Keshi summoned by FIFA to defend racist remarks

FIFA has given Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi until September 19 to respond to the comments he made on former Malawi coach Tom Saintfeit.

The deadline was issued in a letter received by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) from FIFA before the decisive World Cup 2014 qualifier between Nigeria and Malawi in Calabar on September 7.

In the letter, FIFA gave Keshi a two-week ultimatum to respond to the Belgian coach’s allegations. The deadline for Keshi to reply is next week Thursday.

We learnt last night that NFF leadership plans to summon Keshi to a meeting on how a soft landing defence can be presented to FIFA.

Saintfeit had alleged that Keshi racially abused him by the reference to him as ’’a white dude who should go back to Belgium”, in a charged response to Saintfeit’s request for the World Cup qualifier to be moved from Calabar on safety concern.

The Belgian, who failed to secure an appointment with NFF as a Technical Director last year, after he had attended an interview in Abuja, caused uneasiness in Nigeria, when he asked FIFA to move the crucial fixture to Abuja or a neutral country, because the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office had pronounced Calabar as a no-travel area.

His comments prompted FIFA to demand for a full security cover from Nigeria which was provided by the Inspector General of Police Mohammed Abubakar, before Calabar was declared fit to host the match.

The Eagles coach innocuously responded to Saintfeit’s comment to stoke the tension leading to the match by granting a phone interview aired on UK-based African TV show.

Keshi was angered and in the abridged interview he said:”I think the coach of Malawi is crazy. If he wants to talk to FIFA, he should go back to Belgium. He is not an African person, he is a white dude; he should go back to Belgium.”

The comments were regarded as an extraordinary slur by Saintfeit who forced a complaint to be sent on his behalf to FIFA by his former employers, the Football Association of Malawi (FAM).

FAM wanted an action to be taken against Keshi for the comments, a demand which FIFA failed to deal with it before the important fixture which Nigeria won 2-0 to top Group B for a place to the last stage of Africa’s qualifying round in October – November.

FIFA has a zero-tolerance stance on racism as a way to control acts of discrimination in the football.

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