Nigerians will miss Ike Uche


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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