I’m not afraid of sack – Keshi

From left: Super Eagles Assistant Coaches, Ike Shorunmu; Daniel Amokachi and Head Coach, Stephen Keshi, at a media chat on  2014 Fifa world cup qualifier between Nigeria and Ethiopia, in Abuja recently.

Stephen Keshi insists he is not worried he could be sacked before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Under Keshi’s guidance Nigeria reached next year’s finals after a 4-1 aggregate win over Ethiopia in the play-offs.

But the former Super Eagles captain has twice before missed out on the tournament after a successful qualification campaign.

In 2002 Keshi was assistant to Shuaibu Amodu when Nigeria qualified for the World Cup, but the pair were sacked and replaced by Adegboye Onigbinde before the showpiece in South Korea and Japan.

Four years later Keshi experienced a similar fate when he was sacked by Togo ahead of the 2006 World Cup in Germany despite having guided them to the finals for the first – and to date only – time in their history.

Keshi could therefore be forgiven for feeling nervous history could repeat itself once more, but the 51-year-old is philosophical about the nature of football.

“This job is all about hiring and firing,” Keshi told BBC Sport. “When I was sacked in 2002 it came as a terrible shock but that is life, we all moved on because you can’t keep living in anger and disappointment.

“We are talking about Nigeria here, so you never know what may happen.

“But what is important right now is that we are only focusing on what lies ahead which is preparing my players and nothing else.

“You can’t distract yourself with what might happen or could happen. We’ve achieved beyond some people’s expectations but the rebuilding exercise continues.

“I don’t live in fear [of getting the sack]. To be honest, it is just a waste of energy, it is energy-sapping.”

Keshi has had a stormy relationship with his employers, the Nigeria Football Federation, since leading an inexperienced side to the Africa Cup of Nations glory in South Africa at the start of 2013.

Back in February he decided against resigning from his post only hours after leading the country to their first Nations Cup title since 1994.

He and his assistants are owed seven months’ salary and Keshi has been paid only two months’ salary since he led the Super Eagles to that title 10 months ago.

Keshi feels the situation is disrespectful, unacceptable and has publicly criticised the NFF for failing to pay him his salary arrears.

While the Nigeria sports minister Bolaji Abdullahi has chastised him for taking the matter to the media, the former Togo and Mali coach has decided to focus on the task ahead.

“We have the CHAN tournament in South Africa to prepare for as well as focus on improving the team in friendlies,” Keshi said.

“You have to keep looking forward. We are building a team that Nigerians will be proud of and there is still room for improvement.”

Keshi is the first black African coach to have won the Nations Cup trophy in 21 years and the only African coach to have qualified two nations to the World Cup tournament.

Meanwhile, Keshi says he is stunned to hear top officials proposing to employ a foreign coach to assist him during the World Cup.

“I don’t need any foreign technical assistance to guide the Super Eagles to perform well at the World Cup so if one is suggested I will politely reject the offer because I already have capable assistants working with me,” Keshi said.

“Let them (those clamouring for it include the NFF) provide us an enabling atmosphere and requirement and we shall get the job done in Brazil. We are not saying we shall win the World Cup but we shall make an impact.”

Anthony-Claret Onwutalobi
Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC and CEO of Portia Web Solutions. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websits. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.

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