The
Nigerian media was awash with reports ;last week that Stephen Keshi, coach of
the national team has left Ike Uche out of his World Cup plans.

As
Nigeria starts its pre-World Cup friendly games against Mexico it is obvious we
will miss Ike Uche.
But
what did Keshi say about him?
According
to www.mtnfootball.com, Keshi says Ike
Uche is out of his World Cup plans and gave reasons for that.
The
report on the website quoted Keshi as saying that “Ikechukwu Uche is not a
player I have not seen play. Ike Uche’s problem is not knowing how to play
football.
  
“His
problem is that he wants to dictate how we play in Super Eagles, he wants to
tell us the system we’re playing is not good.
“Uche
has a very bad habit, that if you put him in the game he is not playing to
instructions and he did that in the final of AFCON against Burkina Faso, he
almost cost us.
  
“Again
he did that against Zambia, in the second match when (Efe)Ambrose was given a
red card. What we told him to do, he was doing the opposite.”
Keshi
added:”And if you don’t respect your team mates and you don’t respect the
team, then there is no point. I know he cannot do that in his club, then why do
it in the national team? 
“I
don’t think I need a player like that in the team.”     
And
these statements by national team coach, Stephen Keshi have not just trended on
social media, like twitter, they have burned the speakers on radio sports shows
and television too.
What is Keshi
actually saying?
A
lot of people misunderstand what Keshi said and maybe this piece may clear it
up; maybe this piece will just further aggravate the situation.
1.    
“Ikechukwu
Uche is not a player I have not seen play. Ike Uche’s problem is not knowing
how to play football.
By
this, the coach is simply saying he made his decision, not based on hearsay,
but because he has actually seen Ike Uche play and worked with him before as
coach. And he admits that Uche is a pretty good footballer
2.    
“His
problem is that he wants to dictate how we play in Super Eagles, he wants to
tell us the system we’re playing is not good.
Now
Keshi goes further to explain why he cannot have Uche in his team, saying that
the lad plays for himself and not for the team. Football is a team game and not
an individual one. If we think back, Jay Jay Okocha hardly had full 90 minutes
games under Clemens Westahof because he played for himself and not the team. So
it is just natural.
3.    
“Uche
he has a very bad habit, that if you put him in the game he is not playing to
instructions and he did that in the final of AFCON against Burkina Faso, he
almost cost us.
The
coach points out a recent example of Uche’s failings with the team.
4.    
“Again
he did that against Zambia, in the second match when (Efe)Ambrose was given a
red card. What we told him to do, he was doing the opposite.”
This
is another recent recent example and if you look back, Nigeria could have lost
these two games the coach mentioned. In football, you must respect the coach
and the team or you are out.
5.    
“And
if you don’t respect your team mates and you don’t respect the team, then there
is no point. I know he cannot do that in his club, then why do it in the
national team?  I don’t think I need a
player like that in the team.” 
By
the 5th Keshi quote, the point had been made and unless these quotes
were made up by www.mtnfootball.com, then
Ike Uche will not be anywhere near Nigeria’s World Cup team.
What Keshi did
not say
Listening
to radio sport pundits in Port Harcourt and I cannot help but be amazed at the
analyses of the situation. I believe Lagos and Abuja may not be much different.
Uche is
undisciplined:
Some
pundits accuse Keshi of saying Uche was stubborn and lacks discipline. Then
they go on to ask if other coaches at the Eagles ever complained about Uche so
why Keshi?
Some
go on to ask if his coach at Villareal has complained before and if he is that
bad, how did he get 12 goals?
It
is simple. Keshi says the lad lacks tactical discipline and does not play to
his (Keshi’s) instructions.
He
didn’t say Uche does not play to Siasia’s instructions, or Shaibu Amodu’s
instructions or Berti Vogt’s instructions, but he, Keshi’s instructions.
That
means, if the coach says to pass the ball sideways, a forward pass is wrong,
and if the coach says hug the corner flag, then dribbles towards the middle is
wrong.
Nigerians
must understand what the coach is saying
Keshi should be
able to manage his players:
Some challenged Keshi for being a bad
manager for not knowing how to “force” his players to obey his instructions.
Well,
if what Keshi is saying is true then short of physically manhandling Ike Uche,
the best thing to do is get him out of his team.
Keshi’s
first game as manager was the friendly against Botswana in Benin which Uche
played, followed by the friendly in Kaduna against Zambia which Uche played.
Uche
also played in his first competitive game against Rwanda and was Super Eagles
top scorer in Keshi’s first full year as manager of the side.
So
if he has been in charge of the team for three plus years, he could have
exhausted all means of bringing his boy to heel.
Has it happened
before?
1.    
Berti
Vogt hardly/ never used Vincent Enyeama claiming he was not the “right size”
for a goalkeeper. He preferred Austin Ejide whose physical presence in the box
would be more commanding.
2.    
Daniel
Pasarella of Argentina dropped certain key from the World Cup bound team in
1998 simply because they refused to cut their hair. Great players like Fernando
Redondo and Claudio Canniggia did not play for Argentina at the 1998 World Cup
because they did not cut their hair.
3.    
Paul
Lambert hardly played Darren Bent in his Aston Villa team because “he plays for
himself and not the team”
4.    
Does
anybody remember Clemens Westahof one of the most lethal goal scorers in Europe
from Nigeria’s US 94 World Cup team? His name was Richard Owubokiri.
Why we will miss
Ike Uche
Nigerians
love flamboyant players, those than can hold on to the ball and display a trick
or two, nutmeg a marker and probably score or even blast wide, but Nigerians
love the trickery.
That’s
why Nigerians loved Jay Jay Okocha and not Wilson Oruma; that’s why Nigerians
loved Etim Esin and not Henry Nwosu.
And
it is for the same reason that Nigerians love Ike Uche more than Emmanuel
Emenike.
Ike
Uche likes to hold on to the ball. He likes to take out a marker or two with a
simple nutmeg, waltz through the defence and crack in a shot.
He
is known as “Garri master” because he uses opponents to drink garri (a Nigerian
way of saying he can mess up any defender that comes his way) and these are
reasons why Nigerians will miss Ike Uche.
But
Nigerians also should want a player that will do what he is told on the pitch
and not what he wants.
Nigerians
should also want the Super Eagles to win games at the World Cup not individuals
trying to show boat, sometimes to the detriment of the team.
Nigerians
should also want to see a player who will pass the ball every time he has to,
rather than want to go on a solo run.
These
things are good but this coach doesn’t want them.
We
will all miss Ike Uche at the World Cup( If Keshi does not change his mind).
Hopefully
we will get to see him in Super Eagles colours again, if another coach still
finds him useful.

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