STEPHEN KESHI: The Big Boss
Stephen Okechukwu Keshi was a Nigerian football defender and manager. During his playing career, Keshi earned 64 caps 9 goals for the Nigeria national team and 386 caps and 51 goals for his clubs, making him the nation’s second-most capped player at the time of his retirement.
Around 2001, Keshi was part of the coaching staff for the Nigerian national team, most notably as head coach for the Junior Eagles at the 2001 African Youth Championship which also served as qualification for the 2001 FIFA World Youth Championship, without success.
In 2006, Keshi achieved success by qualifying Togo for the only FIFA World Cup appearance in its history. However, he left the position prior to the tournament and was replaced by Otto Pfister. He was appointed manager of the Mali national team in April 2008 on a two-year deal. Keshi was sacked in January 2010, after Mali’s early exit in the group stages of the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations.
Keshi became coach of the Nigerian National Team in 2011. Where he became one of only two people, along with Egypt’s Mahmoud El-Gohary, to have won the Africa Cup of Nations as both a player and a coach. He also led Nigeria to the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Keshi set a record in African football by being the first African coach to qualify two African nations (Nigeria and Togo) for the World Cup Finals in 2005 and in 2013. He also helped Nigeria become the first country to achieve an African Cup of Nations trophy and World Cup qualification, both in 2013.
In July 2014, following Nigeria’s exit from the World Cup, Keshi’s contract with the Nigeria Football Federation expired and was not renewed.
Thereafter, Keshi had a heart attack and died on route to hospital on 7 June 2016 in Benin City, aged 54. His wife had died the previous year (10 Dec, 2015) after battling cancer for three years. They had four children.
Born on the 23rd of January 1962, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi was honoured by Google with a doodle on what would have been his 56th birthday.