Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Tribute to Stephen Keshi

It's a year today since we woke up to the sad news of former Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi's death. It was a big blow to everyone, not just those involved with football.

This blog post is a tribute to the legend that was affectionately known as the 'Big Boss'.

The guy? I was in awe of him EVERY time I was with him. Great is overused a term. He was a great man.

The only African coach to qualify two different African teams for the FIFA World Cup. The only African coach to qualify an African team for the 2nd round of the FIFA world cup. The only indigenous coach to win the AFCON for Nigeria, the first Nigerian captain to an AFCON final outside Nigeria.
“Legend” does not do Stephen Keshi justice. Neither does this tribute but I owed it to him to try and write one.

Calvin Emeka Onwuka
Football Writer and Analyst.
I’ve known Keshi all my ‘football life’, way before I knew I was going to play the game or even be a football writer.

He struck me as proper defender who had the skills of a midfielder and I can also recollect the 3-1 loss to Cameroon at the 1984 AFCON in the Ivory Coast. His exploits at Anderlecht especially in the UEFA Cup Winners Cup (now christened Europa League) made an impression on me despite my young age.

Fast forward a few years later and he was the leader of men, captain of the Super Eagles and then came the 1994 AFCON win and qualification for the World Cup.

He cemented his place in history.

His best moment will arguably be leading Nigeria to win the 2013 AFCON in South Africa after a 19 year wait. Winning it as captain and coach made him even more of a hero. He was the ‘Big Boss’ after all.

We weren’t really close until 2013 during the qualifiers for the World Cup. We spoke every-time we met and he was surprised I knew so much about him and his career (I bet like everyone, my ‘babyface’ deceived him).

The last time we spoke was during Nigeria’s AFCON qualifier with Chad in Kaduna, I never knew it would be the last till I will see the legend.

He always and an advice or two to give and his sense of humour even made him more likeable. He was a good man, I will surely miss him.

There can’t be another Big Boss.

Adieu Skippo.

Andrew Randa
Football Writer,

 I first met Stephen Keshi in Kumasi, Ghana, in 2009 when he brought the Eagles of Mali to play the Black Stars in their final group qualifier for the 2010 World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations. 

The Ghanaians had already qualified but Mali needed at least a draw to secure AFCON. And so it was a big match for his side who eventually got a 2-2 draw against the big boys of Ghana that included Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari and Asamoah Gyan.

 After the game, I walked up to him and told him I was a Nigerian journalist working in Accra. He appreciated the fact that there was a Nigerian to appreciate his work and it was the beginning of many more meetings for both of us. We met again in South Africa for the 2013 AFCON, the World Cup qualifier in Addis Ababa and at the World Cup in Brazil.

 I always appreciate the access he gave me to the team during the final game of his tenure in Kaduna against Chad. It was, sadly, the last time we met. We didn't have a smooth relationship at the beginning of his campaign at AFCON 2013 but we talked over it and afterwards we could see eye to eye.

 Even though I felt he should have left when the ovation was loudest after the World Cup Round of 16 achievement, it was obvious Keshi loved the game and loved his country. 

Lolade Adewuyi
Former Editor, Goal Nigeria.

One of the few indigenous coaches whose love for winning under any circumstances, with any kind of personnel - whether or not "local based" - is second to none.

365 days gone and it seems just like yesterday, when the class of 2013 thrusted you back and forth into Jo'burg's skies for accomplishing yet another laudable feat.

So fresh are these memories that it breaks one's heart to only but wish you, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, to continue to rest on.

Tolu Olasoji
Football Writer, Goal Nigeria

I don't think any Nigerian coach can fill his big boots. He just knew how to overcame the challenges associated with working with African football federations. His death shocked me. RIP Big Boss.

Chibuzor Amos (AmosCP)

Sports Journalist.

I remember waking up about 3am on 7th June 2016 and in my usual manner, I opened my twitter account to check what's trending. Behold all I was seeing is Big Boss is dead .

 I was like what kind of stupid rumours is this? Not until I saw tweets of some veterans and it dawn on me that truly big boss is no more. My love for him increased after winning the 2013 nations cup even though I was among those that criticized him with his selection of players but he proved people like me wrong and lifted the trophy. 

This popular adage " a Prophet is not recognized in his place" is really true because the way we as a nation treated the big boss he helped us end 17 years trophy drought was unfair. Today we remember you the big boss, forgive us  as a nation for the ill treatment. 

May God continue to strengthen your children.  Sleep on big boss.

Faith Oluchi

Sports Journalist, Port-Harcourt.

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