Earlier today, the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) decided, not unexpectedly, to discontinue with Coach Stephen Keshi's service. After the home loss to Congo Republic and then the loss to Sudan in Khartoum, it was expected that Keshi's tenure as coach was at its end. That Keshi's team got back on track yesterday with a 3-1 win over Sudan was too little and too late. Nigeria was still in danger of missing out of the 2015 Cup for African Nations that Keshi's team had won in 2013.
However, what was interesting is the text that surrounded the decision not to continue with Keshi's services. One was in statements attributed to the NFF at the announcement and the other emerged in Channels TV interview of NFF President Pinnick Amaju. I focus on the two below:
The text at Keshi's dismissal was striking as it included an NFF offer to sponsor Keshi and his assistants to a coaching course. The question is why and why at the time of discontinuing with his service? Was the intent to re-hire him after the course or was this a way to thank the coaches for their services? It is a shocking gesture and one that could easily be interpreted as a calculated insult. Not that coaches should not go on refresher courses but to make this a fulcrum of discussion at Keshi's dismissal and in the weeks in which the NFF and media have publicly questioned Keshi's tactical knowledge is clearly a back slap at Keshi to accentuate what the NFF claims was Keshi's deficiency. In reality, Keshi has no reason to depend on the NFF to pay his way to a coaching course if the coach intends to undertake such a course.
Last week, there were some who insinuated that it was difficult to discontinue with Keshi's services because the coach has grown "too big" for the NFF and that the coach backed by "high offices." Some argued that the coach needed the usual "soft landing" to satisfy such backers. But was the coaching course the "soft landing?" I think not. Instead, the offer smacks of a calculated insult and I do not believe for one minute that the coach will take the offer from the NFF. Instead, Keshi will leave his achievements to speak for him in comparison to coaches that the NFF will hire in the near future.
The second text emerged when Mr. Amaju struggled on television to justify the decision not to continue with Keshi's services. One would think that it was evident that such a decision would be taken considering that recent results pointed to such a decision. Instead, Mr. Amaju struggled to cite the fans who were at yesterday's game. However, it was clear that a majority of the fans at the game supported the team and were overjoyed at victory. It is hard to affirm Mr. Amaju's claims that the fans had attempted to attack the coach. That is a shocking claim and in fact a needless one. It would have been straight forward and understandable to simply cite the recent poor record as justification for not continuing with Keshi's service than trying to conjure or construct an imaginary.
In the end, Keshi's era has come and gone. He had revived Nigeria's football during his tenure in many ways. In the end it came to an expected halt as such tenure often does when Keshi's team hit a bad patch that stretched inconveniently across several games. That NFF took the decision to discontinue was a justifiable end but the text surrounding it must certainly leave a sour taste.