Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki on Wednesday described as a “rude shock” the news of the death of the former Skipper and Chief Coach of the Super Eagles, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi.
Saraki in a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said the sad occurrence was both painful and unfortunate coming at a time the nation is in dire need of wisdom and rich experience of sports professionals like the late international star to stabilize its soccer architecture.
Saraki lauded the monumental contributions of Keshi to the development of football in the country and extolled his doggedness and exemplary contributions that saw the nation clinch international trophies both as a player and a coach.
Saraki 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,” he said.
The Senate President commiserated with the children and immediate family of the deceased, the Government and people of Delta State, the Minister of Youths and Sports, the nation’s football governing body and the Super Eagles over the painful loss.
While praying God to grant the Soul of the departed eternal rest, he urged his children, loved ones and admirers to emulate the enviable lifestyle of industry and patriotism of the late soccer hero.
He called on both the Federal and Delta State Governments to immortalize him.
Similarly, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, Ogun State Governor, expressed shock and sadness at news of the death of former Super Eagles player and coach, Stephen Keshi.
The Ogun State governor, through his media aide, Adejuwon Soyinka described the death of Keshi who was one of only two men to have won the African Cup of Nations both as player and coach, as “a great and tragic loss to Nigeria and the world of football.”
He added that, “as a football loving nation, Nigeria will sorely miss the former Super Eagles skipper and his wealth of experience.”
The governor described the late Keshi as a “patriot whose records as a player and coach of the Super Eagles will be remembered for a long time to come.”
While commiserating with members of the family of the late coach, Governor Amosun prayed that God grants them the fortitude to bear the loss.
In his view, Dr Rafiu Oladipo, President-General, Nigeria Football Supporters Club (NFSC), suggested the naming of a stadium in the country after the late Super Eagles Coach, Stephen Kesh. iOladipo told the Newsmen in Lagos on Wednesday that naming a stadium after Keshi would serve as a “befitting honour for the player who won the Nations Cup for Nigeria as a captain and as a coach.
“Keshi achieved the same feat as Clement Westerhoff who won the Nations Cup for the first time for Nigeria as the Super Eagles Coach
in 1994 in Tunisia.
“Keshi as the Super Eagles Captain in 1994 recorded another glorious feat for Nigeria, winning the Nations Cup for Nigeria as coach in South Africa in 2013,’’ he said.
The president-general, who said he did not want to sound political for mentioning the stadium to be named after Keshi, said that the gesture would immortalise him.
Oladipo who is also the President-General, African Football and Other Sports Supporters Club (AFOSSU), added that naming a stadium after Keshi would be a morale booster for other Nigerian coaches.
“Imagine, he just lost his wife, Kate last year December and suddenly, he too died without any sign of ailment. His untimely death is shocking.
“When I heard of his death, it baffled me because he showed no sign of any sickness. Nobody knows or heard that he was sick.
“We learnt of his death this morning, it’s a very big loss to Nigerian football, a very big loss to Nigerian sports and to Nigerians.
“Keshi, was a good player, a very a dependable captain of the Super Eagles and that standard he continued with as a coach of the Super Eagles,’’ Oladipo said.
Meanwhile, Chris Giwa, the proprietor of Giwa FC of Jos, has joined other Nigerians in mourning Keshi.
“When I heard the news, I thought it was a stupid joke, when it was confirmed, I was alarmed; May God give the family the fortitude to bear the loss,’’ Giwa said.
SECURITY MONITOR learns that Keshi had his appointment terminated by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) as Head Coach sometime last year due to the lingering crises rocking the federation. (NAN)