Coach Stephen Keshi has had a change of mind about resigning from his post as coach of the Nigerian Super Eagles, hours after he led the country to their first Nations Cup title in 19 years.
Reports had emerged that following disputes with the Nigeria Football Federation, Keshi had offered to quit after his team defeated Burkina Faso in the final to win the trophy.
“I am pleased to say that I have reconsidered my position and have decided to continue with my job,” Keshi said in a statement.
On Tuesday, Keshi returned to the capital Abuja with the squad to rapturous acclaim. He was the captain of the team when they last won the trophy in 1994, becoming only the second man to win the Nations Cup as coach and player.
On Monday, the 51-year old tactician had told a South African radio station that he had informed NFF officials that he no longer wanted to continue working with them – although he had never submitted a formal letter of resignation.
Some of his reasons included frustration as well as a lack of support and respect on the part of the NFF.
But after an emergency meeting with Abdullahi in the early hours of Tuesday in Johannesburg, Keshi rescinded his decision to quit.
“While I have had cause to express my displeasure over some issues that happened in the course of our Nations Cup participation, especially concerning my relationship with the NFF, I have since had opportunity to discuss the various issues with all concerned,” his statement read.
“I want to thank the Honourable Minister of Sports, Bolaji Abdullahi, for his swift and kind intervention.”
In an interview with BBC Sport, Keshi explained how he was upset by the reports continuously reaching him during the group stage of the competition that he was set to be replaced.
“A coach’s job is to be hired and then fired, so that doesn’t really matter,” he told BBC Sport.
“The only thing that annoyed me was that there was no respect in all this activity – because even if you are looking for a coach, you still have to let me know that this is what you are going to do.”
He stated that he was not angry as much as he felt disrespected.
“Because I am a black person and also a Nigerian, they think they are doing me a favour for letting me coach the Super Eagles.
“But they are not doing me a favour because I am working day and night to succeed and we thank God that we have the cup and that Nigerians are happy.”
Also shedding more light on the resignation saga, Senate President, David Mark revealed the details of a phone call he had with Keshi concerning the same issue.
He said, “I spoke with Stephen Keshi this morning and he confirmed to me that he actually said that he has resigned. He said the reason is because there was too much interference even before the final match on Sunday. There was a lot of pressure on him that he must accept foreign technical adviser and this he is opposed to because he thinks that all that we need is in this country. That there are Nigerians who can work with him and he doesn’t see the gain in bringing foreigners.
“But he also said he was sorry he had to actually put in his resignation. But I think he is prepared to rescind it provided that we don’t force foreign technical partners on him. Once we give him the team to manage we should give him the free hand to manage the team.
“Whatever way he goes to get the result shouldn’t be our problem because once we begin to meddle in the way he is going to run and manage the team then we cannot get results. Once we give him the task we should give him the free hand to accomplish the task and bring the result and I think this Senate must be unanimous in that.
“We should prevail on him not to resign and also that the Sports Ministry or the administrators must give him the free hand to bring us the result that we want. People believe that we are great but we must show them that we can do it not by words but by actions.”
The spokesperson for the NFF, Ademola Olajire, in his reaction, denied the claims of Keshi, saying, “Rumours were flying around during the group games but no one can prove these things. The NFF continues to support and back the coach amidst all this media speculation,” he told BBC Sport.
The Super Eagles’ next match will be in a World Cup qualifier next month, when they play host to Kenya, before playing the return leg in Nairobi and then another tie against Namibia, both in June.
However, there is uncertainty whether the match against Namibia will be rescheduled, because it is set to take place three days before Nigeria commences its Confederation Cup campaign in Brazil on June 17, in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte where it is in group B with Spain, Tahiti and Uruguay.
The African champions sit atop group F of the African World Cup Qualifying Section.