Few hours after the official confirmation of the death of Stephen Keshi, CAF President Issa Hayatou has offered his condolences to the president of the Nigeria Football Federation. Hayatou expressed his “dismay” and “immense sadness” following the sudden death of the man, who was a twice winner of the Africa Cup of Nations with Nigeria; in 1994 as captain and in 2013 as a coach, with the latter earning him the distinction of Coach of the Year at the Glo-CAF Awards.
In a correspondence, the CAF President also paid glowing tribute to the deceased, who goes down into history as the only African coach to have qualified two African teams to the World Cup – Togo in 2006 and Nigeria in 2014. His other enviable record is being the only African trainer to have steered a team to the Second Round of the FIFA World Cup, with Nigeria at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. He had achieved the same feat as a player with the Super Eagles at their maiden participation at the Mundial in 1994 in USA. The CAF President conveyed the condolences on his own behalf, the CAF Executive Committee and African football family on the demise of Keshi, who was a jewel to his family, friends and the Nigerian football family, who are badly affected. In a tribute to the late coach contained in a statement, Professor Osinbajo said: “As captain and coach of our national football team, his service, dedication and achievements, including lifting the African Nations Cup both as a player and then as a coach, remain a great testament to the value of hard work”. He pointed out that his personal triumphs and pursuits as a world-class professional footballer inspired many young talented sportsmen and women around Africa to strive for excellence. The statement further said: “His great work with our youth and senior national teams unified our country and brought joy to many compatriots. His feats within and outside the country, are a rich legacy, which will continue to live on in our hearts. “On behalf of the people and Government of Nigeria, I commiserate with the family of Mr Stephen Keshi on this tragic loss.” In the same vain, a message released by Babatunde Loye, Chairman Central Association of Nigerians in the UK said, “CANUK executives sympathise with Nigerians and indeed all football enthusiast all over the world over the sudden death of Nigerian football icon Stephen Okechukwu Keshi CON a.k.a ‘Big Boss’.
The former international football player and coach died after suffering cardiac arrest early this morning. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this period of great loss. Keshi, made history as the only Nigerian coach to have won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013. He was the second person to win the trophy both as a player and a coach. Keshi coached Togo, Mali and Nigeria at the World Cup. Keshi will forever be remembered for his great contributions to football in Africa. May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace.” Sunday Oliseh, a former team-mate and Keshi’s successor as Nigeria coach, tweeted his shock at the “horrible news” and called Keshi “an iconic hero”. The NFF president Amaju Pinnick:
“This is devastating. We have lost a superhero.” Former Super Eagles midfielder, Mutiu Adepoju said, “I think Nigeria will remember Keshi for his efforts to bring sanity to Nigerian football at a time when everybody has lost hope. He gave direction to Nigerian football by defying all odds, with the introduction of home-based players into the national team. “Particularly players that were now known, but he took the risk and it was these same players that ensured that we won the title in South Africa. He will also be remembered as the only Nigerian to win the AFCON as a player and as a coach. We will surely miss him and it was painful that he had to leave at this time,” Nigeria’s Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki in a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu said: “Keshi was an excellent
star. His soccer artistry and leadership skills remain unparalleled. His days, while donning the national colours and his stint as a National Coach of the Super Eagles could rightly be regarded as “Nigeria’s golden moments” in both national, continental and world soccer. “Keshi lost his wife late last year and today we heard the sad news of his demise. This must be a heavy burden for the family to bear. His death at 54 is both a rude shock and highly unfortunate. “Nonetheless, we must take solace in the fact that he did his utmost for the development of sports in Nigeria, Africa and the world, during his sojourn on earth. “As a player and coach, he was instrumental to superlative victories for the national team. It could be recalled that the “Big Boss” as he was fondly called, made history by winning the African Nation’s Cup as a player in Tunisia 1994 and in South Africa 2013, he won again as a coach. He was perhaps the only Nigerian to have achieved that feat. “He was a great source of inspiration to his contemporaries, team mates and the younger generation who took to football and are still active in sports across the world today. He shall be sorely missed,” said: “Keshi captained a generation of Super Eagles that was truly superlative in performance and bestowed on the national team the international fame, respect, and grandeur it enjoys till date. “He captained the Super Eagles to the 5th place in FIFA ranking, possibly the best by any African country so far, and capped it up by leading a younger generation of the national team to a successful campaign to the Africa Nations Cup in South Africa. “His death is, therefore, a big blow to us as a nation. Keshi deserves our prayers for the peaceful repose of his patriotic soul; and he indeed deserves immortalisation by a country he served so fervently, patriotically, and unreservedly.”