Arguably, I think they do now, after Keshi and his team ended a 19-year wait for Nigeria’s third Nations Cup title. The sort of magic Oscar Washington Tabárez performed for Uruguay in 2011 and what Hervé Renard did for Zambia two years ago, Keshi has done for Nigeria, even though he has come under criticism in recent times. And honestly, given the clashing political interests in Nigerian football, and the coterie and tribal divides coupled with fixed interests and corruption, Keshi’s achievement is no doubt, one to acknowledge for a long time.
In similarity to what Tabárez and Renard did, he took an essentially commonplace squad with one or two gifted players, made them a unit and then made them believe in themselves. But unlike Tabárez and Renard, he did it while rolling a balsa, though shark-infested waters, with the easy conduct of a man on a sun lounger. There is iron underneath the chuckle. He seems to possess a ready appreciation of the idiocy of life – and there is little more absurd in life than the administration of Nigerian football.
Prior to the Nations Cup tournament, there were rumours of a conspiracy within the Nigerian sports ministry to replace Keshi. And even in the moment of victory, there was talk that the Nigerian football federation was preparing a bid for Renard. Nigeria have also had its fare share of European coaches who took charge and achieved nothing, particularly Berti Vogts.
Keshi is the first and only Nigerian to win the Cup of Nations as coach, and he had stated it clearly through the tournament that he accepted his achievements beyond Nigeria. “The white guys are coming down to Africa just for cash,” he said. “They are not doing anything that is difficult for us to do. I am no racist but that’s just the way it is. I am never going to oppose a white coach in Africa because I’ve always worked with white coaches. If you want to bring in a classic, an experienced manager from Europe, I am ready to learn from that manager, because he’s better than me, he probably has more knowledge than me. Meanwhile, we have quality African players, or ex-African players, who can do the same thing, but the opportunity is not been given to them because they’re just black dudes. I honestly don’t like it”. He concluded
Stephen Keshi got off to a flying start with victory over Chad. The Super Eagles came out victorious with a 2-0 win against Chad in their Group G opener in qualification for the 2017 African Nations Cup.
Nigeria were firm favourites for the game but had to battle to find a way past their opponents, with goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama needing to stay 100% focused to keep the visitors at bay during the first half.
The Super Eagles threatened to break the deadlock in the second half when Aaron Samuel hit the post before Gbolahan Salami eventually put them ahead on 63 minutes with a wonderful strike.
Odion Ighalo then got pulled down in the penalty area before stepping up to convert the spot-kick for a 2-0 lead, his first goal for the National team. But Nigeria saw Ogenyi Onazi get the marching order for shoving after the spot kick had been given.