Hello sports fans, I just finished writing the stuff (Tribute) on the legendary late Muhammad Ali, which was published in my column here when the news hit me once again that Nigeria and the indeed the footballing world has lost another legend; Stephen Keshi.
This tribute was put together in honour of Stephen the Marvelous Okechukwu Keshi aka ‘The Big Boss’, who died on Wednesday, 8 June, 2016.
While words can never be enough to express how much someone means to us, I think our thoughts and expressions can still provide some comfort, solace, hope and inspiration at a time like this when we lose a loved one.
Keshi’s death came as a rude shock and it’s just like when the country lost a brave soldier.
The Big Boss, as Keshi was fondly called during his lifetime, was a member of the Super Eagles main force. he was a great captain, a fantastic coach, an inspirational figure and a hero.
A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than himself and Keshi did that as a Nigerian. Even if you have 1-500 caps or more than that for any national team as a player or coach at one time or the other, you deserve to be celebrated like a hero.
Keshi’s death and the condolence messages and accolades that followed his demise from prominent heads of organisations such as FIFA, CAF, Presidents of Football Associations, Presidents of various countries and international football stars clearly shows how important and influential he was to Nigeria, Africa and rest of the world.
But, how important is our heroes and heroines to us as a country? How do we recognize or celebrate our heroes and heroines who at a time or the other brought hounour to Nigeria?
Of course, death will always come and it’s in turn, though nobody knows his or her own time, but let our leaders learn from Keshi’s example; ‘how or what will people remember us for?
The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him; his people and country. Coach Steven Okechukwu Keshi, you were a true soldier and you did not die in vain because it is evident you were a rare gem with the way the world is grieving right now.
Keshi contributed immensely to football general as a player and coach. I could recollect meeting him in Amsterdam and we spoke at length. I can recall telling him I have acquired my Uefa Grade A Coaching Badge and Keshi exclaimed “‘Waoo’ keep it up”. He even assured me that my time to work for the national team will come and advised that we (Nigerians) should always remember our country by touching our base.
However, let’s look at the job of coaching, which Keshi did before he passed on. Being an actor or coach is the loneliest thing one can experience in life.
You are all alone with your mindset, all alone with your concentration, all alone with your imagination, because that’s all you have derive for, not being able to sit with people openly all of the time but you are always in a quiet place or room alone soliloquizing or the next thing to do. That’s how the life of a coach is compared to the life others live generally.
Sometimes ignorance often prevail upon us and makes us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders.
Keshi was practically alone when he lost his wife about six months ago. However; funerals greetings and prayers are being offered on various social platforms while many people are sending condolences to his family and those that matter in Nigerian football especially the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF.
But, after the initial flurry of activities, everyone will go back to his or her normal life, leaving the grieving family to their fate. The bereaved ones often suffer loneliness and despair as just a few come back to see how the grieving family is coping with the demise of their loved ones.
My advise to the Federal government and the NFF is to initiate a means of honouring a falling hero. The Nigerian Anthem clearly states that ‘Arise, O compatriots, Nigeria’s call obey; To serve our fatherland; With love and strength and faith; “The labour of our heroes past; Shall never be in vain’… Our government and people must take care of their heroes and heroines both when they are alive or no more.
Heroes such as Winfred and Yekini, to mention just a few brought honours to Nigeria before they died but were not celebrated, Keshi too has gone home to rest, but what is our plans for the heroes and heroines?
Keshi, who was survived by four children and his mother is the only Nigerian coach to have won the Africa Cup of Nations, when he achieved a rare feat in 2013 by becoming the second person to win the trophy both as a player and a coach. His achievement is worthy of emulation and I believe Keshi deserves more than a state burial from Nigerians.
Goodnight, my hero, Stephen ‘The Big Boss’ Keshi.
Coach Peter Ijeh
Uefa grade A Coach