Former Nigeria international Etim Esin has expressed his fears that the Super Eagles may find it difficult to be at their best when they begin their defence of the Africa Cup of Nations next month due to the leadership crisis in the Nigeria Football Federation.
Nigeria will face Rwanda, South Africa and Sudan in Group A of the qualifiers.
The NFF is currently embroiled in leadership tussle following the sacking of Aminu Maigari as the president of the football body. The NFF elections hold later this month even as there are speculations that Maigari may be reinstated next week.
The Super Eagles are currently without a coach as the NFF has yet to renew Stephen Keshi’s contract as Nigeria coach. The former Nigeria captain is reportedly demanding N15m per month but the NFF has yet to conclude negotiation with him.
Esin believes the crisis rocking Nigeria football should have been resolved long before now so that it will not affect the team’s preparation for the September game.
Esin said one of the reasons Nigeria failed to qualify for the AFCON in 2012 was because the NFF had a similar leadership crisis in 2011 which affected then coach, Augustine Eguavoen, when he took the team to Guinea in their first qualifier which they lost 1-0.
The result ultimately caused Nigeria to lose the qualification ticket to the Guinean’s despite playing a 2-2 draw in their last game.
“Keshi needs a lot of concentration to select his team. With all these problems surrounding the NFF,
things may become difficult for the coach during team building. The NFF problem should have been solved long ago; they shouldn’t have allowed it to drag into a period when we should be preparing to play qualifiers,” Esin said.
“I don’t understand why Nigerians should wait until we have problems before proffering solutions. We shouldn’t have been in this mess in the first place.
“Whatever they want to offer Keshi, let them offer him so that we can move on. There is no time left for preliminary build-up of the team.
“The delay in bringing Keshi back can cause a loss of confidence in the team as they prepare to defend the AFCON title. This is not healthy for Nigeria.
“A further delay in this relationship could send a signal to our opponents on our ill-preparedness and embolden them in the qualifiers. South Africa have been seeking the opportunity to beat Nigeria and this might just be their chance. Sudan and Rwandacould also become problems for the Super Eagles because there are no minnows in football anymore. These people want to beat the defending champions, so it’s a difficult situation we’re in.”
The former midfielder said it was disrespectful of the NFF to treat Keshi as if he was not important, noting that former foreign coaches had enjoyed more respectable relationship with football administrators.
“We should be proud that we have an indigenous coach who have won the Nations Cup and taken us to the second round of the World Cup. If he was a foreign coach perhaps the contract issue wouldn’t have been this difficult. When Clemense Westerhof was coach, he had direct access to Aso Rock; that was how he could perform well with the team,” he said.
He pointed out that the exit of some senior players from the Super Eagles might adversely affect the mental readiness of the other players.
“Either we like it or not, we have an imminent crisis on our hands. The situation is even made worse by the uncertainty of the team. While Keshi was ending his contract after the World Cup, some top players in the Super Eagles were announcing their retirement. Joseph Yobo is out, so is Osaze Odemwingie. We’re not sure if Vincent Enyeama will stay long. Keshi will have the challenge of bringing the team together in a very short time,” Etim said.
An NFF official, however, said the football body had already made up its mind on what to pay Keshi, insisting that the delay would not affect Nigeria’s readiness for the qualifiers in September.
“There’s no problem about getting the team ready; the deal is already concluded. I don’t see Keshi having a problem in calling up the players for the game. He knows who is playing and who is not,” the official, who pleaded anonymity, said.
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