Vice-Chairman of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Technical Committee, Chief Felix Anyansi-Agwu, has advised Stephen Keshi, Coach of the Super Eagles, to concentrate his energy on how to qualify Nigeria for the next year’s World Cup rather than waste his energies on irrelevant things.
The soft-spoken Anyansi, who was the leader of delegation could barely hide his displeasure as he criticized Coach Keshi for spending too much time ridiculing and damaging the image of the NFF since the triumph of Nigeria at the 2013 AFCON tournament in South Africa.
He told him to concentrate his energies on Nigeria’s qualification for the 2014 World Cup and the confederations Cup that come up later in the year.
“I’m usually not a man that joins issues with anyone over matters that I’m against, but this time, I have chosen to react to the statements of Coach Keshi because I believe enough is enough of his blackmail of the Nigeria Football Federation.
“We won the Nations Cup in South Africa and everyone is happy. Why can’t Keshi thank God for the success and share the joys of all Nigerians? What is he constantly complaining and criticizing the federation for? Did he just assemble players and fly to South Africa and win the Cup? Was the NFF not behind him? Were there not people who played great roles and sacrificed much for the success of the team as well? He has been talking about efforts made by the NFF to sack him while we were in South Africa. He returned to Nigeria and made the same statement. Just a few days ago, I read reports of him repeating the same thing. What for?
“The success of any team in the game of football is owing to the collective efforts of many people. Show me a successful national team coach and I’ll show you a hardworking football federation. There are many people who work tirelessly behind the scene to ensure everything was in place. Why must one man continue to harass and undermine the federation that employed him and which he works for?
“As the leader of Super Eagles’ delegation to the Nations Cup in South Africa, I know the efforts and sacrifice I made prior to flying the team to Portugal before leading the it to the host country.
“After our first two draws against Burkina Faso and Zambia, questions were raised. Questions were raised by everyone as to why the team had played so unconvincingly. The NFF was put under pressure by many Nigerians who demanded to know why the Super Eagles had performed below expectations.
“During that time in South Africa, meetings were held by members of the federation to work out a way to improve on the performance of the team. Keshi himself was part of the meetings.
“After our victory against Ethiopia, everyone knew we needed much more to overcome Cote d’ Ivoire. To show our faith, support and belief in Keshi and his players, we gave $30,000 bonuses to all players and Coach Keshi received $60,000. The bonus should not have been given as the team earned $5000 for each draw and $10,000 for the win, making it $20,000 for the players and $40,000 for him.
“But no, we did not pay them based on the results but based on our commitment to success.
“We decided to show our faith and support and encourage the players and technical crew by remaining positive. Our action marked a turning point for the Super Eagles.
“The advice that Keshi was offered on how to deal with the shortcomings of the team, coupled with the full bonuses that were paid boosted our players immensely and in the game against Cote d’Ivoire, you saw a different team entirely.
“Does this look like a Federation attempting to sack a coach? Does this not indicate support and belief in a coach? In all the meetings I was present in, nobody discussed sacking Keshi.
“The job of a football coach anywhere comes with pressure; Keshi should therefore move beyond this sack story and dwell on the challenges that lie ahead. There is still a lot left to be done in qualifying the team to the World Cup in Brazil and doing well in the Confederation Cup.
“Let him stop talking and stop stabbing the NFF in the back. Let him leave the NFF alone. As the body that oversees the affairs of football in the country, we will not stop performing our oversight functions.
“We will continue to review the performances of both the coach and the players of the Super Eagles because it’s our job and because we want the best for the country and the team. If I can ask Keshi one question it will be, if the NFF were not supportive, would he have won the Nations Cup? Can you work with an unsupportive Football Federation and somehow do well in a fierce competition like the Africa Nations Cup? The answer is clearly no so he should be honest to himself and stop his criticisms of a Nigeria Football Federation that provided him a platform to succeed.
“His success is our success so there’s no way we are not going to be supportive of him and give him all the assistance he needs to do well. We know that his failure as a coach will mean a failure for the NFF so we have worked hard to make sure he succeeds. There is no way we would desire his failure or work against him, not at all. Not since his appointment.
“For the record, I have nothing personal against Coach Stephen Keshi. I believe he’s a great coach and I like and respect him as a man. I also acknowledge his contributions to the country both as a coach and during his days as a player.
“However, I don’t think that right now, he is doing the right thing by ridiculing the Federation. Quiet clearly, he doesn’t have the right people advising him. If he did, he wouldn’t remain on this collision course with the NFF. The success of the Super Eagles in South Africa should be credited to every Nigerian because somehow everyone played a role, even with their prayers.
“But for members of the NFF, even though we are not being recognized and congratulated for our efforts, we performed huge, significant roles in the triumph of the Super Eagles. So Keshi should not put himself under the spotlight and cast the NFF in bad light. He did not single-handedly put together a team, lead the boys to Portugal for camping and take them to South Africa for the Africa Cup of Nations.
“While there, he did not single-handedly manage the affairs of the contingent so why should he now portray the NFF as the enemy when all along he needed the total support of the Federation to succeed? I speak about these things because I have the interest of the Super Eagles at heart. I do not speak because I have any concealed interests; after all, we are not feeding from the NFF.
“We make sacrifices every day, behind the scenes, we keep things moving forward but we do not scream and let the whole world know about how hard we are working. We are a Federation that is committed to success and we put the success of the national teams before anything else.
“If Keshi feels the same commitment, he should demonstrate it by showing good judgment when handling matters that are potentially disruptive. As Chairman of Enyimba, I have guided the club to two CAF Champions League trophies, the first of which came after 39 years of the country’s waiting.
“Both of these titles are as prestigious as the Nations Cup because they helped put Nigerian football on the world stage. Both times we won we were hosted by the President of the Federal Republic Nigeria so I’m not new to all these.
“The fact remains the same that for the interest of unity and progress, Keshi should dwell more on matters ahead, not matters behind, more so when those matters behind will offer nothing to the present, let alone the future. We have won the Nations Cup. It is now a part of history. Let us join hands our hands to achieve more together. Enough of the bitterness.”