Sports reporters yesterday saw another side of Super Eagles interim manager Stephen Keshi after he reacted angrily to repeated questions as to why he is yet to invite Villareal striker Ikechukwu Uche to the national team, despite pleas by many football experts and highly placed individuals, including former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, who feel the striker would improve Nigeria’s chances of qualification given the country’s poor start.
The incident occurred at the Bolton White apartments, venue of a conference between the gaffer and the press. Keshi advised the media to be encouraging the boys who have come to play for their country rather than bringing up issues of those who were not invited to the team.
“I don’t want to talk about the issue of Ikechukwu Uche again and I don’t want anybody to ever ask me about him again,” Keshi said angrily while responding to a journalist’s question.
“Before the game against Congo, I did the list. I didn’t even want to do the list because I never knew I would come back to handle the team. I told them I am not the coach that they should do the list but they said no, I should please do the list.”
“I did the list and Ikechukwu Uche’s name was on the 25-man list I did. He didn’t even know about it because I did not tell him. Uche then called me four days later and said ‘Coach how are you?’, Keshi said. “We just spoke like brothers and that was it.”
“I then told [team] secretary, Dayo Enebi, to ask if the players have South African visas and the ones that don’t have he should take their passports ahead of time to process their visas.”
Keshi alleges that issues apparently arose with Uche when asked about his passport, which prompted his removal from the roster.
“I am not going to beg Uche and I am not going to tell Daniel [Amokachi] to beg Uche, for what?” the coach queried.
“We have played for this country for over 20 years and nobody ever begged us to play for the country. We are the ones always begging to play.”
Keshi further urged the press to appreciate members of the team, and not focus on missing elements. “We have Obafemi Martins and others and nobody is making fuss about not being invited, what is wrong with him? Why do people want to tear this team apart,” Keshi queried.
In a related development, most of the Eagles players shunned the media, staying in their rooms while sports journalists waited for them to make appearances or statements, something that has become something of a tradition when the team is in Nigeria.