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Football | Afcon

Stephen Keshi © Backpagepix

Keshi puts Afcon first over birthday



The pressure of the ongoing Afcon in South Africa has meant that Nigeria head coach, Stephen Keshi will put aside any plan of celebrating his 51st birthday.

Keshi turned 51 on Wednesday but the Super Eagles' gaffer is said to be more concerned with his side's preparation for Friday's epic clash with African champions, the Chipolopolo of Zambia after they failed to claim all points against Burkina Faso in a 1-1 on Monday.

Executive committee members of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) had emerged from the showdown talks saying they have told Keshi and his team to beat Zambia this Friday as well as put up an overall good outing at the Afcon.

“We have told them to go and put up a credible performance that will make Nigerians proud. The good thing is that we were not disgraced in the first game because we didn't lose. Every team in the group drew their games but we have told them to improve on their performance in subsequent games," said NFF president, Aminu Maigari.

And another NFF board member, Emeka Inyama said: "We have asked the coaching crew to give us reassurances of a win over Zambia. The Zambians were not spectacular in their first game against Ethiopia. We've made it clear that the team needs to beat Zambia to ensure they qualify from the group stage."

However, sources inside the Nigerian camp at the Africa Cup of Nations believe the pressure may have been cranked up after the emergency meeting between the leadership of the nation's FA and the coaches led by Keshi in Nelspruit, South Africa on Tuesday.

Keshi was said to have kept mum when the press asked him about the reason behind the meeting.

The only plan to celebrate the 51st birthday of the Big Boss, as Keshi is fondly called, could be a surprise singsong from players and backroom staff to mark the day for the coach inside the Ingwenyama Sports and Leisure Club in Nelspruit.

“There may be a minor birthday song for him at dinner time but nothing serious will happen until we achieve our aim here in the Nations Cup,” a source hinted.

But as birthday wishes continue to pour in for the Big Boss, his concern will be to break the duck by getting his first-ever win as a manager at the Afcon after failing to do so as the coach of Mali and Togo in the past.

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