The Amaju Pinnick Board of the Nigeria Football Federation was not comfortable with the results Stephen Keshi and the Eagles posted in the Nations Cup qualifiers before the last victory against Sudan in Abuja.
A home defeat by Congo was followed by a draw in South Africa and another defeat in Sudan before the 3-1victory against Sudan in Abuja placed Nigeria behind South Africa and Congo.
The Maigari board was never prepared to renew Keshi’s contract and the former Eagles captain knew about this.
The position of the Amaju board did not differ from that of Maigari, their reason being that since the last Nations Cup victory, Eagles have not lived up to their potentials, especially when holes were picked in the selection process from the World Cup in Brazil till date.
The refusal of the crew to accept technical assistance was another source of concern.
Pinnick’s board wanted to announce a caretaker coach immediately after the 1-0 defeat in Sudan but forces prevailed against them. Question of sacking Keshi did not arise as he had no contract. But some top government officials told Amaju to tarry awhile.
Sports minister Tammy Danagogo and Secretary to the Federal Government of the Federation Chief Pius Anyim were among the forces that wanted Keshi to continue his job. One other top government official in the security service also wanted Keshi to hang on to the job.
Pinnick was almost helpless, although he planned to convince the authorities on why they needed to respect the opinion of the board and most football stakeholders in the country who felt that Keshi could no longer lift the team.
We can exclusively reveal today that the game changed for Keshi on Tuesday, the eve of the match against Sudan in Abuja. Sports minister, in company of Amaju and some other officials including the chairmen of Senate and the House Sports Committees visited the Eagles to urge them to win the match.
In the meeting that followed, Keshi told the minister that the team was being sabotaged. He said that he would have been doing better but for the sabotage. After listening to Keshi, the minister asked the coaches to excuse them.
When they left, the minister asked the players to feel free to tell him what was wrong with the team. He expressed disappointed over their performance.
“About 85 per cent of the players said that the coaching crew was their problem,” our source said, adding that the minister was “disappointed.”
The source said that the minister was so shocked that he wondered if they were sure of what they were saying and more players rose to speak against the coaches, saying that “this coach says one thing and the other says something different and their approach has not helped our game in many areas.”
We gathered that the minister left the meeting knowing that Keshi’s place in the team was over if the majority of the players were disillusioned about his continued stay as their head coach.
It was after this that he now told Amaju that he could meet with his board and take the decision that they deemed best for Nigeria. But the minister had also informed Chief Pius Anyim about his finding before he approved of engaging new hands. The Secretary to the Federal Government did not raise any objection.
Pinnick’s board met after the match and announced changes in the team, asking Amadu Shuaibu, the Technical Director in the NFF, to head a consortium of coaches for the remaining matches while they commenced a search for a foreign coach.