ENITAN OBADINA / AIPS* in LAGOS: After two near misses, coach Stephen Keshi will be leading Nigeria’s robust charge under the Brazilian sun to step out of the shadows and rewrite African history at the FIFA World Cup.
The Nigerian Football Federation has projected that the African champions require a budget of $12million to mount a successful challenge in Brazil, resources which the country’s Senate is set to approve after it heaped praises on the NFF for its excellent administration and success.
The NFF received $10.9m from the Government last year.
Even though Nigeria are seeking to extend the successes of 2013 when they also won laurels at the FIFA U-17 World Cup and African Nations Cup – among others – the NFF executive committee head for Brazil with no fixed expectations.
Keshi said: “I have no target set by the NFF but I have my personal target which remains personal to me because in every tournament I enter for, I set a target for myself. We plan to play to win each game at a time until the end of the tournament.”
Nigeria warm up with a friendly against Scotland at Craven Cottage, home of Premier League side Fulham, on May 28. Then the Super Eagles fly to the United States where they face Greece in Philadelphia on June 3 and the US on June 7 in Jacksonville.
Setting a lofty target is easy but other Nigerian factors always creep in since the relationship between coach Keshi and his employers has not been smooth since his appointment in 2011.
The topsy turvy nature of the relationship reached a head with the federation’s annoyance that Keshi attended a media function in Lagos without its permission on a day he was billed to meet with the football body’s technical committee.
It also wants clarity on why Keshi travelled to the US without its authorization earlier in the year when state President Goodluck Jonathan was set to host the national side after their African Nations triumph.
Also concerning “The Big Boss” is the lack of playing time of some of his major World Cup stars.
“It’s unfortunate [Chelsea’s] John Obi Mikel and [Liverpool’s] Victor Moses] are not playing regularly at their clubs but these kids are good football players,” Keshi told a media round-table.
“They’re not kids that I need to teach how to play football. It’s just the chemistry that I need to bring into the team, the unity, the understanding. I would love them to be consistent at their clubs, to play every game but unfortunately I can’t control that.
“I spoke to Moses about what is going on and he gave me an answer that I cannot say otherwise. It’s difficult but I still need them, the team need them.”
Nigeria’s ambitions could be undermined if the ongoing wangling is not solved . . . as in other World Cups where a divided house and poor preparation have hindered the team’s prospects of progress.
** AIPS is the international sports journalists’ association with 10,000 members worldwide. More information: www.AIPSmedia.com
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