Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Keshi & The Eagles [Season III] ...more than meets the eye

Season I
An unending “rebuilding” process (initiated as a ‘home-based players-induction-project’ of some sort) heralded Coach Keshi’s first stint as the substantive Head Coach of the Super Eagles in 2011. In the face of widespread criticism of his methods and choices, the ensuing team wobbled and fumbled through qualification, but managed – in what I still consider a fluke – to cart home the 2013 AFCON trophy. The Eagles had suddenly seemed to have found their wings again and there was renewed hope of a worthy national team going, at least, by the fighting spirit Keshi was able to instil in the team.
Keshi became a national hero and threatened to resign after the competition but was implored to stay on by the Presidency; an incident which made him seemingly untouchable thereafter.

A very poor outing at the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup thereafter further spotlighted Keshi’s mediocre methods and biased player selection. Hope melted and fear returned about the team’s true ability, especially with the World Cup twelve months away. Calls for the deployment of technical support to fortify the team’s tactical capacity (in view of Keshi’s obvious tactical incompetence) ensued.
Meanwhile, Keshi’s dictatorial, vindictive and overbearing stance intensified in the victimization and marginalization of several of the country’s better players who were expected to beg him, if they wanted to be invited to the country’s national team! He also abhorred every form of criticism irrespective of the source, validity and constructiveness.

Keshi had his way, amidst the uproar that accompanied these controversies, and led the Super Eagles to Brazil 2014 for Nigeria’s fifth world Cup appearance. His indecorously selected squad scaled unconvincingly past the first round but was knocked out in the second – despite the abundance of talents, who could easily have made it to the last eight or beyond, at the country’s disposal.

Oddly Keshi had, in three years, equalled Coach Clemens Westerhoff’s accomplishments! Unfortunately, after achieving this managerial orgasm of sorts, there was hardly any motivation to do more. With these, and the stories he peddled about being courted by seven national teams, it would not have been illogical to relieve him of his services.

Season II
All the claims about receiving several job offers outside Nigeria turned out to be empty boasts as Coach Keshi stayed on (ironically, without a definite contract) with a mandate to qualify for the 2015 AFCON. But for a man who “had nothing to prove”, things only went worse.
As “African champions….just back from the World Cup”, complacency set in and the team’s deteriorating performances persisted. The AFCON qualifiers once again brought to the fore Coach Keshi’s tactically barrenness and inferiority which so consistently presented in a blank, dumb facial expression (or am I the only one who sees that look?) as the team lost embarrassingly to Congo at home, culminating in the non-qualification for the 2015 AFCON despite a late desperate resurgence by the players.  
Yet, like a panel-beater demanding an exorbitant fee to solve a car engine problem, Keshi was demanding 10 million Naira of tax-payers money monthly for a job he lacks the requisite aptitude and attitude for…

Keshi’s disengagement was a near-certainty thereafter with this failure bolstering calls for his sack; especially since Coach Samson Siasia (whom Keshi replaced) was sacked on the similar grounds. The new board of the NFF publicly voiced their intentions to bring in a new substantive coach…

Season III
Keshi is a normal coach, not a spectacular one (I say “normal” instead of “ordinary” out of respect for his achievements). He has his strengths (restoring discipline and a fighting spirit in the team, for instance) as well as his well-documented repertoire of weaknesses (man-mismanagement, dictatorship, conceitedness, vindictiveness, tactical ineptness). However, when weaknesses outweigh strengths, inefficiency and unproductivity are inevitable.

A colossal deterioration of the Super Eagles has evidently been the outcome of Keshi’s romance with the Super Eagles so far. It defies logic therefore, when a faulty tool is still being put to continual use. It defeats rationality and reason that the NFF again announced him coach of the Nigerian Men’s Senior National Team in stark defiance to a justifiable outcry amongst the populace for his removal.

The sincerity of purpose of the NFF is called to question when a man who is not only uninspired and unenthusiastic, but tactically and managerially deficient, is still mandated to undertake a task – as crucial to national glory, unity and happiness – as the Super Eagles top job. The questions are many and varied…
Does Keshi merit this re-appointment, and on what grounds?
What does Keshi now have to offer the team that he did not have in the last three years?
What exactly is Keshi expected to do for the Super Eagles at this point, and hereon after?

I have nothing against Keshi. I have a lot against his reappointment because on the evidence of his stewardship so far, it very glaring that he is not the best man to lead the Super Eagles – not anymore! We will only have to wait, watch and hope that Keshi’s re-appointment – obviously prompted by more than meets the public eye – turns out to be beneficial to the country’s football, and that it brings joy to the hundreds of millions of passionate and loyal citizens.

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