BY ONOCHIE ANIBEZE
Stephen Keshi was the first to step out of the meeting with the Technical Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation Tuesday.
He told the press that he had submitted a provisional list for the 2014 Brazil World Cup to the committee.
The whole country had waited for the list. Speculations on possible invitees had kept everybody in suspense. Would Ikechukwu Uche and Osaze be on the list? What about out-of- form goalkeeper, Chigozie Agbim?
The list would be released by Paul Bassey the spokesman of the committee or Demola Olajire, the Director of Communications of the federation, the reporters outside the building hoped. They waited.
And Paul Bassey stepped out and announced that the federation would consult on the list which they would now release in a week’s time.
There were speculations that the federation would tamper with the list to include the likes of Ike Uche if Keshi did not include them. And when Keshi said that he submitted the list and Bassey followed up with the consultation theory on the list they painted a picture of a deadlock. Could they have had issues with some names which they intend to sort out in a week’s time?, many imagined and speculated Tuesday night.
We can report to you this morning that the statements from Keshi and Bassey were merely planned to manage a bad situation, a disappointment the officials felt would paint both them and Keshi in bad light.
Keshi, representing the technical crew and Bassey representing the federation did not tell the nation the truth. The truth was that Keshi did not submit any list and pleaded to be given time to do so. This, we gathered, was apparently borne out of fear that the federation might tamper with his list.
He wanted nerves to calm down. That appeared irresponsible to some members who argued that Keshi knew of the meeting and the expectations of the whole country. But Keshi, we also gathered, was executing a ploy to be in control of the team he would announce, a team capable of walling off external influences and producing result in Brazil.
However, that didn’t appear to make sense to officials since it was still a provisional list of 30 players which would still be pruned to 23 after the camping in USA. But Keshi was said to be employing delay tactics to avoid interference.
“Keshi did not submit any list. He pleaded for time. Everybody was shocked. The whole country knew of April 22 date and now he says the list is not ready on the grounds that he was still making last minute search for players,” a source close to the Technical Committee said, adding “the committee was totally disappointed that Keshi wasted their time, money and energy by coming without the list. He could have informed the federation in time that his list was not ready and the meeting could have been rescheduled. He did not show respect to the federation.”
But a source close to Keshi said that Keshi felt that ensuring adequate preparation was more important than the list which would still be released.
“Keshi went to the meeting with preparation more in his mind than a list everybody thought wiould be submitted in good time,” the source said.
The federation source revealed that the federation considered sanctioning Keshi but was worried about the interpretation of their action by the Nigerian media which has doggedly backed Keshi whether he was wrong or right on any issue.
They also felt that it was better to avoid heating up the football scene few days to the World Cup. Keshi’s source defended his action, saying that “all he is doing is geared towards doing well at the World Cup and you will see that the end will justify the means.”