The late tactician made history seven years ago by becoming the first Nigerian to lift the continental trophy as a player and a coach
A member of Nigeria’s coaching staff to the 2013 African Cup of Nations, Valere Houdonou, says Stephen Keshi’s policy of finding the right balance between Nigeria Professional Football League stars and their counterparts based abroad was the key to the team’s success at the tournament.
Keshi made the bold move of picking six NPFL players in his final 23-man squad to South Africa, including Sunshine Stars’ Godfrey Oboabona, Warri Wolves’ Azubuike Egwuekwe, Kano Pillars’ Reuben Gabriel, and Enugu Rangers’ trio of Chigozie Agbim, Ejike Uzoenyi, and Sunday Mba.
That decision paid off brilliantly, though, as all of them – bar goalkeeper Agbim – earned minutes and played crucial roles, with Mba netting winners in the quarter-finals and finals.
Houdonou was a constant figure in Keshi’s backroom staff during his successful stints as head coach for the national teams of Togo and Mali.
And he says the former Super Eagles’ skipper leveraged on his experience managing on the continent to achieve his unprecedented success in South Africa.
“Every coach has its own methods, and Keshi felt if Togo and Mali can excel in Africa with a mixture of local and foreign-based players, why not Nigeria that is blessed with a higher percentage of talents?” Houdonou told the Premium Times.
“He kept to his policy of going for home-based players that are hungry for glory.
“Big boss knew everybody in Nigeria wanted to see attractive and efficient football because they hadn’t seen that at that time.
“He knew a Super Eagles that is made up of foreign-based players won’t give him that. That was why we went for rookies and won the AFCON.”