by Emeka Obasi
His father was Ogbueshi[killer of Elephant]Frederick Aniemeka.Today,former Abia state governor Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu thinks Stephen Okechukwu Keshi,First Nigerian to win the Nations Cup as player and coach, deseves to be crowned the Igwe[King ] of our soccer.
Extolling Keshi’s profile,Kalu said,”The first Nigerian to qualify another nation,Togo, for the the World Cup,first to take three countries-Togo,Mali,Nigeria to the Nations Cup,first to play in four continents-Africa,Europe,Asia,America,first Nigerian to win AFCON gold,silver and bronze both as player and coach, and many more.”
The ex-governor described Keshi as a true Nigerian who cherishes friendship more than gold and a great patriot ready to die in defence of fatherland.
“Born in Zaria to Igbo parents from the South-south,bred in Lagos and married to an Ishan,Edo lady,Keshi’s friends are legion.At St.Paul’s school Ebute-Meta,his pals were Paul Okoku and Segun Olukanmi.When he joined New Nigeria Bank, Benin in 1979,it was because of Henry Nwosu and Edema Benson,snubbing Aloy Atuegbu’s better deal from Rangers.Keshi met his wife Kate through Franklin Howard’s friend Lizzy.And one of his Assistants in the Eagles team Sylvanus Okpala was a pioneer Flying Eagle like Humphrey Edobor,Sam Igwenagu and Prince Afejukwu.He also remembers Akeem Alade and Demola Adekogbe,” Kalu continued.
And now Keshi’s patriotism.”In 1993,Coach Gilbert Gress of Stasbourg France,took the Captain’s band from the Nigerian for playing in a World Cup qualifier against South Africa.In 1994,Keshi was sacked by Belgian club RWD Molenbeek,again, for choosing country over club.He was also attacked by armed robbers at Oshodi losing his Benz car and almost losing a brother in the process.Do not forget he was sanctioned by the NFA in 1985 and sacked in 2002 after assisting to qualify Nigeria for the World Cup,”Kalu said.
Yet Keshi stood by his country.In Kalu’s words,”As far back as 1992,South African journalist Mark Gleeson had tipped Keshi to coach Nigeria,describing him as world class.You saw how Keshi screamed when Gleeson asked him questions after the Ivorian feat.It took Nigeria 20 years to hire Keshi as Manager.And for the very first time,Eagles beat a team they could not defeat in the group phase, in the grand-finale.Manfred Hoener could not do it against Cameroun in 1988,nor Clemens Westerhof against Algeria in 1990.Homeboy Keshi achieved it.”
Thanks Uzor Kalu for this comprehensive profile of the great legend Stephen Keshi. We remain royal and proud of him, he is a hero of our time.