• Directive would affect our programme, Keshi laments
CITING lack of funds to camp the 42 players invited to the Super Eagles’ camp in Abuja for the Nigeria versus Malawi World Cup qualifier, as well as, the preparation for the African Nations Championship (CHAN), the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) yesterday ordered Coach Stephen Keshi to reduce the list of players for both the Brazil 2014 qualifier and the international friendly match against Burkina Faso to only 23 players.
He was also ordered to concentrate only on the match against the Flames of Malawi for now.
The NFF also cancelled the proposed camping of the team at the Abuja Bolton Hotel camp, ordering that the players should fly straight to the Metropolitan Hotel in camp on Sunday, September 1, where they are expected to train for six days before the Malawi match, which comes up on September 7 at the U. J Esuene Stadium.
Keshi on Tuesday listed 42 players, including 24 home-based and 18 foreign-based players, who were instructed to report at the team’s camp in Abuja on September 1.
His argument was that after the World Cup qualifier and the friendly against Burkina Faso, the home-based players would immediately begin preparation for the CHAN slated for South Africa next year.
But the NFF, through a statement credited to its technical committee member, Paul Bassey, said “we have decided that for now, the home based players should be dropped. We want him to concentrate on the World Cup qualifying match at the moment. So we have demanded that he send to us a list of 23 players that will prosecute the World Cup qualifier for now.
“Whether they are home or foreign based, we want him to harmonise the list and send to us. We cannot have that number of home based players for now because the CHAN is still months away. Let us face the World Cup qualifying match against Malawi, which is the most important for now. After that we can now look at the CHAN preparations.”
Also in an statement from the NFF, the Chairman of NFF Technical Committee, Chris Green noted that the federation has decided to approach the matches one after the other, stressing that winning the World Cup qualifier against Malawi should be the major task before the NFF and the Super Eagles for now.
“We must be very pragmatic and take it one step at a time. The 2014 FIFA World Cup ticket is important to Nigeria and Nigerians. Yes, we have qualified for the African Nations Championship for the first time ever, and we very much appreciate it.
“But there are three very crucial 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches that we must prosecute successfully to qualify for Brazil before we can start the build-up to the African Nations Championship. Our smart money must be on focusing hard, and without any distraction, at the World Cup ticket,” he said.
Reacting to the NFF’s stance yesterday, Keshi said the directive could actually negatively affect the team’s preparations for both the World Cup qualifier against Malawi and the international friendly against Burkina Faso.
Speaking in a telephone interview from Benin, Keshi said the cancellation of the teams proposed Abuja camping would certainly disrupt his training programme for the World Cup qualifier, saying if he had his way, he would prefer to keep his 42-man squad because the players have been integral to his programme, which entails starting training first with the invited home-based players before the arrival of foreign-based stars ahead of any major encounter.
He noted that he carefully compiled the list, bearing in mind the crucial nature of the FIFA World Cup qualifier and international friendly against Malawi and Burkina Faso in Calabar and Kaduna respectively,
He said, “I don’t really have any plans of trimming down my team list because to me it is not over-bloated. Such has been our style. We usually start with the camping of the home-based players one week ahead of the arrival of the professionals.
“The procedure has always been to start drilling the invited home-based players before picking the best out of them to join the professionals. Such has been our tactical approach to the matches, which we have even gotten used to for some time now. I can’t understand why they are telling me to trim down the list.
“I don’t know what might be their reasons, but if it is true that it has to do with lack of fund, I have no choice than to understand with the federation. They are right because they have said it repeatedly that there is no money. We should not forget that they need money to pay for the hotel bills for our camping in Abuja,” he noted.