The termination of the appointment of Stephen Keshi as the Chief Coach of the Super Eagles by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has paved the way for the return of Shaibu Amodu back to the coaching job for the fifth time. According to NFF first, Vice President, Barrister Seyi Akinwunmi, the Super Eagles’ team affairs will be jointly managed by Assistant Coach, Salisu Yusuf and the Technical Directorate of the NFF headed by Coach Amodu, until the Federation hires a new Head Coach, who, “along with the NFF will chart a new direction for the Super Eagles to ensure credible participation in international competitions and assist in building a sustainable football culture for the country”.
Amodu who was formally appointed the country’s technical director last week, takes over as caretaker coach while Salisu Yusuf serves as his assistant. It would be recalled that Amodu had coached the senior national team between 1994 and 1997 before he led the Super Eagles to a third-place finish in the 2002 Nations Cup as well as qualify for the 2002 World Cup finals in Japan and South Korea.
During his stint in 2010 as national team gaffer, the Amodu-led Eagles qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa as well as won bronze medal (third-place finish) at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations in Angola before being sacked by the FA. It was the second time he had been removed from his post ahead of a World Cup finals tournament – Amodu was also fired ahead of the 2002 edition after Nigeria finished third at the 2002 Nations Cup in Mali.
Amodu is once again being called upon to handle the Super Eagles following Keshi sack over breach of contractual agreement and poor performance. The statement released on the NFF official website explained that the “Big Boss” as Keshi is fondly called was relieved of his appointment “having thoroughly reviewed the reports/findings of the NFF Disciplinary Committee and NFF Technical and Development Committee, as well as having reviewed the actions and inactions of Mr. Stephen Keshi, in the performance of his duties as Super Eagles’ Head Coach, which we found to lack the required commitment to achieve the Federation’s objectives as set out in the Coach’s employment contract.”
The statements read further: “To this end and pursuant to the provisions of Clause 4.3 of the Employment Contract between Mr. Stephen Keshi and the NFF (The Contract) and the various clauses therein, the Nigeria Football Federation has decided to exercise its option to summarily terminate the employment contract of Mr. Stephen Keshi with the Federation with immediate effect.”
The sack came barely a fortnight after the NFF Disciplinary committee started an investigation into reports that Keshi applied for the Cote d’Ivoire coaching job following publication of his name amongst applicants by the Federation of Ivory Coast Football (FIF). Keshi had denied the job application allegation, claiming instead that an unnamed agent submitted his CV for the Ivorien coaching job without his knowledge.
Stephen Keshi, a former Super Eagles’ captain led the national team to clinch the 2013 Nations Cup title in South Africa and also to the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil, losing to France in the second rounds.
Following what was adjudged a below average output after the Afcon triumph coupled with crisis in the NFF, Keshi’s contract was not renewed after the World Cup. However, a deal was later struck for the former Togolese gaffer to return to saddle and coach the Super Eagles on a match-by-match basis. As caretaker coach, Keshi endured a turbulent reign, in which he was sacked by the NFF and later reinstated following intervention from former president, Goodluck Jonathan. The caretaker deal, however, collapsed in November 2014 following the failure of the Keshi-led Eagles to reach the 2015 Nations Cup finals.
A new chapter in the Keshi, NFF romance emerged last April when the 53-year-old was rehired, signing a two-year contract to the consternation of football followers. Keshi’s return took off on a positive note when he led the Super Eagles to a 2-0 home win against Chad in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on June 13. He was still basking in the euphoria of the victory when the Cote d’Ivoire coaching job application scandal broke out, and the Delta born tactician was full of confidence when he met the NFF Disciplinary Committee on June 21. “I never applied for Cote d’Ivoire job. My name is in almost every Nation. Should i take countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania to court. It happens to every coach, is not a big deal”, Keshi claimed in his reaction to press questions after meeting the panel.
By Olisemeka Obeche