The death of the former Super Eagles captain and coach Stephen Keshi came as a huge shock and has thrown the football world into a state of mourning.
54-year-old Stephen Keshi passed away in the wee hours of today June 8, 2016, according to his relatives and close associates.
One of his close friends revealed that “He was not ill at all, never showed any signs of illness, but we suspect he never got over the death of his wife.”
Although Nigerians have continued to react to the loss, below are five things the ‘Big Boss’ will be remembered for.
1. Leading Nigeria to win AFCON 2013
Stephen Keshi led the Super Eagles to win the 2013 African Cup of Nations in South Africa. Nigerian appeared at the 29th edition of the tournament as minnows.
The team began the competition on a rather poor note with 1 – 1 draws against Burkina Faso and Zambia respectively, in their opening two games at the tournament. Nigeria defeated Ethiopia 2 – 0 in their final group game to proceed to the quarter final stage against the star-studded Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire.
An Emmanuel Emenike freekick with a Sunday Mba strike gave the Keshi-led team a 2 – 1 win over the Ivorians. Nigeria defeated Mali in the semis and overcame Burkina Faso in the final to win the tournament for a third time. This feat confirmed Keshi as the second person to win the AFCON tournament as a player and coash, having also won it in 1994 as a player.
2. Stephen Keshi assisted many African players to move to Europe
Keshi played alongside Austin Eguavoen in California as the backbone of the defence for the short-lived Sacramento Scorpions. Chidi Nwanu, Odertey Lamptey, Okechukwu Ajah, Philip Osondu all played in Belgium with the influence of the ‘Big Boss’.
Keshi also discovered many great players including Justice Christopher, Dele Ayenugba and Sunday Mba.
3. The issues that led to his sack as the Super Eagles coach
It would be recalled that in 2002 Keshi was assistant to Shuaibu Amodu when Nigeria qualified for the World Cup, but the pair were sacked and replaced by Adegboye Onigbinde before the showpiece in South Korea and Japan.
The ex-international was re-appointed in 2011 and won the AFCON in 2013. He led the team reach the second round of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Keshi’s Super Eagles lost 2 – 0 to Le Blues of France in the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the following day, the coach controversially announced his resignation, saying certain people were trying to “sabotage” him.
By 2015, Keshi’s contract expired and citing lack to lack the required commitment to achieve the Federation’s objectives, the gaffer was relieved of his job.
4. First African coach to successfully qualify two African nations (Nigeria and Togo) to the World Cup Finals
The Big Boss led the Togolese national football team to an unprecedented qualification for the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
Having secured Togo’s unlikely qualification, he was promptly replaced by German coach Otto Pfister prior to the World Cup finals, after Togo showed a dismal performance and failed to advance to the knock-out stage in 2006 African Cup of Nations in Egypt.
There was also a reported row with the Hawks captain Emmanuel Adebayor.
5. Passion for the Super Eagles
He was a key player of the Nigerian national team and appeared at the 1994 FIFA World Cup, played in five African Cup of Nations championships and was a part of the team when they won the 1994 African Cup of Nations.
Despite being a defender, Keshi scored 9 goals for the national team in his 64 caps between 1982 and 1984. Having finished professional playing career, he got special coaching education in the USA and was appointed to manage the Super Eagles on three different occasions, which he later won in 2013.