Barely 24 hours after guiding the Super Eagles to Nigeria’s third Africa Cup of Nations trophy, Stephen Keshi yesterday announced his resignation as the coach of the nation’s senior national team.
Neither the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) nor the National Sports Commission (NSC) officials were ready to speak on the sudden resignation that Keshi announced on the radio programme of a South African presenter, Robert Marawa, aired on Metro FM in Johannesburg.
The resignation of the Eagles’ head coach ended the hide-and-seek game Keshi and the NFF leadership have been playing since the group matches of the just-concluded 29th Africa Cup of Nations which Nigeria won with a 1-0 over the hard fighting Burkina Faso on Sunday night at the Soccer City Stadium in Soweto.
Despite spirited attempts by the NFF to douse the tension created by Keshi’s spat with the leadership of the football federation when the Super Eagles’ campaign was floundering with two draw games against Burkina Faso and Zambia, the sign of a frosty relationship between the two parties was obvious.
During a meeting at NFF’s StayEasy Hotel in Nelspruit the day after the Eagles played a draw game against Zambia, the football federation officials rebuked Keshi for his inability to win the match.
The scathing criticism he was subjected to, sources said, rankled the former Togo and Mali coach and prompted him to make up his mind to quit the job, irrespective of his team’s performance in the competition.
“It doesn’t really matter what people think about what Stephen Keshi is doing. The most important thing is what I am doing here and passing on to my team. If back home in my country, they don’t appreciate what I am doing with the team, so be it.
“You can’t force somebody to love you. You can’t force somebody to accept you. It has to come from within,” Keshi had admitted his frustration to his associates at the tournament.
He also did not fail to give a hint of his intention to resign after the game at every interaction with sportswriters covering the AFCON 2013.
But Eagles’ quarterfinal victory over the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire which the leadership of the NFF had thought was an impossible mission, appeared to have confirmed to Keshi the impression that the people he was working with did not have confidence in his ability.
“They were expecting Keshi to fail. In short, the NFF people had even given out money to their protocol staff to be on the stand-by to buy a return ticket for Keshi,” a source said.
Shortly after appearing as a guest on Marawa’s radio show yesterday, the South African posted on his Twitter account, @robertmarawa: "Stephen Keshi has just announced that he handed over his resignation letter after the game exclusively on 083Sport@6With Marawa on MetroFM."
But another source said Keshi had only resigned verbally and was expected to hand in his letter as soon as the team arrives in Abuja today. It is also not yet certain if the Eagles coach will honour the invitation to be part of the grand reception for the team that President Goodluck Jonathan is planning for the players later tonight.
All attempts to get the leadership of the NFF to throw more light on the issue last night failed as calls to the mobile phones of the officials were not answered. The federation is also yet to make an official statement on the latest development.