- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) - Stephen Keshi signed a two-year contract to continue as head coach of Nigeria on Tuesday, calling it “a new page” after a tumultuous story so far that has seen him guide the country to the African title, resign, return, get fired and then be reinstated.

Keshi and the Nigerian Football Federation agreed the new deal after lengthy negotiations, putting Keshi back in charge ahead of the start of 2017 African Cup qualifiers in June and 2018 World Cup qualifiers later in the year.

Nigeria, the African champion in 2013, needs to bounce back after failing to qualify to defend its title at this year’s continental championship.

“This job is too big for Keshi alone. It has to be a collective effort. We have to team up to do this,” Keshi said.

Keshi and the federation haven’t always worked smoothly together before, though.

A day after guiding Nigeria to its first continental title in 19 years in South Africa in 2013, Keshi said he had resigned, blaming federation officials for trying to oust him from his job earlier in the tournament. He rescinded his resignation.

Last year, he took Nigeria to the second round of the World Cup, but was later fired as Nigeria failed to make the 2015 African Cup. His short-term replacement said Keshi was still the best man for the job and he returned on a game-by-game deal. Keshi has also complained and threatened to leave over his wages not being paid on time, and reportedly called the initial terms he was offered by the NFF to continue as coach “a slave contract.”

“This is a new page in Nigerian football and what happened in the past has happened,” Keshi said Tuesday as he was presented to media. “I have what it takes to take the country forward.”

The 53-year-old Keshi is a former Nigerian captain and defender and won the African Cup of Nations as a player in 1994. Two years ago he became the first black African coach to win the Cup of Nations in two decades and only the second man ever to win it as a player and a coach. This contract will take him through the 2017 African Cup of Nations.

“We have absolute and undiluted confidence in Stephen Keshi to take Nigerian football to new heights,” federation vice president Felix Anyansi Agwu said.

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