By Johnny Edward:
Super Eagles stars have paid glowing tributes for former Nigeria coach and captain Stephen Keshi who died in the wee hours of Wednesday, Completesportsnigeria.com reports.
The former Togo and Mali head coach who, won the Africa Cup of Nations with Nigeria as a player and coach, passed on at the age of 54.
His former skipper Joseph Yobo reacted to his demise by saying Africa has lost a legend.
“No one can put all his greatness into words. Here’s a man who paved the way for Nigerian players to move to Europe in the 80s, and won the biggest title in African football as a coach and player, ” said Yobo, the first man to reach 100 caps for Nigeria.
AS Monaco defender Elderson Echiejile who was part of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations triumph in South Africa with Keshi as the Nigeria coach also eulogised the departed Big Boss.
“This is hurting! You taught us alot but now you are no more. RIP BigBoss, we will forever miss you! #Legend #EUE3,” Echiejile wrote via his Twitter handle, @EldersonEch.
“We will always wish that some great individuals never die but its always left to God. You taught us a lot, was a coach-father! Won with us, lost with us and drew with us. We will miss you FOREVER, God knows best!” he added on his Facebook wall.
HJK Helsinki forward Nnamdi Oduamadi also wrote via his handle @oduamadi7: “Still in SHOCK. Keep resting Great Legend you are. RIP STEPHEN KESHI.”
Odion Ighalo, who scored one of the goals in Keshi’s last match as Super Eagles head coach, a 2-0 win over Chad in Kaduna in 2015, wrote on Twitter moments after Keshi’s death was reported: “Big Boss?? no way. R.I.P big Boss,Thank u for everything.
“What a tragic day. He was one of Nigeria’s greats without doubt; he was a father, mentor and above all a legend. It’s just a sad day.”
Super Eagles attacking midfielder Michael Babatunde also dedicated his best foreign player award in the Morrocan top flight to the late Keshi who handed him a rare chance with the Super Eagles.
“I’m having mixed feelings right now and it’s heartbreaking for me because Keshi was more than just a coach to me,” Babatunde told Completesportsnigeria.com from Morocco.
“I won this award hours before his death and I’m dedicating it to him for all he did for me.
“He handed me my debut for the senior national team and inspired me to shine at the 2014 World Cup and ever since Keshi had always kept me on my toes to do more.
“He gave most young players the belief to play in the Super Eagles.
“My steady rise is down to most of his advice on how well I can be better off the pitch. He remains my hero.”
Hapoel Be’er Sheva midfielder John Ogu, despite not being a regular under Keshi, was devastated by the news.
“Please tell me it’s a lie that Keshi is gone!!!Please tell me it all false,” Ogu tweeted, also adding crying face emoticons.
“Please I beg you in the name of God that it’s all false that Keshi is Gone !!! Big boss please!!!!! Don’t do this boss !!”
Lazio star Ogenyi Onazi added that the late Keshi contributed a lot to his career and he will forever have a special place in his heart.
“This is shocking. Keshi contributed a lot to my career,” Onazi wrote.
“He was the one who watched me play for my club and said I am ripe to play for Super Eagles and brought me in, for me he is my legend. Forever he will be in my memory.”
Eagles centre backs Kenneth Omeruo and Godfrey Oboabona who were both instrumental in the 2013 AFCON success also eulogised Keshi.
“I can’t believe you are gone. My encourage-able coach. Rest in peace big big bossssssss,” Oboabona wrote via his Instagram wall.
Omeruo added via his Instagram wall. “You weren’t just a coach to me, you were a father, you believed I had what it took to play for the country even when I had doubts myself.. Even when people said cut him, you kept me and encouraged me.
“I have always prayed to work with you again.. Guess that won’t happen.. No doubt I will miss you.
“Your Children will miss.Nigerians will miss you.. RIP BIG BOSS.”
Emmaniel Emenike also added his comment on Facebook. He wrote: “His success in Africa will be difficult to emulate. We have lost a legend and I have lost a leader and idol.”
“True Legend, the only man that believed in me, the only man that made me in super Eagles, the only man that has never stopped believing in me, the only man that surprised me on the day I needed him most in my dad’s burial, the only man that has never stopped advising me when he calls me,” an emotional Emenike said on his Facebook page.
The duo of William Troost-Ekong and Leon Balogun also wrote from their holiday base in Europe thanking the late legend for making them players of the Super Eagles
“That’s how I will always remember you BIG BOSS! Thx for making me a Supereagle! RIP Coach Keshi,” Balogun wrote.
While William Troost-Ekong stated via Twitter: “Very sad waking up to the news of the big boss Stephen Keshi. May your soul R.I.P. My condolences. A man who did so much for the Super Eagles as captain and coach and who believed in me one year ago. Taken too early. R.I.P Stephen Keshi.”