Former Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi has sadly passed, months after his wife, at the age of 54.
The former Super Eagles head coach had lost Kate, his wife of 35 years, to cancer last December.
In a statement, family spokesman Emmanuel Ado confirmed Keshi died of cardiac arrest in the early hours of Wednesday.
“With thanksgiving to God, the Ogbuenyi Fredrick Keshi family of Illah in Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta State, announces the death of Mr. Stephen Okechukwu Chinedu Keshi,” Mr. Ado wrote.
“Our son, brother, father, father-in-law, brother-in-law, has gone to be with his wife of 35 years (Nkem ), Mrs. Kate Keshi, who passed on on the 9th December 2015.
“Since her death, Keshi has been in mourning. He came back to Nigeria to be with her. He had planned to fly back today Wednesday, before he suffered a cardiac arrest. He has found rest,” concluded the statement.
The Big Boss, as he was fondly called, made his first appearance for the Super Eagles in 1981 at age 20 and the central defender retired in 1994 after picking up 64 caps and nine goals as he captained Nigeria to win the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations as well as their first appearance at the World Cup in the USA.
As coach, he helped tiny Togo reach the 2006 World Cup in Germany before he was sacked and replaced with German Otto Pfister, few months to the tournament. He also handled Mali which he took to the 2010 Afcon in Angola.
He led the Super Eagles side to success at Afcon 2013 where they won after 19 years. He managed the side to the Fifa Confederation Cup 2013 and 2014 Fifa World Cup and became the first African coach to reach the knock out stage where they fell to France in the Round of 16.
However, his side failed to qualify for the 2015 Afcon which led to his third and final disengagement by the Nigeria Football Federation after a long and fractious relationship.
Keshi was the only Nigerian coach to have won the Africa Cup of Nations and second African to win the trophy both as a player and a coach.
He started out with St. Finbarr’s College, Lagos and featured for domestic club sides ACB Football Club and New Nigeria Bank before leading a generation of Nigerian footballers abroad when he went to Cote d’Ivoire’s Stade d’Abidjan and Africa Sports. He then made his way on to Belgium where he played for Lokeren, Anderlecht, RC Strasbourg, among many others.