Amidst effusive tears, the remains of former Super Eagles coach and Nigerian football icon, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, were today finally laid to rest in his hometown Illah in Delta State.
Fondly called “Big Boss,” Mr. Keshi’s funeral rites began with the lying-in-state of his body at his Illah home this morning, followed by a committal mass at St. John The Evangelist Catholic Church in the same town. He was then buried at 2 p.m., with a throng of friends and family members at the graveside to pay their last respects to the departed soccer hero.
Some well-known figures who witnessed Mr. Keshi’s burial included Delta State deputy governor, Kingsley Burutu Otuaro, members of the Delta State Sports Commission, retired footballers and numerous members of the 1994 Super Eagles team captained by the late coach.
An Illah indigene told a correspondent of SaharaReporters that the town was disappointed by the absence of significant functionaries of the federal government at the burial. Even so, there was palpable excitement when former international soccer star, Nwankwo ‘Papilo’ Nwankwo, arrived a bit late at the funeral venue to honor Mr. Keshi’s memory.
A former coach of the Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC), Franklin Howard, could not control his tears at the graveside. Several other ex-players, friends, and family of the deceased also wailed loudly as Mr. Keshi’s casket was lowered deep into the grave.
Among members of the Super Eagles ’94 football team present at the burial were Peter Rufai (Dodo Mayana) Uche ‘Gentle Giant’ Okechukwu, Austin Eguavoen, Aloy Agu, Mutiu Adepoju, Emeka Ezeugo, Victor Ikpeba, and Friday Ekpo. Other ex-football stars at the burial included Taribo West and Chigozie Agbim. Austin Jay Jay Okocha (the current chairman of the Delta Football Association) was conspicuously missing at the burial.
Mr. Keshi died of heart failure on June 8, 2016, in Benin City, Edo State. He was the only Nigerian to win the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) both as a player (in 1994) and coach (in 2013).