The Super Eagles’ Coach, Stephen Keshi, said on Wednesday that his exclusion of striker Osaze Odemwingie and midfielder Mikel Obi from his list of foreign-based players for the Liberia qualifier was not based on sentiment.
Keshi spoke with newsmen in Abuja against the backdrop of reports alleging that the Nigeria Football Association (NFA) might have arm-twisted him into dropping them.
The coach said that he and Mikel had an understanding, adding that the Chelsea of England player called him all the time.
He quoted the player as saying that he (Mikel) was not ready to play on artificial turf because of his condition.
“I told him (Mikel), if you come you must give me 100 per cent but we might be playing on the artificial turf, and he said the turf idea was not so good but that I should let him talk to his doctor.
“He (Mikel) called me back four days later and said, `Coach, I don’t think I can play because of the turf, please if there is any other game, I will like to come’.
“ I said okay, since we have one in October, we can bring him in but that is not a guarantee,” Keshi said.
The Super Eagles handler explained that Osaze’s case was entirely different from Mikel’s, claiming that Osaze never responded to his calls.
“I called Osaze but he didn’t pick. I sent him a Short Message Service (SMS) wishing him happy birthday and to know his readiness to play. He replied saying he was going to call me back the next day at noon.
“Up till this time, he hasn’t called me; I guess he is not in the mood to play for Nigeria,’’ the coach said.
Keshi, who had previously coached Mali and Togo, stressed that his primary task now was getting Nigeria the needed result in Liberia and not to bother himself with those invited or not.
He reiterated that no amount of criticism would change his development plan for the team.
The coach, fondly called “The Big Boss” from his playing days, noted that no coach would want to exclude a good player from his team as the game was all about achieving results.
“You may see the selection of the players as a fan but I see it as a coach, because I know what I want from them,’’ he said.
Keshi revealed that he had studied the Lone Star’s pattern of play, watching video clips of their games.
However, he said that he expected a different approach from the friendly in which they lost to the Super Eagles by two goals.
The friendly was played on Feb. 15 in Monrovia.
“We are talking to our players because the Liberians are going to come out with a different attitude and approach; their system is going to be different from what we saw the last time.
“On our side, we are talking to the players; taking them to that point where they should be 100 per cent focused and have a different attitude and mental toughness because the match is going to be tough,’’ Keshi said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the match, which is slated to hold on Sept. 8 in Monrovia, is a qualifier for the African Cup of Nations, holding in South Africa in 2013. (NAN)