Why Keshi’s Death Should Be His Beginning

sunny-&-keshiIn 1984, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, then captain of the New Nigerian Bank football Club Benin, was banned by the Nigerian Football Association from all football activity in Nigeria.

Though extremely harsh, it was the catalyst that forced Keshi into Exile and eventually via Ivory Coast, to Belgium to become Nigeria’s first professional player in Europe.

Though this was the beginning of his lifelong alterations with the Nigerian football governing body, it made him a pioneer and the catalyst to Nigeria’s world football ascension.

Many followed suit, myself eventually and the polishing the exodus to Europe brought us all propelled us to the fifth FIFA ranked Nation in the world by 1994 with Keshi as our Captain and leader. A feat still unsurpassed by any African Nation!

Last Tuesday I was awakened by a phone call I still till date wish was just a nightmare:  announcing the sudden death of our leader, captain, brother and friend Stephen Keshi at a tender age of 54 in Benin City, Nigeria.

Things have never been the same since then as pain, memories and questions keep on flooding my mind nonstop.

Sadly many in my great nation Nigeria are not renowned for celebrating our legends, heroes or successful sporting sons when they are alive talk less of when they die, but rather fanatically try to tear them down.

They are quickly forgotten and that further makes this great man’s death further disturbing!

From the legendary 22 players of the 1994 golden team/era , of which I am one , Keshi becomes the 5th one we have lost in recent years and just some weeks ago was the 4th anniversary of the death of another late legend in person of Rashidi Yekini and it went almost uncelebrated. We also lost Uche Okafor, Thompson Oliha and Wilfred Agbonivbare

Keshi as a player was strong, a good passer of the ball, strong in aerial balls, initiator of attacks from behind, scored goals, motivated the team and most of all always wanted to win, even at training sessions and an AFCON winner with Nigeria, 1994.

As a coach Keshi was extremely successful: AFCON 2013 winner, qualified to the world cup 3 times, twice with Nigeria and once with Togo, though regrettably they allowed him only lead his team to the world cup once with Nigeria 2014.

I fear though today many, most of whom Keshi had lifelong disagreements with based on their dubious management of funds destined for his captained or coached team amongst others are now singing praises of his name, will soon forget to acknowledge future anniversaries of his passing away in the future amongst others. Sad!

Personally I was privileged to have played for years with Keshi in the super Eagles of Nigeria, eventually as his captain and he my coach with the Super Eagles and it was always an exceptional relationship maybe because we came from the same state, or because I was a hard working defensive midfielder in front of him, or because his lovely and unfortunately deceased wife liked me like a junior brother or simply just because most probably, he had a great heart. I guess I will never know.

Keshi taught me a lot for which I will be eternally grateful, some by his incessant advices and direction but most of all by just watching and observing him at work.

A very direct and vocal person who 3 years ago publicly chastised me for questioning his team line up at the confederations cup in Brazil as a coach but quick to be grandiose about it sometime later when we spoke on the telephone as a typical senior brother.

Nigeria has lost one of its greatest sons and ambassador worldwide but should it want to produce more in the future it has to immortalize Keshi and not just verbally but monumentally. That way the upcoming ones have something to work up to.

Keshi is bodily gone, but in our hearts, “Skippo” will forever live on. God bless you Steve and thanks for everything though you never liked me saying it, Thanks big Bro we miss you already!

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June 14, 2016 8:59 am Published by

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