Stephen Keshi and Shuaibu Amodu, two Nigerian foremost football coaches, bow out

If the death of the two former Nigerian national coaches, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi and Shuaibu Amodu, still evokes tributes and emotions among football fans on the continent, it is because they both occupied a very strategic place in the long history of the game in Africa. That the duo died within a few days apart, and in almost similar circumstances, has added to the sense of loss for their families and well wishers.

Therefore, we hope the football governing authorities will use the death of our two illustrious football managers as a catalyst to reposition the game in Nigeria. With the Super Eagles paired with Algeria, Cameroun and Zambia in the qualifying round for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, many pundits already believe it would take a miracle for Nigeria to pick the lone ticket at stake. That itself happened because our football has gone declined so much such that Nigeria could not be seeded for what turned out to be a tough draw. What that means in effect is that there can be no better time than now to get back to the drawing board, reorganise and search for a good coach, even locally, if he can be found.

However, both Amodu and Keshi chalked indelible records in African football. Aged 54, Keshi was not only one of the two persons on the continent to win the Cup of Nations as a player and coach but was also the only black African to coach in the knock out phase of a World Cup. After his playing career as a defender both for the national team and as a professional mostly with Belgian clubs, Keshi went to the United States to study football coaching. Between 2004 and 2006 he coached the Togo national football team, bringing them to their first World Cup tournament, Germany 2006. Unfortunately, after securing Togo’s qualification, he was promptly replaced by German coach Otto Pfister, who led the team to the World Cup finals.

Appointed in 2008, Keshi also worked briefly as manager of the Mali national football team. He would later become coach of the Nigerian national team in 2011, and in November 2013, secured qualification to the 2014 World Cup by beating Ethiopia four–one on aggregate in a play-off. With that also, Keshi set another record as the first African coach to successfully qualify two nations (Nigeria and Togo) to the World Cup finals.

For sure, Keshi was a patriot who served his country creditably. He will be greatly missed. But so will Shuaibu Amodu, who has been buried in his hometown of Okpella, Edo State. Even though he also died young, at age 58, not many people would doubt that Amodu made a great impact in his chosen career.

The Nigeria Football Federation technical director before his death, Amodu first took charge of the Super Eagles at the age of 36. He would later manage the team on four different occasions as the “go to man” whenever things were going wrong. He helped the nation to qualify for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea and led them to a third-place finish in the 2002 Nations Cup. Under his supervision, Nigeria qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa but he was replaced for the tournament proper despite the team’s third-place finish at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations in Angola.

Without doubt, the late Amodu gave his heart and soul to football management at the highest level in the country. Therefore, football fans in Nigeria will forever be grateful to him for his astounding service to the development of the game. In line with his faith, we pray the Almighty Allah to grant Amodu a place in Jannat-ul-Firdaus (paradise).