–Seasoned football administration John Mastoroudes speaks to Complete Sports Saturday
on the lingering Contract quagmire between the the NFF and Stephen Keshi, as well as other
You must have been watching with keen interest the Stephen Keshi conundrum, which has kept Nigerian football at a standstill for months now. Does it bother you that Super Eagles is without a head coach?
I don’t know why there is so much noise within the football federation concerning what to do about Stephen Keshi. He (Keshi) started so well when he was given the job to manage Nigerian football. I thought he was the best thing to happen to Nigerian football, he began so well but ended badly.
But soccer pundits believe Keshi couldn’t have gone bad overnight after he led Nigeria to win AFCON 2013 . In your opinion, what are some of the pitfalls that led to Big Boss fall from grace to grass?
Look, you need to work hard to qualify for a competition but once you don’t prepare well, you don’t get there. When you don’t do well, you should resign honourably and if you don’t want to, you get fired. In my opinion Stephen Keshi was a failure. How can there be an African Cup of Nations without Nigeria? We were the defending champions and we didn’t even qualify. Even at that, it is not just about qualifying for the tournament but also the fact that we played rubbish football. In my own opinion, I think Keshi has lost the will of his players to play for him. It is high time we move on without Keshi.
But cynics say the Federation has allowed itself to be controlled by the political juggernauts that would do anything to ensure Keshi remains as Super Eagles coach. Don’t you think NFF’s delay in determining Keshi’s future is dragging Nigerian football backward?
All this talk about Keshi’s contract has been allowed to drag on for too long. It is not good for him and also not good for NFF. I think NFF should have come up with a plan B and a strong structure that will help cater for issues like this. It is as though NFF does not have any other option that is why they are still talking to Keshi . If NFF had a plan B in place, we would have known where we are going by now.
In your own opinion, where did Keshi get it all wrong?
Look, the strength of a Manager lies in the ability of his players. How far a coach can manage a team successfully will be determined by the quality of the players he has at his disposal. But when a coach fails to feature his top players who played a huge role in ensuring they win a competition, then there is a problem. There will be a problem if you feature players who have no experience or record in international football.
But Keshi blamed NFF for not allowing him to see through his blueprint which included building the national team with local players. Do you agree with Keshi’s view on this?
I have been watching the league for many years now and I am yet to see those top quality players who can be called upon to build a strong national team. I think Keshi just bowed to pressure to give local players opportunities to prove themselves and it did not pay off in the end. It is difficult for any coach to raise a strong national team with our league players within a short time. We don’t have local talents, anybody that says that we have top players in our league; me I no see am. I don’t know what NFF said but all I know is that Keshi featured local players because there was an outcry for the local players to feature in Super Eagles like their foreign counterparts. Now we are talking about Kelechi Iheanacho, who is a talent that should have been invited to the national team. I don’t know why we are waiting for Iheanacho to mature more than he has now before he starts playing for Nigeria.
Keshi did maintain that Iheanacho is too young to play for Super Eagles.
(Cuts in ) He is not too young to play for Nigeria. Why would Keshi say he is too young? That boy is good and mature enough to play for Super Eagles. I don’t want to speak further on that.
What is the way forward for Nigerian football?
That is a long story that we cannot exhaust in one day. When Keshi was appointed as Super Eagles Manager, I believed he was the best choice. When Amaju Pinnick came in as NFF Chairman, I also thought he is a good choice but they have to prove it and justify their appointments. In Nigeria there is so much self interest in everything we do. When someone is winning we celebrate them but once they fail, they get the stick, even though I agree that football is about winning and losing. Why would a coach drop a top player like Victor Moses? This is a player who was the fulcrum of your squad that won 2013 AFCON but you chased him out of the national team. Well, they know better.
Keshi’s camp said the former Mali Manager is being patriotic for staying on rather than resigning after all he was called upon by the President to stay on the job. What is your take on this?
I have known Keshi right from when he started playing football. I expected him to have resigned and moved on after he failed to qualify for AFCON 2015. Keshi would have moved on too but he was pressured to stay . I don’t know why the President got involved in this issue. Football is about your record; you do well and stay on, you fail and resign. Once Samson Siasia failed to qualify for Nations Cup, he was fired and not allowed to stay on. When Siasia left as Super Eagles Manager , Keshi became a popular choice and now that he has failed he needs not stay further. NFF should be allowed to decide on Keshi’s future. Do we really have a national team coach at all? Of course not!
Should NFF start combing Europe for a foreign coach as Keshi’s replacement?
Look, Nigeria is one of the biggest football playing nations in Africa. I think we have to look for a coach with a good track record that can take our football to the next level. Whether the coach is a European, African or Brazilian, the NFF need to set up a committee that will get the best Manager for the country. Let him come down to Nigeria and be interviewed and then start the job immediately. Once a Manager fails then he should go. It is quite unfortunate that is the language of the game; you win then you become a hero, lose today and you are fired. When Del Bosque handled Real Madrid and failed later on, he left for other jobs and won the 2010 World Cup with Spain. Some coaches are good in clubs but may not do well in national teams.
How can Samson Siasia learn from his past mistakes now that he is back at the helm of the U-23 national team?
Siasia has always done well in age grade football but he has not been able to achieve the same in Super Eagles. I think there is a problem somewhere and that must be addressed. Something is surely missing which I believe should be corrected. If we really want to develop our football , we just have to get another coach, whether European or African so that our football can improve
Thank you for talking to Complete Sports Saturday.
You are welcome!