African Cup

Afcon: Keshi equals Onigbinde, pursues El Gohary

Nigeria’s head coach Stephen Keshi (C) celebrates at the end of the African Cup of Nation 2013 quarter final football match Ivory Coast vs Nigeria, on February 3, 2013 in Rustenburg. Nigeria won 2-1.Shame to bad people is the usual local slang for anyone who has performed a feat which his detractors never wished for him.

That is exactly the meaning of this posture, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi made after his side, the Super Eagles scored the second goal in their 4-1 semi final routing of the Eagles of Mali on Wednesday.

Like him or hate him, Keshi is on the path of history despite the fact that his employers, the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF are angling for his replacement with a foreign coach.

Though the football body denied the rumour, Keshi insists he doesn’t know his fate with the team after the final tomorrow against Burkina Faso, win or lose.

After every performance, especially during the group matches where the Eagles struugled to qualify for the quarter finals as second best, he always told the battery of journalists who thronged the post match conference that he would decide his future after the Nations Cup because he doesn’t know whether he would remain coach of the Eagles.

Before the first whistle was blown, nobody reckoned with the Eagles to even qualify from the group that paraded the defending champions, Zambia, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia but Keshi kept saying that the team were work in progress and should be given time to mature.

The music however, changed when the Eagles shocked title favourites and star-studded Elephants of Cote dïvoire and with the superlative performance against Mali has raised their profile with fingers pointing to their vctory tomorrow.

Nigerian coaches who have handled the senior natinal team before now include, Adegboye Onigbinde, Shaibu Amodu, Paul Hamilton, Samson Siasia, Christian Chukwu, Monday Sinclair, Alabi Aisien and Patrick Ekeji. Of these lot however, only Chief Onigbinde had taken the team to the final of the Nations Cup, that was in 1984 and lost to Cameroon to settle for the silver. Incidentally, Keshi was among the youngest players in that squad

That feat, Keshi equalled last Wednesday with an emphatic 4-1 win over Mali. He has a chance to surpass the feat and become Nigeria’s greatest local coach, and third best after Otto Gloria in 1980 and Clemens Westerhof in 1994.

If the Eagles win, Keshi will become the second African to win the Cup both as a player and coach, a feat Mahmoud El Gohary of Egypt of blessed memory performed when he led the Pharoahs to the Nations Cup victory in 1998 after winning it as a player in 1959 on home soil.

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