The 4th Stephen Keshi Annual Memorial Lecture took place in Benin-City a couple of weeks ago and while the occasion was attended by the who is who in football, it was most surprising to see a notable group missing, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).
No member of the NFF nor any of its representatives made it to the yearly event which this year, took place at Uyi Grand Event Centre, Ugbor, in the GRA of the city centre.
Born Stephen Okechukwu Keshi on January 23rd, 1962 in Azare, Bauchi State, the “Big Boss” as he was known throughout his career with the Super Eagles of Nigeria, earned 60 caps for the Super Eagles, making him the nation’s second-most capped player at the time of his retirement. He represented the country at the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations and the 1994 FIFA World Cup, captaining Nigeria to victory in the former. Stephen Keshi became coach of the Nigerian National Team in 2011 and in 2013, he led the Super Eagles to victory at the Africa Cup of Nations, defeating Burkina Faso 1-0 in the final and in the process becoming the first indigenous coach to win the AFCON for Nigeria and also becoming the only living African to have won the same competition as a player and as a coach. The tall and wonderful midfielder cum defender during his playing days also had the pleasure of lifting the trophy as the captain of the team.
The most upsetting development was the no-show of the Edo State FA officials despite the fact that the event was taking place at their domain. Stephen Keshi made a name playing for the defunct New Nigeria Bank (NNB) of Benin, lived in Benin, and married an Edo woman. He could easily pass for an Edo man in spite of his Delta ancestry, yet no official representation from the Edo State football house safe for the welcome presence of the Chairman, Edo State Sports Commission, Barrister Godwin Dudu Orumen.
The event, despite the absence of the aforementioned, however, enjoyed the presence of the Nigerian Minister of Sports, Mr Sunday Dare who was represented by his Special Assistant, Media, Mr John Joshua Akanji. The Edo State Deputy Governor, Comrade Philip Shaibu, also sent his Deputy Chief of Staff to the auspicious event.
Stephen “Big Boss” Okechukwu Keshi, died on 6th June 2016 but his legacy lives on. A committee for the next national youth U-17 football competition in his name, the 2021 edition has just been inaugurated and it is expected that the next Keshi is soon to be unveiled.
Stephen Keshi himself was a product of the national U-20 team in 1979 before narrowly missing the 1980 AFCON by the whiskers. He made his senior team debut on July 18th, 1981 against Upper Volta, now Burkina Faso and he played for Nigeria till 1995. The big boss will forever be remembered for his tears of joy on a cold night in Algeria as the Super Eagles picked their qualification ticket for their first-ever world cup appearance, USA 1994.
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