Keshi goes home today

The remains of the late Stephen Keshi during the church service at St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Benin City. Inset: The late Keshi

• As Okowa pays tribute to ex-Eagles coach

THE remains of the late former Super Eagles coach, Stephen Keshi, will be interred today in his country home, Illah, Delta State.

Keshi’s final journey home began in Benin City, Edo State on Thursday, with a one–hour church service at St. Paul’s Catholic Church, off Airport Road, which was conducted by the Very Rev. Fr. Richard Ofere.

The president of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Mr Amaju Pinnick, in his remark described Keshi as a super hero who was renowned for doing the extraordinary.

“I have always described him as a super hero because he was a super hero. He did not do things that were regular, he did things that were extraordinary. Honour is definitely going to be done,” Pinnick said.

At the Lying-In-State held at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin, Keshi’s ex-clubs and national team-mates, friends, soccer-loving fans and well wishers were on hand to pay their last respect.

Pinnick, was unable to hold back tears while speaking at the event organised by the Edo State government in collaboration with the Edo State Football Association.

He lauded the immense contribution of the fallen soccer hero to the growth of football in Nigeria who he said through his confidence in home-based players included six of them among the squad which won the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

Austin Eguavoen led other ex-internationals, Victor Ikpeba, Peter Rufai, Tony Emedofou and Tarila Okorowanta, among others to feature in a novelty match against All Stars which ended in a 1-1 draw, before the body was moved in a motorcade to Asaba.

In Asaba, a member of the House of Representatives, Honourable Amaechi Mrakpor, expressed disappointment at the manner which spirit of excellence is being killed in the country.

Speaking at the Lying-In-State in honour of Keshi, which recorded a low turn out of sympathisers, Mrakpor said despite all that Keshi did, he was not accorded the due respect he deserved in death.

“We are probably not proud of the country he (Keshi) represented. I just wonder what is going through the minds of the young boys and girls who admired Keshi. I appeal to the those in leadership position not to murder the spirit of excellence in sports, engineering, architecture and other fields of human endeavour in Nigeria,” she said.

The casket bearing the remains of Keshi arrived in Asaba at 4pm and was laid in state at the Stephen Keshi Stadium.

The Delta State governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa at the occasion paid glowing tributes to the former Togo and Mali coach.

“The sports-loving people of Delta State can never forget Stephen Okechukwu Keshi. We miss you. The lovers of football will miss you. Nigeria and Africa will miss you. The football world will miss you. Farewell the Big Boss. Adieu,” said Okowa, who was represented by his deputy, Barrister Kingsley Otuaro, who led government functionaries in the state including the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Monday Igbuya, his deputy, Friday Osanebi and others to file passed the corpse.

Also, NFF president, Pinnick, Eguavoen and Rufai who attended the Benin programme were also present in Asaba, alongside other ex-internationals such as Uche Okechukwu, Alloy Agu, Mutiu Adepoju, Ben Iroha, Austin Popo, Franklin Howard, Friday Ekpo, Edema Fuludu and coach Fanny Amun, among others.

First son of the deceased, Mr Stephen Femi Keshi in his remarks commended the Delta State government and the people of the state for being supportive of the bereaved family, just as he expressed reservation over the Federal Government’s attitude towards the burial of his father.