In spite of Nigeria’s victory at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations tournament in South Africa, the Super Eagles’ Head Coach, Stephen Keshi has said that the absence of Shola Ameobi in the squad has dampened his excitement. Nigerian football officials were compelled to drop the player from the country’s list to the just-concluded AFCON in South Africa because of a clause in the contract he signed with the club, which prevented him from honouring national assignments.
Ameobi was earlier named in the preliminary squad by Coach Stephen Keshi. But later Newcastle’s boss, Alan Pardew announced that the 31-year-old would not travel to South Africa. Keshi said he really missed Ameobi in South Africa. The Newcastle star, according to him, has the qualities he wanted in a player. “When Ameobi came around during our training programme for the Nations Cup, he really impressed me. When he talked, the players listen to him.
He has these leadership qualities I have been looking for in a player. He commands respect on the pitch,”Keshi said. Ameobi made his debut for Nigeria last November in the friendly against Venezuela and Keshi’s hope was dashed when the England’s former Under-21 international couldn’t turn up again for the competition proper last month.
He, however, became the second England-based player after Danny Shittu who could not honour Nigeria’s call to play at the Nations Cup tournament in order to play for his club. The Millwall’s defender, Shittu, wrote to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and asked to be left out of the tournament.
The NFF rejected his letter and insisted he must make himself available, but Coach Keshi approved Shittu’s request. On Efe Ambrose, Keshi said he would hold on to the player in spite of the position he’s playing in his club. “He was growing during the tournament, he loves to play in that position. With every game, Ambrose was just marching forward with much confidence.
If he was not growing, then that’s a different thing,” Keshi remarked. He is a very technical player. He loves playing that position and so we said go ahead. He can also play in central defence, as a defensive midfielder and at right back. Same goes for Oboabona, Kenneth (Omeruo) and Onazi,”he said.