Keshi’s memory lingers on… four years after
It was in the late night of June 7, 2016 that Nigeria’s longest serving national team captain, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi passed on.
For many Nigerians, particularly those who played or worked with the ‘Big Boss,’ his memory lingers on.
From ACB FC, NNB, Stella FC Abidjan, Anderletch, Strasbourg, Torino, Malaysia 11, MLS and indeed Nigeria’s Super Eagles, Keshi was always a leader. It was not a surprise that he was captain of all the clubs listed above and became the national team captain for close to 15 years.
Peter Rufai, Samson Siasia, Ben Iroha and even Uche Okechukwu held the forte for him if club and injuries did not allow him to play for the Eagles.
Keshi was an enigma of football in Nigeria, Africa and indeed the world. He joined Egypt’s Mohammed El Gohary as the only two persons in Africa to have won the Africa Cup of Nations as Captain and later coach.
His children, sports administrators and friends capture what they remember of the man fondly call ‘the Big Boss.’ His first daughter, Ifeyinwa Keshi said: “To daddy dearest, I miss you and celebrate you, you are an inspiration to me. Your drive for your country and love for football has shown me that one can achieve anything they set their minds and hearts to. Because of you, I can stand proud. I love you.”
Jennifer Keshi wrote in her eulogies: “I shall lead my life by your example. I will not look to the right nor look to the left to watch others. Instead, I will follow what I love and do it to the best of my abilities like you.”
Sophie, Keshi’s third daughter was emotional in her submission: “I love you and I miss you.”
His son, Keshi Junior, in his submission said: “Dear Dad, your determination and love for what you did despite the challenges and difficulties you faced taught me how to live my life. You never complained, you just kept going, laughing and smiling, loving every minute of what you did in football. You taught me not only to respect myself, but to respect others, irrespective of what people do. Dad, I love and miss you, thanks for paving the way for us your children.”
In his eulogies, former NFA Chairman and present NIS board Chairman, Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima said Keshi was a hero that would be difficult to replace. “He was always looking for solutions to problems, even when he was wrongly accused. A true patriot I must say.”
Daniel Amokachi, who worked with Keshi as assistant coach to win the Nations Cup in 2013, said it was a terrible blow to have lost Keshi. “I met him first when we were preparing for Algiers ‘90 in Amsterdam, and I was just 17 years old then. He told everybody that I am his son and must be protected. Amazing character and leader, we are missing him but I guess Heavens want him more because the best people are in Heaven.”
Former national team first choice goalkeeper, Ike Shorunmu, who also worked with Keshi as goalkeepers’ trainer, said he still felt like the exit of the ‘Big Boss’ was a big dream, and wants to wake to be told a different story.
“He was a motivator, leader and great carrier of the burden of men. We are missing him. I know Nigerian football is missing him, even those who hate his guts are missing him.”