By Ben Efe and agency reports
The mind games between Coach Stephen Keshi and his Malawian counterpart, Tom Saintfeit ahead of the World Cup qualifier between the Super Eagles and the Flames of Malawi, took a new dimension yesterday when Saintfeit accused Keshi of racism.
Saintfiet argued that Keshi by calling him a ‘’White dude”, has made racial remarks, which the world soccer governing body frowns at. The Belgian-born coach claims to have instructed his lawyers to make a formal complaint to FIFA.
He was employed by Malawi Football Association in their desperate bid to turn the tide against Nigeria in the group E World Cup qualification table. Saintfiet was employed by the Nigeria Football Federation as technical director, but his coming to Nigeria was scuttled by Sports Minister, Bolaji Abdullahi and he sees victory against Nigeria as a sweet revenge for him.
“It is unacceptable that any person says these words – it is clear racism. It is 100% sure that my lawyers will lodge a complaint with Fifa,” Saintfiet told BBC
Keshi who was reacting to Saintfiet’s call for the September 7 match to be moved from Calabar, because of fear of terror attacks, was quoted as saying on Vox Africa Sports360:
“If he wants to talk to Fifa, he should go back to Belgium. He is not an African person, he is a white dude, he should go back to Belgium.
“I have never used any words like these to any coach. He has no right, who is he?
“All other countries play in Calabar. Calabar is one of the safest places in Nigeria… He is mad. I wish I could say it to his face.”
Belgian Saintfiet told local media at the time that he was concerned about security because he claims “the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office says it is a no-travel area”.
“Keshi’s words create hate and aggression, and creates a risk ahead of the match in Calabar,” Saintfiet added. “These comments are unacceptable and I am very sad about them.
“I will not say any bad words about Mr Keshi, nor Nigeria – I only spoke about moving the game.
“If Fifa takes racism seriously, then you have to take it seriously in both directions. If a European said something of this nature about an African, you would have a huge problem.
“I am against racism in all directions.”
Keshi said yesterday that he viewed all the noise been made by Saintfiet as a distraction, adding that he will do all his talking in the pitch. But media officer of the Super Eagles, Ben Alaiya dismissed the accusations.
“Keshi is not a racist. How can he be when he played most of his football in Europe particulary Belgium where he was captain of Anderlecht, he was also captain of Cheleroi.
“Saintfient is just playing mind games, because he knows that the Eagles will beat Malawi anytime and anywhere.”