Super Eagles’ former stars, Austin Eguavoen and Emeka Ezeugo, have called on the Federal Government to give the late Stephen Keshi a state burial as a mark of honour for the years of ‘meritorious service he rendered to his fatherland.’
Speaking on Keshi’s death, Eguavoen, who took over from Keshi as Super Eagles’ captain after the 1995 Confederations Cup in Saudi Arabia, believes giving the former Anderlecht of Belgium star a state burial would send a signal to current footballers that Nigeria would accord them their due respect if they served the country well.
Eguavoen, who recalled how he allowed Keshi to receive the trophy after the 1994 African Nations Cup even when the late star did not play in the final match, described the former Strasbourg of France skipper’s demise as “a huge loss to the nation. He was a leader on the pitch, he represented the coach on the pitch, he may not have been that much of a technician, but tactically he was very good and he played for a top club like Anderlecht.
“He stood for what he believes and that may be why he had problems with the NFF.”To Ezeugo, who was part of the 1994 World Cup, nothing would be better than giving Keshi a state burial.
He said, “Although our country is a nation where icons are not given their due rewards, I want to plead that we for once change our attitude to our heroes by giving Keshi a state burial.
“Nobody sacrificed his time, talent and even health in the service of Nigeria more than Keshi. He is not a politician, but that should even be a more compelling reason to celebrate him. Giving Keshi a state burial is the least he deserves from this country.”
Another former Super Eagles star, Mutiu Adepoju, who played with Keshi at the 1994 Nations Cup and the USA World Cup, said Keshi left an everlasting record in Nigerian football by winning the Africa Cup of Nations as a player and coach in 1994 and 2013 respectively.
He explained that Keshi would also be fondly remembered as an outstanding leader, who gave his best to ensure the Nigeria dominated African football and became the fourth best team in the world in 1994.
The former Racing Santander of Spain player also declared that the late Keshi would always be a reference point in African football development based on his contributions in motivating young grassroots footballers to excel in the game.
“During his days as my captain in the Super Eagles, he was seen as a hero by every member of the team because of the way he controlled the team. He was a great player, who did not only make his mark in the national team, but also excelled at club level.
“Africa and world football lovers will never forget how he encouraged young footballers to achieve their dream in football,” he said.To Ike Shorunmu, who was Super Eagles’ goalkeepers’ trainer during Keshi’s tenure as coach of the team, the former Super Eagles captain was a passionate and hard working manager, who gave everything he had to achieve his goal.
Shorunmu said Keshi carried the entire coaching crew along in taking important decisions on the team, saying that his good work in establishing many Nigeria domestic players, will never be forgotten.
“Having played and worked with him in the Super Eagles, I saw him as an outstanding person, who wanted things to be done right every time. He was a very funny and creative person.”
Meanwhile, Youth and Sports Development Minister, Solomon Dalung, has promised that the Federal Government will immortalise the former Super Eagles’ coach.
Speaking on Keshi’s death yesterday, Dalung said: “It is with a heavy heart but gratitude to the almighty God, that I, on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Federal government of Nigeria sympathize with the family of Coach Stephen Okechukwu Keshi (MON) and the entire Nigerian football family over the untimely death of our amiable, dedicated and outstanding hero. I was really shocked by the news of his death.
He was one of Nigeria’s heroes whose contributions to the development of football and Nigeria’s sports in general cannot be quantified.”
In his tribute, Barrister Dalung said that as Captain and Coach of the Super Eagles, Keshi contributed greatly to the development and popularity of football in Nigeria. He was a trailblazer who dedicated his life and talents to his fatherland.
“I will formally inform the government of the death of this great Nigerian, and I want to assure Nigerians that government will seek ways to immortalize him. I join millions of soccer followers across the world to mourn this illustrious son of Nigeria, Africa and the world. I pray for the repose of his soul and that the family, especially the children he left behind will find the strength to bear this devastating loss,” Dalung said.