By Patrick Omorodion
After months of heart-rending performance culminating in their elimination from the last Africa Nations Cup on even number years, the Super Eagles begin another chapter in their history under another indigenous coach, Stephen Keshi in what seems a return home for the former New Nigerian Football Club and Eagles skipper.
After his stint as assistant coach under Shaibu Amodu in 2002, Keshi will be stepping into the saddle attempting to repair the damage done the team under his friend and former team-mate, Samson Siasia who shocked all when he showed up at Keshi’s unveiling ceremony in Abuja on Thursday.
Benin City, venue of the friendly against The Zebras of Botswana, the surprise team of the 2012 Nations Cup, is already agog for Keshi’s home-coming as the residents recall the exploits of their former idol in the 1980s more so as the encounter coincides with the anniversary of their Comrade Governor, Adams Oshiomhole.
As a way of soothing the nerves of angry Nigerian football fans, the Big Boss, as Keshi is fondly called, has assured that home-based players who had hitherto been consigned to the back burner will be given a pride of place in the team he will build both for the 2013 Nations Cup and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
His inclusion of the premier league’s highest goal scorer, Jude Aneke in this regard was hailed by watchers of the league which comes to an end tomorrow after a troubled season.
He has affirmed the rebuilding process will not be a piece of cake and therefore called for support from all Nigerians even as former scribe of the Nigeria Football Association, NFA, Alhaji Sani Toro described the mandate given him not only to qualify the team for the 2014 but achieve a quarter-final performance if he wants his contract to be sustained as unrealistic.
To start, Keshi has invited all the players who fell out with Siasia in his quest to stamp discipline on the team and all the players including returnee goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama and Dickson Etuhu have pledge total loyalty for him to lift the Eagles from the ashes of gloom.
To achieve this goal, Keshi picked former Rangers and Eagles player, Sylvanus Okpala, Daniel Amokachi alongside Ike Shorunmu, retained from the ruins of the Siasia era, to begin the task today against Botswana whose coach, Stanley Tshosane said they are prepared to continue their giant-killing performance against Nigeria.
Despite being a mere friendly, Keshi has said the Eagles will approach the game with all seriousness, if for nothing else, to restore the people’s confidence battered by the failure of the team to pick a ticket for the 2012 Nations Cup, the first time in 25 years.
With Chelsea midfielder, John Mikel Obi, Osaze Odemwingie and Victor Moses, recently granted approval by FIFA to dorn Nigerian colours out of the Benin tie, Keshi will bank on Joel Obi to hold the midfield and Ahmed Musa and Ike Uche to unnerve the Botsawana defence and give Nigerians something to cheer.