President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Amaju Pinnick has said that Coach Stephen Keshi was sacked to safeguard him from the wrath of enraged Nigerian fans, who were on the brink of lynching him during Wednesday’s 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier with Sudan.
Pinnick and other NFF Executive Committee members watched with awe, as fans pelted Keshi with water bottles and stones as they demanded for the head of the 2013 AFCON winner at the Abuja National Stadium, venue of the match, which Nigeria won 3-1 to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for next year’s tournament in Morocco.
Chants of “Keshi must go:, “sack Keshi” and “we don’t want Keshi again” rented the air as fans went overdrive in their bid to get their voices heard by the NFF, who swiftly swung into action in the wee hours of yesterday by axing the former Togo and Mali coach.
And speaking when he paid a courtesy visit to the Minister of Sports and Chairman, National Sports Commission, Dr. Tamuno Danagogo yesterday, Pinnick explained the personal safety of Keshi was considered more important than anything else.
Pinnck, it was learnt told the Minister that he was shocked with the hostile reception of the fans towards Keshi, arguing that it would be dangerous for Keshi to remain as coach in the face of such hostility.
He added that it was the first time in recent years that abuses and stones were rained down on a Nigerian coach by fans.
“It was too much to bear. The fans were coming for him and it was going to be a security risk for us as people had ran out of patience and were prepared to break the law to achieve their aim. Keshi’s personal safety was paramount in our decision to relieve him of his duties”, Pinnick said.