From the Archives: My Interview with Keshi Just Before the 2014 World Cup Brazil

Keshi
Stephen Keshi Born January 23, 1962 in Azare, Nigeria. Died June 8, 2016 in Benin City, Nigeria. One of African football’s best-known figures, the ex-Super Eagles captain is one of only two men to win the African Cup of Nations as a player and a coach.

It is so painful to imagine that the late Stephen Keshi would be no more considering how dedicated he served his fatherland on the international scene.

On May 4th, 2014, I had the rare opportunity to interview one of Nigeria’s football legends who won the African Cup of Nations as a player in Tunisia in 1994 and as a coach in South Africa in 2013 prior to the team’s participation at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil during my days at the Daily Independent Newspaper.

Stephen Keshi led Nigeria to AFCON title in 2013 (Getty Images )
Stephen Keshi and his team, exalted and holding the AFCON title trophy in 2013. Photo/Getty Images

LAST INTERVIEW WITH STEPHEN KESHI

Nigerian Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi reveals in this interview the Super Eagles list, Victor Moses’ form at Liverpool and much more.

With the Super Eagles World Cup list yet to be released, don’t you think it will affect your preparations for the World Cup?

I don’t think it will affect my preparation. Though I need to have a list for me to prepare the Super Eagles team for the World Cup. But in a situation where I don’t have the list, what do you expect from me? Once the list is out, then I will know where to camp my players and the approaches to use and apply my tactics.

PORTO ALEGRE, BRAZIL - JUNE 25: Ahmed Musa of Nigeria celebrates scoring his team's second goal and his second of the game with head coach Stephen Keshi during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group F match between Nigeria and Argentina at Estadio Beira-Rio on June 25, 2014 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Ahmed Musa of Nigeria celebrates scoring his team’s second goal and his second of the game with head coach Stephen Keshi during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group F match between Nigeria and Argentina at Estadio Beira-Rio on June 25, 2014 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

The Iranian and Bosnian coaches have been boasting that the Nigerian team cannot stop their dreams of making it to the next round of the World Cup. What is your reaction to this?

Everybody has his opinion on matters like this. They can say whatever they wish to because my own is to speak to my players and work out modalities on how to win our games. What is important to me is what I have on the field, so I am not bothered at all.

Victor Moses was one of Nigeria’s finest players at last year’s Nations Cup where the Super Eagles conquered Africa. However, since he was loaned to Liverpool by his parent club Chelsea, he has been unable to command a regular shirt on the team. Don’t you think his form will affect your plan for the Super Eagles now that the World Cup is just days away?

It will not, I don’t think so. Besides, mind you, I am not a Liverpool coach or manager but Super Eagles coach, whatever happens to him in Liverpool is in Liverpool. I don’t know the reason why the Liverpool manager is not playing him but the fact that he has decided not to play him in his team does not mean that I will not play him. They probably have their own difference and that is their own problem. As long as Victor Moses and any other good player that I know is healthy and ready to go, I’ll definitely use them.

victor moses and stephen keshi
Victor Moses and Coach Stephen Keshi. Photo/facebook.com

The last time Victor Anichebe played for Nigeria was during the 2012 African Cup of Nations qualifying matches under coach Samson Siasia. However, there were rumors that you had a one on one discussion with him in a bid to convince him to rescind his decision of playing for Nigeria at the World Cup?

First of all to clear this issue, I never had any one on one discussion with Victor Anichebe. I have never seen Victor Anichebe in person. I have only watched him on television. I have never spoken to Victor Anichebe and I do not know how you journalists got the information. But I have been trying to talk to him in any case I still do not know where you got this from.

Super Eagles and Lille goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama was shortlisted for the best goalkeeper award in the French Ligue 1 by the Professional Union of French Players (UNFP) recently. Coach, what do you make of his nomination? Don’t you think it is of good omen to Nigerian football?

Of course, I am happy for him. As a Nigerian and as his coach, I am happy for him.

Coach, what is your goal for this summer’s World Cup considering the fact that Nigeria has not made it to the quarter final stage.

Austine, in your organization where you work, don’t you have a goal?

Response: (laughing) Yes I do. Well, so do I. In this kind of position that I have found myself, I should definitely have a goal, that is all.

Since the Super Eagles list is not yet out and I believe you will still be pondering on who and who should make that list, what exactly is going through your mind?

Obviously, how to get a good list for the team and Nigerians. We really have a whole lot of players out there that will really need to be considered and analyzed. We also have to find out how we can make things work out well. Well, it has to be very thorough.

Talking about the Nations Cup draws that pitched Nigeria alongside our perennial rivals South Africa and Sudan in Group A. What is your opinion on this group?

For now, the Nations Cup is not my concern, because I have a major tournament at hand, which is the World Cup. So you do not expect me to focus my attention on Nations Cup qualifiers that will be played after the World Cup.

I want to say a very big thank you for spending your time with me, Coach.

You are welcome.

Stephen Keshi was denounced by Amaju Pinnick for Nigeria's uninspiring displays in Brazil
Stephen Keshi was denounced by Amaju Pinnick for Nigeria’s uninspiring displays in Brazil.

The ex-Togo national team coach went on to oversee the Super Eagles to World Cup qualification later that year as the Super Eagles beat Ethiopia in the playoffs to qualify for the finals in Brazil, where we bowed out to France in the round of 16.

Keshi’s contract expired after the World Cup and the NFF were averse to a renewal, under the leadership of former president Aminu Maigari. And when Keshi had been in limbo for about two months with contract talks still deadlocked, he told BBC News that the NFF was “not serious” and that he had “moved on.” Amaju Pinnick, was no fan of Keshi either. Prior to becoming the foremost NFF member, he censured Keshi for not adopting “a scientific approach to winning matches” due to Nigeria’s lackluster performance at the 2014 World Cup.

The “Big Boss” regardless of how some people complained bitterly about your attitude, you still remain one of the greatest football personalities Nigerians will never forget in a hurry. RIP Stephen Keshi.