January 16, 2015
Not many would have envisioned the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations without defending champions and crowd-puller Nigeria.
Not before the qualifiers kicked off; not after the Super Eagles lost their opening game at home to Congo – a first qualifying home defeat in three decades; not when they drew their next game against South Africa.
Glimpses of the unthinkable started to appear after the three-time African champions lost their third game away in Sudan. Even then there was still some hope, and confidence was almost fully restored when Nigeria managed their first win at home to Sudan next.
The Nigeria Football Federation, under the then new leadership of Amaju Pinnick, was unconvinced and sacked coach Stephen Keshi. They were however forced to do a U-turn when the Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan ordered Keshi reinstated.
It looked a good decision when the Super Eagles won their next game away to Congo and just needed to win at home in their final qualifier to secure a ticket to the AFCON. However the new optimism proved a dead cat bounce as Keshi’s charges only managed only a lucky draw againstSouth Africa.
Not only has the AFCON miss riled fans and pundits, the continued stay of Keshi on the job apparently with presidential backing has frustrated many across the vast soccer-mad nation.
Had there been a new coach as it was in 2011 when then coach Samson Siasia was replaced by Keshi for failing to qualify for the 2012 finals, fans may have had something to be cheerful about. They would consequently have paid this AFCON better attention.
As things stand though, Keshi is currently clinging on to the job, though he has made sure to stir clear of the public. The once incorrigibly talkative tactician is now as quiet as a nun.
The fans too are quiet as their frustrations have fallen on deaf ears. It has not helped that the NFF is having to offer Keshi a new contract and the man is reportedly picking and choosing his terms.
Fans have sought consolation in the U-20 and U-23 teams, while the Super Eagles and Keshi are now the butt of jokes when anyone bothers with them.
A recent friendly with Cote d’Ivoire was routinely dismissed, while the decision to play Yemen in another friendly has made the moment for fans looking to vent their frustrations.
“Lols! Yemeni!! I believe friendly with Sao Tome and Principe is on the queue!!! Not forgettingAfghanistan, Vietnam and Somalia!!! lolsssssss!!!” Greatoladapo wrote on Sl10.ng.
Sunnypa11 drily wrote “Serves them right” on the same website.
“Where are the comments on this article? Times have really changed. Stephen Keshi has achieved one thing that no other coach in the history of Nigeria has achieved – get a soccer conscious country like Nigeria to lose interest in Nigerian soccer. Wow!!!”
In response he got a fair share of comical ventilations from the Nigerians, but here it the one that hit the nail on the head in my view, “Lol Islip, the interest is still there. A coaching change will open the floodgates of comments”.
And that comment was from a contributor named Eagles.
Source: Kenneth Ezaga, Africaplays.com