By RON FANFAIR
The fallout resulting from teams failing to make the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon has led to coaching changes in Nigeria, Gambia and Rwanda.
Former Nigeria defender Stephen Keshi took over from Samson Siasia who was fired after holding the position for 11 months.
Keshi coached Togo for two years up until 2006 and managed the Mali team that made an early exit in the group stages of the Africa Nations Cup qualifying series. He was sacked from that position in January 2010.
The head coach of the Nigerian junior team at the 2004 Olympics and a former assistant coach of the senior team, Keshi said it’s a good feeling to be back working for the Nigerian Soccer federation.
“I am just hoping that things go well,” he said. “I have been here before working as an assistant to Jo Bonfrere and Amodu Shaibu. It’s not an easy job when it comes to soccer. You have millions of coaches telling you, mostly after the game, which line-up you should have played.
“I will try to do my utmost best to bring back joy to the Nigerian people. There are challenges all over the place, but I just have to keep my focus and see what happens.”
Keshi is charged with the responsibility of guiding Nigeria to the next Africa Cup of Nations tournament in South Africa in 2013 and the 2014 Brazil World Cup.
Held every two years, the tournament will switch as of next year to be held in odd-numbered years so that it does not collide with the International Soccer Federation (FIFA) World Cup.
The former Nigeria captain said he is not going to make any early predictions.
“It is too early to tell,” he said. “I want to take it match after match and every game is important. Every game is like a World Cup final for me.”
And, Serbian Milutin Sredojevic is the new Rwanda coach, replacing Sellas Tetteh who resigned after the country’s 5-0 shutout to the Ivory Coast in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
“I am ready to take up this challenge and guide Rwanda to another level,” said Sredojevic whose first task is to prepare the central and eastern African country for a World Cup qualifier tomorrow against Eritrea.
Sredojevic was selected ahead of four other candidates because of his vast coaching experience in Africa. He led Sudanese side Al Hilal to the semi-finals of the Africa Champions League.
Gambia, meanwhile, is in the hunt for a new coach after Belgian Paul Put was fired for failing to lead the team to the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations competition. He, along with goalkeeping coach, Franco Cresentini, were dismissed.
“The coach got the sack after his failure to qualify the team to the Nations Cup,” said Gambia sports ministry secretary, Alieu Jammeh.
The Belgian took over the side four years ago and had his contract extended despite failing to lead the side into last year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Angola.