HARARE – Nigerians resident in Zimbabwe have hailed Stephen Keshi for guiding the Super Eagles to their third African Nations Cup success on Sunday in South Africa.
The West Africans won the trophy at the National Stadium in Johannesburg courtesy of Sunday Mba’s first-half goal in a tightly contested final.
Nigeria last conquered Africa in 1994 when Keshi as captain led the Super Eagles to a 2-1 win over Zambia in Tunisia.
Keshi was under immense pressure from the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) to deliver the coveted trophy.
The Big Boss also added fuel to the debate surrounding his future when he dropped big stars Peter Odemwingie and Obafemi Martins from the squad he took to South Africa.
Keshi was also criticised after he chose six local-based players in his team which is the highest number of players from the Nigerian Premier League that the Super Eagles have taken to an Afcon competition.
Many reports speculated that the NFF was ready to give Keshi the sack especially after the team started with two 1-1 draws against Zambia and Burkina Faso in the group stages of the competition.
Chairperson of the Nigerian Community in Zimbabwe, Simon Udemba said Keshi’s trust in local-based players had carried the day for the Super Eagles.
“Keshi stood his grounds and defied all critics. The Eagles came out with their heart; they did not look at what has happened and now they are really behaving like Super Eagles,” Udemba told the Daily News yesterday.
“It has been a long wait but we are happy that Keshi finally fulfilled one of our major ambitions as supporters.
“I know this will continue and we want to take this team to Brazil for the World Cup competition.”
Just three years back Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan sought to ban the national team from international competitions after they performed badly at the 2010 World Cup in the same country they hoisted the Afcon.
Nigeria failed to qualify for the 2012 Afcon competition held in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon but all that has been quickly forgotten in the wake of their success in South Africa.
On their road to success, the Super eagles dispatched the highly-fancied Ivory Coast in the quarterfinals before laying the marker with a 4-1 destruction of Mali in the semis.
Another Zimbabwean-based Nigerian, Alexander Odenigbo said he did not expect the Super Eagles to beat the star-studded Ivory Coast team after the two draws with Zambia and Burkina Faso.
“Personally I feel great because the players played a good game. They managed to beat the so-called big African teams,” he said.
“Nigeria is now on the move to restore the lost glory of football in the country.
“I want to give credit to the Super Eagles coach Keshi, as you know he selected a team with more locally-based players and went on to beat the so-called African big teams.”
Chief Onyi Nwagwu another ecstatic Nigerian fan said: “The victory was a great achievement for us and we are in celebratory mood.
“As for me, I was pleased with Keshi’s tactics, he proved to be an expert in as far as this type of competition is concerned.”