Shortly after the Super Eagles were eliminated from the Brazil 2014 World Cup , Coach Stephen Keshi granted a widely published interview saying that not even President Goodluck Jonathan could make him coach the Eagles again.
His contracted ended with the World Cup he past Aminu Maigari board was not ready to renew his contract after they felt he had lost passion for the Nigerian job and took decisions that did not favour the Eagles.
We run Keshi’s interview with The Cable News again today. Note that all the countries which were said to have shown interest in Keshi denied ever showing interest in the Nigerian. Note that it was first published in Vanguard on July 3, 2014.
Knowing what you know now, what would you have done as regards the preparations of the team before this World Cup?
I would have loved to have had them in camp a lot earlier. The European season made a little bit difficult as I did not want to have only one half of the squad in camp before the others joined.
We had less than two weeks to perfect our plans and it showed as it was only when we got to the tournament that we started picking up our rhythm. We had only three friendly matches which are really not enough to get ready for a tournament like this. So, those are what I would have liked to change.
Have you really quit your post?
Yes. I have done my bit. I am tired of all the intrigues and backbiting and insinuations I get. The criticisms are nothing really because even siblings criticise each other. In this job sometimes it goes overboard and my family and those of my players get called names.
I have had to tell the players many times to ignore those criticisms and just focus on the tasks at hand.
There are many Nigerians who support you. Many who would like to see you continue the work you started with the team. Can you not change your mind for them?
The same ones who were calling for my head after the Iran match? That ‚Äúthe World Cup is too big for Keshi‚Äù? I know there are many who truly support what we have been trying to do over these past months but I just cannot continue in this job anymore.
To start with, my contract ended with the last match and the Federation never approached me for a renewal. What does that say? It says to me I’m not wanted. I am going to go and rest, spend some time with my family and then hopefully get another job where I am wanted.
After the Afcon win, President Goodluck Jonathan intervened and sorted things out. What if he does this time?
As much as I respect and appreciate the number one citizen of the country I am afraid that this time it is going to be difficult. I am totally done with some of these people.
If you were the Sports Minister of Nigeria what is it you will do or try and put in place to make the job of the national team coach a lot easier?
Make the Federation pay his salaries on time and those of his assistants. Build a training centre and facility for the national team to train. We never had anywhere decent to train. The Abuja National Stadium is filled with sand and the worst kind of sand. That means when someone goes to ground he will have skin wounds.
I and my assistants spend our own money to buy training cones and some of the things we use for training sessions. In most countries of the world when a coach is hired he brings in his own coaching team. Well for two years now I have been told to pay the salary of my assistant Valery Houandinou, someone who has been with me from Togo through to Mali ‚Äì where those countries paid his salary alongside paying mine.
In two and half years, I had no official residence. I stayed in a hotel. I had no official car. I thank God for Chief Mike Adenuga for those two cars he gave to me after the Afcon win. However, these federation officials will continue to trumpet that ‚Äúthey gave Keshi everything to succeed.
Mali is one of the poorest countries in Africa but I was given my place of residence and an official car within three days of me taking on the job. I also had a house in Togo and was never owed salaries.
What will happen to the young players you have built up into internationals as it means that Nigeria is losing out on the continuity that you staying on would have brought on?
Well, there is a nucleus of a team to work with there so a new coach will have the players there. In my mind I could set out two equally strong squads with the players available to me.
However, the new coach might come in and say that these players would not fit into his style and so it will be. Not going to be my problem again (smiles).
Clearly your experience with Togo and Mali has helped you at this job?
Oh, without a shadow of doubt. God took me to those countries to give me the experience of dealing with people. It is far more difficult to work in your own country I have just found out. When I qualified Togo for the Afcon and the World Cup I got their national honour and diplomatic passport.
Such was their gratitude. They make you comfortable and of course results followed. God was awesome in taking me through that route.
Did you take a risk with the squad you took to the tournament?
I did not take a risk. From the training camp and from the friendly matches I chose the players I believed would give me what I wanted on the field. People say I took players to sell them and I laugh.
Michael Babatunde has not even started playing. Ramon Azeez will be a top player and he has a big heart. It is unfortunate for Reuben Gabriel that he has suffered a lot with injuries because he has every attribute to be a super player. Many Nigerians who are sincere know his qualities. I trust that he will come through.
But would you be his or their coaches then?
No. My job with Nigeria is done. I just hope who comes in will give them the opportunity to showcase their talents. When I took over there was no standing team and I had to build from scratch really but am gone.
I have loved serving my country but I believe I am done.
- An interview Keshi granted the cable.ng after the defeat by France in Brasilia