Nigerians woke up on Wednesday, to hear the shocking news of the demise of one of the most successful indigenous coaches in Nigeria and Africa at large, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi.
Keshi, a former captain and coach of the Super Eagles, ‘The Big Boss,’ won the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) as player and manager in 1994 and 2013, respectively.
Tributes have been pouring in from around the world for the former Super Eagles Coach. The number one football personality in the world, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, has identified with Nigeria at this trying moment and more importantly with the bereaved Keshi family.
“On behalf of the international football community, please allow me to extend my deepest condolences to the football community of Nigeria and, most importantly, to Stephen’s family, friends and loved ones. We hope that, in some way, our words of support may help bring a little bit of peace and solace in this time of sadness,” the FIFA boss stated.
Aside the FIFA President, other important personalities within and outside the country have also sent in their condolences.
Former Sports Minister, Bolaji Abdullahi, described Keshi as a man who deeply loved Nigeria and the greatest captain the country ever had.
He said, “That we were victorious and won the Nations Cup after 19 years (South Africa 2013) was largely due to the leadership provided by Keshi.”
“He was passionate and committed to the Super Eagles team as he was to Nigeria football. Keshi’s love for Nigeria was never in doubt, whether as a coach, captain of the Eagles or footballer. The greatest captain, the greatest coach, RIP,” Abdullahi said.
There have also been condolence messages from the Football Associations of Mali, Ghana, South Africa and also Sierra Leone.
Back home, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar described the sudden death of the ex-soccer star as the loss of a national hero and a pacesetter.
“It saddens my heart to learn of the stunning news of the death of the golden boy of Nigerian football. His departure is more touching when one recalls that Keshi also lost his loving wife of 33 years, Kate, to cancer late last year, thus rendering their young children hapless orphans,” Atiku said.
Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa described the sudden demise as tragic and a monumental loss to football in Nigeria, Africa and the entire world.
Okowa said: “The remarkable achievements recorded by the Nigeria Super Eagles in 1994 and 2013 were unarguably due to his indefatigable role as the captain and coach.”
Emmanuel Amunike, Nigeria U-20 coach, privileged to play with Keshi during his playing days, described him as a true Legend: “Keshi can be described in many ways, but those of us that are privileged to share good moments with him can boldly say that Keshi is a leader, brother that inspired many of us. He encouraged us and inspired to be the best.”
Former defunct Green Eagles assistant coach, Tunde Disu, has urged the Federal Government to immortalise the late Super Eagles coach, because of his achievements for the country, saying, “His achievement in football development is commendable. He should be immortalised because he has achieved a lot.”
Also giving tributes to the late Keshi, Jonathan Akpoborie, former Super Eagles player said: “Keshi was an icon, the first Nigerian professional that went abroad (Belgium) to ply his trade as a footballer; going to Europe, he inspired lots of Nigerian players people, especially me.”
Among other achievements before his demise, Keshi won the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, qualified the Nigeria for the FIFA World Cup finals, led the team at the FIFA Confederations Cup and steered the Super Eagles to the Round of 16 at the FIFA World Cup.
Before that, he had received global applause for leading tiny Togo to reach their first FIFA World Cup, in 2006. He also coached the senior team of Mali.
A colourful playing career took Keshi to ACB FC of Lagos and NNB of Benin (Nigeria), Stade Abidjan and Africa Sports (Cote d’Ivoire), Lokeren, Anderlecht and Molenbeek (Belgium), Strasbourg (France), Jaguar Bay, San Jose and Sacramento Scorpions (USA) and Perlis of Malaysia.
Credit: Premium Times