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Uche, Osaze supporters versus Keshi

Pius Ayinor

Do I feel satisfied with the Super Eagles attack line? The answer is a very big no. Do we need to give more people the chance to fight for a place in the national team? Yes, I believe so too. And so the unanswered question is which type of players do we call up?

In the past few weeks Osaze Odemwingie has become more pronounced in the pages of newspapers. And that has been for two major reasons. He appears to have found his scoring boots he left behind at West Brom and then of course he also appears to have been forgiven by many going by the spate of appeals made on his behalf. After the session with Stephen Keshi on Tuesday, there appears to be some ray of hope for the striker but the same cannot be said be said for another Eagles outcast, Ike Uche.

The TomTom Roundtable media session in Lagos provided more than an hour of free flow talk with the coach. I watched his body language and listened to his tone when he addressed the issues concerning the two players. Keshi was very smart with his answers as he did very well trying not to show any emotion concerning any question. He confirmed that Osaze had apologised to the Nigeria Football Federation officials, himself and others he insulted over time. The way Keshi spoke he appears to have softened down. And so I won’t be surprise if the Stoke City player gets a fresh chance with the Eagles.

The heart is such a delicate thing. Keshi’s heart has softened from the appeals made by the fans of Osaze but I do hope that other players will learn from the mistakes of Osaze. The player went over the bar in his remonstration against the football authorities. I am not a big fan of those administrators but they didn’t deserve the kind of insults the player shot at them. If Keshi decides to lock him out until after the World Cup I wouldn’t raise a pen against Keshi. Sometimes selecting a team does not depend completely on skill but loyalty and attitude on and off the pitch also count. Or can anybody bet on Osaze that he will be a good boy if given another opportunity? The choice is truly Keshi’s and I doubt if anybody can really begrudge Keshi concerning him.

When the former Nigeria captain spoke professionally on the matter pertaining Osaze, I thought he would extend exactly same spirit to Ike Uche but he appears to have erected an iron gate against Uche. I heard him say “I don’t need him” and he based his decision on what he called the striker’s lack of group spirit. He says Uche does not play team football and could not afford to take any tactical risk with him. But Keshi’s body language on Tuesday in Lagos suggested it was more than just tactical matter.

A close associate of Keshi who was in South Africa alleged that Uche was fronting for those who wanted Keshi removed as coach of the team and so the player began to question Keshi’s style. And I guess it is more of that problem or any other not stated other than the issue of tactical discipline Keshi is hammering on. I don’t understand how Uche can fit in tactically with other coaches in Europe and Nigeria except with Keshi and so I need to be educated. But as it is said the coach reserves the right to decide his team and so I leave Keshi to decide his players. But let me noted that the reason we are all showing concern is because we don’t have the kind of group we had going to 1994 World Cup or Atlanta ’96 Olympics for instance.

But if I decide to let the Eagles coach be on Uche, I disagree with what he said about Brown Ideye. When the player’s matter came up, Keshi said he was doing well with goals in his club. His argument was we all have to ask why he is not scoring like that in Nigeria. I disagree with him on that. I need to be educated on that. Where are the Ideye goals that we are not seeing on television and internet? For me the reason he is not scoring is because of his level. He is a good player but for me not good enough when we have a complete array of our players. He got all the chance in the world at the FIFA Confederations Cup but failed us. I am aware that only one tournament is not enough to measure a player but Ideye showed the signs long before that competition and has not changed afterwards.

Keshi also told the gathering on Tuesday that he couldn’t remember saying that he was only interested in players who were playing regularly with their clubs. I do remember he said it; it’s a pity I don’t have him on tape but the story was widely published and he did not deny it then. What has created the dilemma now is the fact that many of our players, for one reason or the other have become bench-warmers. We don’t have any choice but to take our best to Brazil whether they are active on the pitch or not. Or what can we do in Brazil if we use that criterion to select? It means that Victor Moses and Mikel Obi will automatically drop out.

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