By Olawale Ajimotokan
President General of the Nigeria Football Supporters Club, Dr Rafiu Ladipo has admonished Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi from forcing Joseph Yobo into international retirement.
Ladipo told reporters in Abuja Thursday that though Yobo has lost his starting position in the national team, the Fenerbache centre back still has a role to play in the national team.
Keshi and Yobo fell apart at the Africa Cup of Nations after the national coach refused to reinstate the captain into the starting line-up after he recovered from an injury strain but could not dislodge his replacement, Kingsley Omeruo.
The crack widened when Yobo let out his frustration following his exclusion from the roster for the World Cup qualifier against Kenya in Calabar, an occasion that marked the first coming together of the Eagles since their fairy-tale AFCON victory in South Africa.
Yobo accused Keshi of not showing him respect as the captain and let out a broadsheet at assistant coach Daniel Amokachi, whom he accused of feeling threatened by his presence and lifetime achievement.
The crack manifested again when Keshi ignored Yobo from the 30-man list of players summoned for the string of forthcoming international engagements, including the friendly against Mexico in USA at the end of May and for the World Cup qualifying trips to Kenya and Namibia which come before the FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil in June.
But Ladipo, who pleaded for caution in the handling of the Yobo crisis, said that Nigeria could not afford to have a split team, particularly now that the Eagles are not in a commanding position in the African World Cup qualifying Group F.
He also said that Yobo should be accorded some respect as he is the captain of the team and the country’s most capped player of all time.
“Yobo‘s commitment to the national team can never be doubted when you consider that with 96 appearances, he is the country’s most capped player in history. We should allow him to attain the 100th milestone now that he is close to that and only let his retirement be a natural but not a forced process,” Ladipo pleaded.
He also said that the federation should not allow the prevailing crisis to factionalize the national team into groups of those for and against Yobo.