Friday

Keshi’s burial rites begin, Pinnick says ex-Eagles coach extraordinary

The funeral Mass for former coach of the Super Eagles, late Stephen Keshi, was on Thursday held at St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Airport Road in Benin, Edo State.

Keshi died on June 8 in Benin at the age of 54, after a 44-month spell as coach of the Super Eagles.

He was one of  only two men to have won the African Cup of Nations both as player and as coach in 1994 and 2013.

The remains of the former captain of the senior national team were brought through the centre aisle of the church in company of his children, family members and friends.

Present at the ceremony was a delegation of Nigeria Football Federation, led by its president, AmajuPinnick.

Pinnick described Keshi as a “superhero” who was renowned for doing the extraordinary.

“I have always described him as a superhero because he did not do things that were regular; he did things that were extraordinary.

The NFF president also added that the federation would honour the late icon.

“That (honour) is definitely going to be done,” Pinnick added.

One of the in-laws of the late Keshi, Richard Aburimen, said  the late coach would remain in the hearts of his loved ones.

Aburimen said,”Stephen Okechukwu Keshi was a good man, a man of peace. He was a giver; he never held back and that why he was as big as he was.”

Also present was the Chairman of the Edo State Football Association, Frank Ilaboya, and former teammates of the late football strategist, including Austin Eguavoen.

The officiating priest, Very Rev. Fr. Richard  Ofere, said Keshi lived an exemplary live as a member of the parish, where he contributed selflessly to the development of football.

According to Ofere, the football icon was always willing to serve, even in the midst of scarce resources.

While stressing the need to believe in the resurrection, the priest noted that death was not the end of the life of a true Christian.

Ofere also added that righteousness and true worship of God were prerequisites for Christians who desired to see God.

The body of the former Eagles coach was later moved to the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium for a novelty match between ex-internationals and all stars, before leaving for a lying-in-state and tributes at the indoor hall of the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba, Delta State.

Top FG officials absent at service

’Tana Aiyejina

No high-profile Federal Government official was present on Thursday when the burial of late football legend, Stephen Keshi, began in Benin City, Edo State, and Asaba, Delta State, it has been learnt.

The absence of top ministry officials may not be unconnected with preparations for the Rio 2016 Olympics, as most of Team Nigeria’s delegation begin the long trip to Brazil on Friday (today).

Amidst a paucity of funds, the sports ministry has earlier stated that it would honour the late icon after the Olympic Games, leaving Keshi’s family to move ahead with the burial plans, which began  with a church service at St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Benin City on Thursday.

The 54-year-old former Nigeria captain and coach died on June 8. Sports minister Solomon Dalung earlier this month inaugurated a 20-man committee for the funeral of Keshi.

The committee, which comprises family members, coaches, ex- internationals, football administrators among others, is headed by the Permanent Secretary of the sports ministry, Christian Ohaa, and assisted by the President of the Nigeria Football Federation, AmajuPinnick.

However, while Pinnick was present in Benin City and Asaba for the beginning of the funeral rights for the fallen ex-footballer, no top sports ministry official or FG’s representative were present in both venues.

Austin Eguavoen, Mutiu Adepoju, Aloy Agu, Peter Rufai, Uche Okechukwu and Friday Ekpo were among the 1994 Super Eagles teammates of Keshi present on the occasion.

“It’s very sad that we are not going to see him anymore. It’s very emotional,” ex-Eagles midfielder Adepoju said.

Keshi is hero-worshipped in Benin City, after his exploits with defunct NNB FC and it was evident as the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium was filled to capacity as his body lied in state there on Thursday. Edo Deputy Governorship aspirant Philip Shuaibu scored for the All-Stars Team in a 1-1 draw against ex-internationals in a match played in honour of the late coach.

‘Big Boss’ fought for players – Erico

Idris Adesina

Former Nigeria goalkeeper, Joe Erico, has described late Super Eagles coach and captain, Stephen Keshi, as a voice for unknown players.

Keshi died on June 8 and will be buried in his hometown, Illah, Delta State on Friday. His burial rites began on Thursday in Edo State.

“Keshi is a hero and Nigeria football will find it difficult to replace such a person as him,” he said.

“As a player and coach he was exceptional. He was a voice for unknown players both as a player and when he coached the national team.

“Many ex-players can talk about how he fought for them in the national team back then and when he became a coach, he gave the chance to many unknown players to have their names heard. I believe he laid the foundation for the current national team because most of the players he discovered then still played in the team till now.

“His time as the national team coach was very eventful and memorable and the honour he brought to the country will never be forgotten in a hurry. One can talk and talk about him and one will not exhaust his good qualities. Keshi is really a national hero and I pray he rests in perfect peace.”
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