So on a Sunday, Sunday scored our winning goal, wearing jersey number 19; 19 years after we last won a trophy and 19 years after you won the AFCON as a player, you are now winning it as a coach; only the 2nd man to achieve that feat in Africa, after the late Egyptian, Mahmoud El Gohary.
Boss, I’m so fortunate I have to write this and not make a speech as there’s nothing left of my voice after the cheers and chants for the boys and taunts at Bance’s handsome looks and his comical hairdo that will make Lady Gaga green with envy.
Let me say a big thank you sir, on behalf of the one hundred and fifty nine million, nine hundred and ninety nine thousand nine hundred and ninety five Nigerians (the other five were watching the grammy’s) for bringing home that cup after so long. Players came and went, coaches both white and black came along too but all they could achieve were only near misses; but you, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi rescued us from the football doldrums and shot us into prominence.
On the eve of the tournament, you dropped a bombshell; “I have the frame of the team I want and I believe that the squad we have selected for the 2013 Africa cup of nations is good enough. What we need is Chemistry. Once we have that, we’ll be okay going forward and all the way.” Nobody took you seriously. We were very worried about your ‘stubbornness’, how you couldn’t see what everyone else was seeing. Then you added insult upon a very stinging injury by comparing this ‘rag-tag’ team to the 1994 squad of immortals! ‘Keshi dey craze’ was the conclusion by Nigerians, and to be honest only a crazy person could have achieved this kind of feat, opting for ‘inexperienced’ players, 6 of whom ply their trades in our execrable local league, and in all 17 members of the entire team were just making their AFCON debuts!
Then you dropped and snubbed several ‘experienced and senior’ players like Osaze, Martins, Chidi Odiah, Obinna Nsofor, Chinedu Ogbuke, Onyekachi Apam etc. even the proponents of home based players condemned you, ‘This man don highooo! Doesn’t he know that this is not the right time to bring in home based players yet? Even the building he’s talking about, does he want to build a new team in a tournament? Why not use our regular players and then later you can build? NFF should just sack him!!!’
Those were their claims. The team looked like an unknown school boys’ team and our group games lent credence to that assertion. Then the criticism started to pour in, but you defiantly believed in your school boys, where and how you discovered them, we had absolutely no idea. Then came the turning point, the quarter finals game against Cote D’voire,!!! ‘What’s happening?’ was the query on everyone’s lips. ‘Is Yekini on the pitch? Or are we seeing Jay jay Okocha on the field tonight?’ We could only be reminded of the ’94 squad as we watched your boys play. For the first time since 1994 sir, we were savouring the traditional Super Eagles wing play courtesy of Mikel’s splitting passes complemented by Victor Moses’ lightening pace and skill; Brown Ideye reincarnated the Amokachi enterprising knack for goal on the pitch while Emenike’s voracious thirst for goal with his every touch brought back sweet memories of the late Rashidi Yekini. Meanwhile at the rear, Oboabona and Omeruo were angrily stopping, blocking and kicking away everything in sight and though incomparable in stature with you and the legendary Uche Okechukwu, that pair are top quality and have warmed themselves into the hearts of Nigerians already.
How could I also forget the hitherto unknown element, Sunday Mba, the man who has smashed records and made history. Since 1992 after Friday Ekpo scored at the AFCON in Senegal, no other home based player has scored for us but one Sunday evening, Sunday said, “Mba! This cannot continue!!!” So he chose to smash that record with a Lionel Messi-esque goal against the Ivorians, sending us to the semi-finals where we had a stroll in the park against the Malians and then to the finals against a team whose name seems harder to deal with than their players- ‘Burkina Faso’.
For all the hype around Aristide Bance, all he achieved was the horror face, 3 chested balls, 3 shots high and wide the goal and a few touches that were most horrible to watch, but even though he didn’t win the AFCON, Bance can go back to Ouagodougou feeling proud as it was in this tournament that he broke into the league of extraordinary footballers; joining such veterans like Taribo West, Taye Taiwo etc.
Sir, thank you so much for bringing home the cup that made Enyeama try and tumble the referee in celebration of; that same cup that Joseph Yobo refused to part with during the celebrations. Only about 70minutes of playing time in this entire competition and Joe was that selfish with the cup? I bet he would have sold off the cup if he played throughout the tournament.
Thanks sir for uniting both Christians and Muslims, thanks for reuniting couples, for bridging the gap between the rich and the poor, for making everyone forget about the country’s socio political problems even if temporarily. Now we have to consolidate sir. The confederations cup is underway in June, we can break another record there by winning that one sir, nothing is impossible with this team, the world cup qualifiers will begin soon and qualification is a must for us; the world has to see the spectacle called ‘Super Eagles’.
Keep the team sir, add where necessary, and subtract (Fegor Ogude) also. We are behind you big boss, win or lose. We will cheer, chant, support, pray, sing, dance, wear the eagles jersey, Facebook, tweet, BBM, boast (we are naturally boasters) till we paint the world green!!!
John Offiong [SAVVY]
Addendum by Editor: Stephen Keshi resigned his appointment as the coach of the Super Eagles after winning the tournament. However, reports seem to suggest that further negotiations are taking place…Smart man!!!