Nigeria’s Keshi sets sights on return to Mali

2013-02-12 09:05

Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi said he had resigned after leading his country to the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations title and would return to Mali if given the chance.

“I gave the national football federation my letter of resignation immediately after the final, but I have not heard from them,” Keshi revealed to the SABC.

Keshi dropped hints last week of his unhappiness with Nigerian football officials in Durban before the semifinal drubbing of Mali, telling a media conference he would “pack his bags and leave” if unwanted.

“If, back home, they do not like what I am doing, well, you cannot force someone to like you,” said only the second Nations Cup-winning coach after the late Egyptian Mahmoud El Gohary to also achieve the feat as a player.

Keshi captained Nigeria to victory over Zambia in the 1994 final and guided his country to a 1-0 win over Burkina Faso Sunday in a final settled by a Sunday Mba goal five minutes before halftime.

The coach was reportedly furious when he discovered that Nigerian officials had booked a flight home for the squad immediately after the quarterfinal against title favourites Ivory Coast.

He viewed this action as a lack of confidence in his ability to plot the downfall of a star-stacked Ivorian side skippered by African football legend Didier Drogba.

Nigeria deservedly won the match 2-1 with their younger, hungrier mix of local and foreign-based stars running the ageing Elephants ragged and Mba snatched a late match-winner.

Keshi spoke highly of Mali last week, saying he would not mind returning to a country he coached at the 2010 Cup of Nations in Angola only to be fired after a first-round elimination.

“It is a place that I love, Malians are wonderful people. Should the chance arise, I will go back there,” said the 51-year-old who also had two spells with Togo before replacing sacked Samson Siasia as Nigeria coach two years ago.

His playing career spanned clubs in Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Belgium, France, the United States and Malaysia, and he was an outstanding centre-back for the national team.

Calls to Keshi went unanswered and no Nigerian official was immediately available for comment.

The triumphant squad are scheduled to arrive home today.

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