“Our audacity to rise from our losses makes Nigeria the number one footballing nation in Africa!”
“It’s only football. There’s more to life than that.”
“That’s the way the game is. When you lose, you learn from it, you grow from it.”
Stephen Keshi (23 January 1962 – 8 June 2016).
Those are the immortal words of Stephen Keshi, not a few were shocked when the news broke in the early hours of Wednesday, June 8, 2016 that Stephen Keshi, Nigeria’s award-winning football captain and national coach, had suddenly passed, bidding the earth farewell in a most unusual manner. His wife had only passed six months earlier and many close observers now report that Keshi had been in mourning ever since.
The night before his demise, Keshi was reportedly hosting some of his friends at his residence in Benin. He suddenly developed some complications, collapsed and had to be rushed to the hospital. Unfortunately, he was declared dead on arrival. Many questions have been begging for answers since this sudden demise of one of Nigeria’s most celebrated football icon. “Could he have survived if he had the best medical rapid response?” “Did he really die of cardio?” “Did Keshi ‘leave’ to be with his soul mate?”
‘Love is stronger than death’ says the Good Book. Keshi was not only a dedicated lover of 35 years, he was also a doting father to his four children and a favourite son to his aged mother. Stephen Keshi’s passion for the round leather game is unequalled. He kicked off his soccer career at the ACB Football Club and played for several clubs before rising to national prominence in 1982 when he made his debut for the Nigerian national team at the age of 20.
The Delta state, Illah-born skipper captained the glorious 1994 Super Eagles team scoring animated goals from his central defending position. Aside Egypt’s Mahmoud El-Gohary, Keshi is the only soccer star to win the Africa Cup of Nations both as a player and a coach.
Stephen Okechukwu Chinedu Keshi was not only a Nigerian football legend, he was a polyglot whose command of the French language saw him plying his trade as the coach of Togo’s national football team. He spoke English, French, Yoruba and Igbo fluently. Keshi broke the jinx as Togo’s coach, taking Togo to their first World Cup tournament, Germany 2006 and also managed Mali’s national football team in 2008, leading them to the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations.
In 2011, Keshi was appointed head coach of Nigeria’s National Team, leading them to win the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. He also helped Nigeria become the first country to achieve an African Cup of Nations trophy and World Cup qualification, both in 2013.
AfroTourism joins the world in mourning the loss of this great national icon. He will be sorely missed but his worthy legacy forever lives on.
Adieu the Big Boss, Adieu Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, Adieu African football legend.