Memory was brought alive of former Super Eagles’ captain and head coach, Steophen Okechukwu Keshi, as family, friends, colleagues and associates marked the third year memorial of his death.
The splash of honour, eulogies and citations were led by former Eagles’ media officer, Ben Alaiya, who worked under Keshi in the heroic squad that won the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa and reached the second round of the World Cup in Brazil.
Alaiya recounted in a memorial script for Keshi that it was June 7, 2016 that Nigeria’s longest serving national team captain and the man who had a rare feat of captaining every club he played for passed on.
Alaiya stated further in his write-up on Friday that the first quest that came to mind when Keshi’s cousin, Kanayo picked his call was what was amiss; but the only thing he could mutter was: “Oga has gone to rest.”
Same went for Keshi’s acclaimed ‘brother’ and associate, Emmanuel Addo, who simply said: “Your Oga don go stay with his wife in heaven.”
From ACB FC of Lagos, NNB of Benin City, Stella of Abidjan, Anderletch of Belgium, Strasbourg of France, Malaysia 11, America’s Major League Soccer (MLS) and Nigeria’s Super Eagles, Keshi was always a leader.
It was not a surprise that he was captained of all the clubs listed above and became the national team captain for close to 15 years, time during which Stephen Okechukwu Keshi became a football enigma in Nigeria, Africa and indeed the world.
He joins Egypt’s Mohammed El Gohary as the only two persons in Africa to have won the Arica Cup of Nations as Captain and later coach.
Alaiya further disclosed that Keshi’s children were joined by past and present sports administrators as well as colleagues and friends in their memories of the man fondly call ‘Big Boss.’
Keshi’s first daughter, Ifeyinwa Keshi has this to say: “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: “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 yoy.”
His son, Stephen Keshi Jnr in his own 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 the same vein, Keshi’s third daughter, Sophie, was lost for words yet deeply emotional in her submission, adding: “I love you and I miss you.”
In his eulogies ex-chairman of then Nigeria Football Association (NFA), now head of the board of National Institute for Sports (NIS), Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima said Keshi was a hero that will 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 why 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 all are missing him but I guess heavens want him more because the best people are in heaven.”
Ike Shorunmu, former national team first choice keeper, who also worked with Keshi as goalkeepers trainer, said he still felt like the exit of Big Boss is 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. So long, Big Boss Keshi.”