A few days ago, the Ivory Coast Football Federation (FIF) on their website shortlisted 59 candidates who have applied for the vacant position of Head Coach of Les Elephants. The list is expected to be trimmed down to three and then the final three will be interviewed.
However, the appearance of Super Eagles coach, Stephen Keshi’s name on that list is causing no small stir in the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). The FIF, probably perceiving a controversy brewing up, took down the page that published the potential candidates for the vacant job on their website.
It hasn’t however, escaped the NFF’s attention and their spokesman, Ademola Olajire, stated that the NFF will be opening a full investigation into the matter to ascertain whether Keshi actually applied for the job or not.
It would be recalled that Keshi signed a two year contract with the NFF in April thus, making his inclusion on that 5-man list bizarre. NFF president, Amaju Pinnick, and other stakeholders of the game must have come to the conclusion that this application is a show of disrespect to Nigeria and potentially, a breach of contract.
The NFF spokesman is quoted on the BBC Sport website as saying that there will be no hasty decision on this issue and that an official statement by the NFF will be made after they would have consulted with the FIF.
As expected, Stephen Keshi has denied applying for the job. In an interview with Complete Sports, he denied any interest in the Ivory Coast job but suggested that his agent may have applied for the job long before he secured his new deal with the NFF.
Stephen Keshi’s agent, Barrister Ado, however, appeared to contradict the Big Boss’comments. According to Premium Times, he stated exclusively that he is Keshi’s official agent and didn’t apply for the job Herve Renard has made vacant. He categorically stated that only he could have submitted an application if Keshi was interested which he did not.
He went on to suggest that freelance agents may have independently applied for the job in the hopes of cashing on the clout of Keshi if the deal pulls through.
A big question though, if Keshi is not interested in the vacant position of Coach of the Ivory Coast national team, then why would he say that his agent, Barrister Ado may have applied for it before he became Super Eagles coach since Barrister Ado made it very clear he did not apply for the job? Note, Barrister Ado didn’t say he applied for the job before Keshi got employed by the NFF.
Does it mean that Barrister Ado applies for any job available on behalf of his client without due consultation with his client whether it was a job his client would like to take on if application turns out to be a successful one?
Is Keshi also insinuating that when his agent applies for jobs on his behalf, his agent does not inform him on what jobs he has applied for? Big questions.
The answers might be provided at the outcome of the investigation by the NFF which could be revealed in the coming days when they make their official statement.
What are the possible implications for the Super Eagles if it turns out an agent, official or freelance applied for the Ivory Coast job with or without Keshi’s consent assuming the application was made after Keshi became chief coach of the Super Eagles?
Depending on the terms spelt out in the contract, there could be disciplinary measures ranging from a sack to less stiffer penalties such as a fine or even a suspension that could be imposed on Keshi if found guilty.
If the NFF deems that the ultimate price has to be paid by Keshi then Nigeria’s African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers preparations will be disrupted. A caretaker or new manager would have to be sought which could affect the team’s concentration and performance adversely.
The last AFCON qualifiers fiasco when Keshi was the caretaker manager is still fresh in our memories. The crisis that might crop up if the NFF investigations turn out to be negative is the last thing we need at this time.
Paul Oviero works and lives in Lagos. He is an ardent follower of Nigerian football and a fan of Manchester United. He writes articles about football regularly on his blog at paulovieroskoles.blogspot.com