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Sports Minister Clears Air On NFF-Keshi Tango

Oladipo Okubanjo

Complaints by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) accusing Stephen Keshi of a lack of respect and insubordination to leadership of the soccer body rather than issue of incompetence was responsible for the delay in the coach’s reappointment, the Minister of Sports Dr. Tammy Danagogo has confirmed.

The disclosure comes one month after Keshi, who initially led the Super Eagles from 2011 to 2014, was given a new two-year contract by the NFF. Between June 2014 when his initial contract expired and April 20 when he signed a new contract, not   a few baulked at the idea of leaving the national soccer team without a substantive coach for many months. Even when officials confirmed that the federation was ready to seal a new deal with Keshi, speculations were rife that the NFF had clandestinely introduced a caveat, demanding that the coach must first apologise.

Danagogo has however revealed that the NFF’s hesitation was not down to incompetence on Keshi’s part, but due to “lack of respect and insubordination”. “When I interviewed the NFF when they were yet to re-sign him, they weren’t even complaining about incompetence or anything of the sort,” said the minister who doubles as Chairman of the National Sports Commission. “But it was more of them complaining of Keshi not respecting their superiority and insubordination on his (Keshi’s) part.” Danagogo said that he believes both Keshi and the Nigeria Football Federation have learnt their lessons and advised they should cooperate more and try to work better together.

“I believe Keshi has learnt his lessons, and so also the Nigeria Football Federation. I think they should cooperate and work well together and if they do, they will succeed,” he said. Meanwhile, the NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, has urged players given the chance to play for the Super Eagles to have a rethink before accepting invitation offers to the national team.

The players, said Pinnick, must have a rethink and also give their best to the team once they decide to honour such invites. “We have asked players to think over an invitation before they accept to come and don the white and green colours,” he said. “That is why we are having the code of conduct.

So, it is not business as usual. “We have told all players that from henceforth when they see an invite we expect that once you accept to come, you must be ready to give 200 per cent for the country.” The Super Eagles will start their qualifying matches next month when they play host to Chad in Kaduna. Keshi has invited 26 home-based players to camp ahead of the Chad encounter.

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