as the national team boss and part of his contract was to qualify Nigeria to the 2013 AFCON in South Africa and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after which his contract expired. Keshi not only qualified the Eagles to AFCON 2013 but won the competition and was hugely celebrated. He also qualified the team to the second round of the Mundial in Brazil.

After the World Cup, it was clear that the NFF was not really interested in renewing the contract of the big boss and its chairman, Amaju Pinnick, then newly elected did not hide the fact that he was not a great fan of Keshi when he questioned his competence during the World Cup in Brazil.

“I like Keshi as a person, but the Eagles run-up to the World Cup and their first game against Iran has proved to me that Keshi has reached his limit. He is a national hero. I celebrate him for all he has achieved with the team in such a short time, but it appears he can’t move the Eagles forward unless he improves on his abilities. We failed to go further in Brazil because our coaches did not adopt the scientific approach to winning matches. Football has gone beyond having a coaching crew on the bench. The trend now is to have the technical back-room staff, peopled by expert coaches, who win matches from the bench,” Pinnick had reportedly said in an interview after the last FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

But this was not enough warning for the former Togolese coach and he went on to tinker the Super Eagles through the 2015 AFCON qualifier matches without a contract and failed to qualify the team.

Keshi’s contract expired on June 30 and he said afterwards that he had given up negotiations over a new deal, but only to rescind on his decision to walk away.

“I want to respect the wishes of Nigerians and the appeal by the Sports Minister to handle the team at least for the two games. The need to answer the patriotic call and respect the wishes of Nigerians informed my coming for the key games.

I’m going to see out these two games and we’ll hopefully then sit down and talk about a new contract. We worked so hard to win the Nations Cup in South Africa, I think we should do all that we can to defend it,” Keshi had said.

After failing to qualify Nigeria for the 2015 AFCON, Keshi was eventually appointed Nigeria coach for the third time and signed a two-year contract.

“It’s a fresh start. We need the support of our fans, media and every Nigerian to return the team to where we truly belong. As a coach and former player I was also hurt that we failed to qualify for the last Nations Cup. I remain confident that this time around we will see an improvement, change in attitude and positive results. To succeed we all need to come together as one because Nigeria belongs to us – this is not Stephen Keshi’s team but our national team,” Keshi told BBC Sport.

Clause 4.1 of the contract however stated that:
“The NFF shall employ the head coach for a period of two (2) years. Provided in the unlikely event that the senior male national team (the Super Eagles) under the head coach fail to make it to the semifinals of the 2016 African Nations Championship (CHAN), the NFF in its absolute discretion may decide to terminate this present contract.”

Clause 4.3 reads: “Notwithstanding the provisions set out above or any other provision in this contract, the federation shall retain the right to terminate this agreement at any time where it is of the opinion that the coach, as demonstrated by his performance does not possess the ability or competence to achieve the federation’s objectives as set out in this contract. In such a case, the NFF shall summarily terminate this contract without prejudice to the settlement by the parties of any existing financial obligations between them.”
Clause 5.4 of the contract says: “The head coach shall select the best crop of players of the Super Eagles who are in his opinion ready to excel in friendly and competitive games in consultation with the technical committee and the technical study group of the NFF.”

After the termination of his appointment, a statement by the federation’s Executive Committee, said: “having thoroughly reviewed the reports/findings of the NFF Disciplinary Committee and NFF Technical and Development Committee, as well as having reviewed the actions and inactions of Mr. Stephen Keshi, in the performance of his duties as Super Eagles’ Head Coach, which we found to lack the required commitment to achieve the federation’s objectives as set out in the coach’s employment contract.

“To this end and pursuant to the provisions of Clause 4.3 of the Employment Contract between Mr. Stephen Keshi and the NFF (The Contract) and the various clauses therein, the Nigeria Football Federation has decided to exercise its option to summarily terminate the employment contract of Mr. Stephen Keshi with the Federation with immediate effect.”

NFF stated that the termination was “without prejudice to the settlement of any existing and due financial obligations between the NFF and Mr. Keshi.”

Speaking on behalf of the Executive Committee of NFF, 1st Vice President of the body, Seyi Akinwunmi assured Nigerians that the decision was not taken lightly or with any prejudice, but in the ultimate interest of Nigeria football.

Akinwunmi, who thanked Keshi for his services to the country and wished him the very best in his future endeavours also said: “In the interim, the Super Eagles’ team affairs will be jointly managed by Assistant Coach, Salisu Yusuf and the Technical Directorate of the NFF headed by Coach Shuaibu Amodu, until the Federation names in due course a new Head Coach, who, along with the NFF will chart a new direction for the Super Eagles to ensure credible participation in international competitions and assist in building a sustainable football culture for the country.”

Meanwhile, former Director-General of the National Sports Commission (NSC), Patrick Ekeji, has said that the NFF) was right by terminating the appointment of Super Eagles Head Coach, Stephen Keshi.

Ekeji argued that the federation had no confidence in the coach and the right thing to do was to part ways in the interest of the nation.
“The NFF have done what they should have done before. They have lost confidence in Keshi long time ago, and when you don’t have confidence in your employee, there is no way you can work together. I have said it before that they should take a decision on time and I am happy they have done that. They should start looking for a new coach immediately and if they already have one, he should resume without any delay,” Ekeji said.

In his reaction, former Green Eagles winger, Adokiye Amiesimaka, said he was not surprised at the removal of Keshi because the current NFF board never believed in him, saying the termination of Keshi’s two-year contract because he applied for the Ivorian job, would not come to many Nigerians as a surprise.

“It is clear that the moment he was employed and after winning the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament, they did not want him. Keshi was not wanted by the NFF. After winning the cup, Keshi ran into different problems with the federation. Some top NFF officials made it clear that they wanted a foreign coach; they were merely looking for excuse to throw him out,” Adokiye said.

The former Chairman of Sharks FC of Port Harcourt said it would have dawned on Keshi that his employers did not want him. “I saw it coming, Keshi should have seen it coming, I am sure other Nigerians too should have seen it coming, he was never their choice.”
To many therefore, Keshi only waited to be sacked as it was obvious from his many running battles with the NFF eggheads and some stringent conditions in his contract that was all the while sitting on a gun powder waiting to explode.