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Why Stephen Keshi resigned and rescinded decision to quit

With no car, no official accommodation and four months of salary arrears, relations between Keshi and the NFF had degenerated to the point that Keshi had contemplated quitting on the eve of the nations cup tournament.

But for the personal intervention of President Goodluck Jonathan who read the riot act to the Minister of Sports, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, Stephen Keshi’ would have made good his resignation as coach of the Nigerian national football team, the Super Eagles. Keshi rescinded his decision to resign as Super Eagles coach barely 24 hours after tendering his resignation letter to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).

Upon learning of the unsavory development which dampened the national mood of triumph and celebration after winning the African Cup of Nations, President Jonathan is said to have called the Sports Minister who officially headed the delegation to South Africa and instructed him to do everything within his power to get Keshi to reconsider his decision and save the country from what was turning out to be a major embarrassment. Jonathan, sources told even spoke to Keshi on the phone and pleaded with him to change his mind.

After hours of frantic negotiations which dragged on into Tuesday morning, and with all outstanding issues resolved by the minister who doubles as the chairman of the National Sports Commission, Keshi agreed to stay. He was part of the Eagles’ delegation that arrived Abuja to a tumultuous welcome on Tuesday and was present at the official reception hosted by Jonathan at State House.

Keshi admitted on arrival in Abuja that it took the intervention of the Sports Minister to rescind his decision to quit the Eagles job. The coach said he decided to call it quits because of the way he has continuously been treated by the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) and the technical committee. learnt from a source close to the former national team skipper that Keshi was working under conditions unbefitting of the coach of the Nigerian national team. The source explained that the NFF has treated Keshi without even a modicum of respect; hanging the prospect of hiring an expatriate coach over Keshi’s head like a sword of Damocles and acting as if they were doing Keshi a favor by giving him the job of coach of the national team.

The source told that in a malign display of sheer provocation, a member of the technical committee told Keshi his face that the NFF would appoint a foreign technical director and make him the overall boss of all Nigerian coaches, adding: “If you listened carefully, you will recall Keshi always talking about African countries’ penchant of employing carpenters and farmers as coaches because of the color of their skin. This explains why Keshi dedicated the victory of the Super Eagles to all indigenous African coaches,” the source explained.

The rift between Keshi and the NFF, the source explained, had degenerated to the point that Keshi had contemplated quitting the job on the eve of the African Nations Cup, but decided to use his position to prove that indigenous coaches could do better than the foreigners the NFF was thinking of hiring. learnt from NFF sources that several months after he took over the job as coach of the national team, Keshi is yet to get an official car and accommodation. As if that was not enough, the Federation has not paid Keshi his salary for the last four months. Rather, NFF officials have taken turns to interfere with his job; questioning not only his selection of players but also his tactics; something Keshi with over 35 years of big football time experience considers unacceptable.

To add insult to injury, NFF officials reportedly booked their tickets back to Nigeria a day before the Nigeria-Cote d’Ivoire quarterfinal match because they believed the Eagles will be eliminated and even when the Eagles produced a heroic performance and eliminated the Elephants, the officials attributed it to mere luck. “Keshi pondered on his resignation before the final and I was not surprised that he tendered the letter after the game,” the source said.

“I don’t think the NFF has treated Keshi well; even when it was obvious that the coach was on the verge of leading the team to a great feat, he did not get the support of his employers. After the final match on Sunday, some NFF officials visited Keshi in his room in a hypocritical display of solidarity, but the coach walked them out of the room because they never believed in him. Normally, Keshi was expected to join the celebration in the hotel court, but he decided to stay alone in his room because he felt the people that employed him did not believe in him.”

The source revealed that before accepting to change his mind, the Sports Minister promised Keshi would be given a free hand to do his job, while all the money owed him would be settled immediately. He also promised a good accommodation in Abuja, and other appurtenances of his office.

The Nigerian government has already started making good the promises as Keshi received N10 million yesterday at State House during the official reception offered the Eagles by President Jonathan. In addition, he was conferred with the nation’s fourth ranking national honor – Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON).