Former international, Etim Esin, yesterday confessed that he would have had a better career if he listened to late Super Eagles captain and coach, Stephen Keshi.
Esin’s career was truncated while he was in his prime in the 1990s when he was accused of rape while playing for a Belgian club. The former golden boy of Nigerian football had to abandon his professional career in Europe for safety at home, a move that put paid to his burgeoning career.
Speaking in Lagos yesterday, Esin described the late Stephen Keshi as a leader and a pathfinder, who sought the good of others, both as a player and a coach, adding that his quest for the growth of the domestic league led to the inclusion of many Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) players in the squad that won the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title in 2013.
June 7 marked the fourth anniversary of Keshi’s demise from a heart attack in 2016. The late footballer was among the few persons to have won the AFCON both as a player and as a coach.
Esin described the late Keshi as one of the greatest legends in African football, who paved the way for many African players in the European leagues, and also guided them for successful careers in football.
“The late Keshi was very patriotic, disciplined, focused on his game and always giving advice. However, we didn’t get along because of my indiscipline, which he didn’t like.
“He left Nigeria for Belgium in 1986 and I joined him in 1987 and he was always advising me. Had I had followed his advice; maybe my career could have taken a different turn. He was a pathfinder and was behind the exodus of so many African footballers to the Belgian league,” he said, adding that his success story both as a player and a coach spoke volume for him.
“He did well both as a player and as a coach when he won the AFCON in 1994 as a captain and in 2013 as a coach. That makes him one of the greatest African legends of the African football.”
Esin, who played for both Lokeren and Lierse SK in the Belgian league, added that the inclusion of the local league players by the late Keshi in the Super Eagles that won the 2013 AFCON in South Africa, gave rise to the clamour for NPFL players in the national team.
“If you look well in our league, I believe there are some good players who are local league products. I understand that before Rohr’s contract was renewed, he was told to add local league players into his content by looking deeply into the NPFL for good players.
“Thank God Yobo is there to assist him because this was exactly what Keshi left behind as a legacy before his demise. I still remember that match against Cote d’Ivoire vividly. If Keshi hadn’t won the game, his job would have been on the line. But thank God he won and later went ahead to conquer Africa by bringing the cup home. May his soul rest in peace,” he stated.