Nigeria Vs Morocco: WHAT DID STEPHEN KESHI TELL HIS BOYS?
My respect and admiration for the Super Eagles Head Coach, Stephen Keshi, has started to grow since he led the Super Eagles to lift the AFCON trophy in South Africa last year, after nearly a decade of no results, even with the employment of foreign coaches. My level of respect for Stephen Keshi, no doubt, increased again, when he, without the efforts of the mythical Obafemi Martins and Osaze Odemwingie, qualified the Super Eagles for the 2014 World Cup that will hold in Brazil later this year. However, tonight, judging from the awe-inspiring performance of Nigeria against Morocco in the ongoing CHAN tournament, next to God and my parents, Stephen Keshi has become the person I respect the most in my life. Tonight, standing on the soil of Cape Town in South Africa, Stephen Keshi has proven himself not only as a tactical Head Coach, but also as an expert human relationist, an awesome psychologist, and an excellent magician.
I had always known, even before Keshi himself announced it, that it would be very tough, if not a mission impossible, for the Super Eagles to defeat the Atlas Lions of Morocco. So, I wasn't quite surprised when they descended upon the Super Eagles like the lions that they were, breaking through the broom-like defence of the Eagles in the first half; and scoring three consecutive goals in the 32nd, 36th and 39th minutes respectively. The three first half goals witnessed a silenced crop of supporters, a horde of hopeless players, and a frustrated technical crew members. But there, enigmatically standing near the flank of the pitch, was the calm, hairless, chewing gum-chewing Stephen Keshi, working out some soccer arithmetic in his brilliant brain.
I have no clue of what Keshi told his players in the dressing room, but that, certainly, cannot undermine the fact that he must have told them something; something they need to hear, something they eventually acted on; and earned them an ironical victory. The Super Eagles approached the second half with a new spirit, carrying in their minds, I believe, the sacred words of Stephen Keshi. And it did not take long before the magical words of Stephen Keshi started to yield results. An hefty shot from Ogonna Uzochukwu in the 49th minute opened the mouth of the goal for Nigeria. Uzochukwu heroic strike was followed by another goal keeper-ridiculing shot from Rabiu Ali in the 55th minute, revitalizng the hope for an eqaulizer.
And indeed the equalizer came in the 90th minute with a brilliant volley from Uzoenyi Ejike, when nearly everyone had thought that all hope was lost. At that point I knew, observing from the frustration and desperation in the eyes of the Atlas Lions, that the Super Eagles would, very certainly, seal the match in the extra time, though not without slight difficulty. Abubakar Ibrahim, obeyed Keshi's last order, when he exploited a rebound from the leaking glooves of the Atlas Lion goal keeper to seal the match, making the scoreline an unbelievable 4-3.
While wrapped up in the euphoria of the Eagles' victory, I have kept wondering what exactly Stephen Keshi must have told his boys that consequently changed the destiny of the game. Regardless of what Keshi must have told his boys, it shows that Keshi is a great manager of people; and I would continue to respect his tactics and decisions. I will not be surprised if the Super Eagles should win the CHAN tournament and get to the quater finals in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Ademule G. David, a social critic, writes from Ebonyi State.