Coach Stephen Keshi has opened up on West Brom and Nigerian International Osaze Odemwingie, saying he skipped the player’s name from his squad selection because Osaze had personality problems which he felt cannot be permitted in the squad.
A lot of uproar was generated between the coach and the West Brom player before the Afcon 2013 tournament due to Osaze’s non-inclusion in the provisional squad to the Nations Cup in South Africa.
To a lot of football-loving Nigerians, it appeared as if Keshi didn’t have an idea of what he was doing. This perception continued into the tournament especially in the face of the abysmal performance by the Super Eagles in the group games, giving rise to many questioning why players like Osaze and others were dropped from Keshi’s provisional squad.
“We decided not to take some of these superstars to the Nations Cup because it is a long period of time and for the long period of time, you need characters that go together,” the former Super Eagles captain explained in an interview with Daily Trust.
“And if you have one or two who do not get along, forget about the superstars, the team will fall apart. I can bring a player in for a game. We can manage some of these players with a little bit of character problems, but when it comes to a long period of time, that’s difficult.
“Odemwingie is a very good player, a player I love to have in the team, but he wants to do what he wants to do.
“In the national team, where I was captain for 14 years, you are nothing but an individual in the team as you are not bigger than Nigeria. If you are not ready to give the green-and-white shirt the due respect, you are walking out of my team.
“We talked on the phone, I told him what I wanted from him, but he had his own notion and I said for now, I will skip you.”
Keshi also revealed that Obafemi Martins was not ready for the Nations Cup, but he has not shut the door against the Levante striker.
“He is still part of the group. If his name is in the next call-up, if he wants to come, we will see how it goes,” he said.
The Eagles coach admitted he missed Newcastle striker Shola Ameobi at the African Nations Cup, whose presence in the dressing room would have improved his team.
“Honestly speaking, I missed Shola Ameobi because in the game against Venezuela, he has a different presence in the locker room, he came in with this coaching ability and togetherness, when he talks to these boys they listen. This was the first time he was coming.
“This was what I was looking for on the pitch, somebody who could talk for me on the field, because I know what I did as a captain on the pitch.
“He was really, really ready to come, but his contract denied him from coming.”
Keshi’s Star Players
Keshi also said he will stick with Efe Ambrose at right back despite concerns the Celtic star is being played out of position.
Ambrose is best known as a central defender, but was played at right during the 2013 AFCON in South Africa with many raising concerns over his suitability in that position.
Keshi said the versatile Ambrose grew as a right back during the AFCON.
“He was growing during the tournament; he loves to play in the position. With every game Ambrose was just marching forward with a lot of confidence. If he were not growing, then that’s a different thing,” Keshi remarked.
“He is a very technical player. He loves playing this position and so we said go ahead.
“He can also play in central defence, as a defensive midfielder and at right back; same goes for Oboabona, Kenneth (Omeruo) and Onazi.
“An emergency could come up and we are blessed to have players who can play different positions. It’s a wonderful gift.
“This is what we are looking for in a team, like when Onazi came in and played right back for Efe Ambrose when he was suspended.”