Nigerians both home and abroad are mourning the loss of Stephen Keshi, a former coach of the country’s senior national football team, the Super Eagles, who died on Wednesday.
As tributes pour in for the former coach and Nigeria national, the country’s Football Association which confirmed his death has also paid its own tribute saying “We can never forget” Keshi’s contributions to Nigeria football.
— The NFF (@thenff) June 8, 2016
He didn't just go abroad himself, he took so many other Nigerians, there are a few Ghanaians that went through him as well so Stephen was that kind of colossus in Nigerian football. He really cared about the country and he always did his best.
Stephen Keshi died at the age of 54 of a suspected heart attack.
A member of the Nigeria Football Association, Ado Mohammed told the Reuters news agency that “Keshi represents everything good” adding that “as a coach he is in the history books”.
Mohammed alludes to Keshi’s feat of being the second African footballer after Egypt’s Mahmoud El-Gohary to have won the African Cup of Nations both as a player and a coach as one of his “great legacies”.
Having taken over management of the Super Eagles in 2011, Keshi led the Super Eagles to nations cup glory in 2013, 19 years after he had lifted the trophy as a player.
“He went on to coach Togo and Mali which very few have been able to lay their hands on, so that shows you a lot of things about him as a person and his qualities” Ado Mohammed added.
A member of Nigeria’s Federal House of Representatives’ Committee on Sports, Ade Joseph also paid tribute to the late Keshi who he said “was the first (coach) that I will say the players respected. You know we are so used to respecting foreign coaches but Stephen Keshi was the (you know) first home-based coach that got that respect from the players and I want to believe that’s very important now because it’s like that’s what we are lacking again now. So it’s so sad that we are going to miss him. He died too young.”
In his 20-year career as a footballer, Keshi played in clubs in France, Belgium (Anderlecht) and the US (Sacramento Scorpions), paving the way for many young Nigerian football talents to play in European clubs.
“Stephen Keshi was a Nigerian football hero” said Kitan Olagbegi, a Sports Manager.
“When he played in the domestic scene he made his mark at a young age, he got into the Super Eagles really young, travelled abroad, went to Cote d’Ivoire before going to Belgium and Stephen was a leader, he didn’t just go abroad himself, he took so many other Nigerians, there are a few Ghanaians that went through him as well so Stephen was that kind of colossus in Nigerian football. He really cared about the country and he always did his best,” Olagbegi added.
Stephen Keshi is considered an iconic figure in a golden generation of Nigerian footballers which includes Jay Jay Okocha, Samson Siasia, Sunday Oliseh, Rashidi Yekini and Daniel Amokachi.