A retired 81-years-old administrator and a close member of the late Stephen Keshi's family, has spoken about the late AFCON 2013 winning coach in Illah, Delta State.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Daily Sun, 81-year-old Chief Ogbuenyi George Ofuokwu, who is the Odogwu of Illah and a close member of the late Super Eagles coach, Stephen Keshi’s family, has revealed some unknown details about the legendary footballer who was laid to eternal rest today in Benin, Edo state amid tears from family, friends and colleagues.
Below are excerpts from the chat;
How did late Stephen Keshi start his career in football?
Late Stephen Okechukwu Keshi’s career as a football player was not by coincidence or sheer luck. It was an innate ability and desire to succeed that drove him to such an enviable level in football. As a kid he used to kick every object he came across and that was how he developed strong interest in football.
What about his father’s reaction to his interest in the game?
I knew Stephen since when he was a 2-year-old when his family was living in Idi-oro, the area between Baba Olosha and Moshalasi in Mushin, Lagos. His father, Pa Aniemeka Keshi took me as a son and was instrumental to my coming to Lagos many years ago. Stephen Keshi’s father was a strict individual and the education of his children was of utmost importance to him. I consider myself as a close member of the family and I also helped to mediate anytime Keshi went against his father’s decision.
How did his father react when he won the Principals’ Cup in Lagos?
Before he won the Principals’ Cup, Stephen Keshi left home because his father rejected the idea of a football career, but he was adamant and followed his heart. Then, his father stopped to pay his school fees. His mother called me to intervene, which I did, but his father maintained his stance. However, his mother would cook soup, wrap the ‘Eba’ (garri) and hid it inside her headscarf to take to Stephen in his friend’s house. Fortunately, Reverend Father Dennis Joseph Slattery spotted his football talents and gave him scholarship to St. Finabarr’s College. He grew to become a well-known star after winning the Principals’ Cup. Later he was invited into the national team and we started reading his stories in the newspaper. At that point, his father soft-pedaled and started praying for his success in football. Stephen Keshi fought hard by disobeying his father because of a football career that ended up making him the captain of the Nigerian national football team.
Can you advise the government on how to immortalise him?
I was a member of the committee sent by the council of elders in Illah to welcome Stephen Keshi, when Nigeria won the 2013 African Cup of Nations in South Africa. I was at the airport and also attended some ceremonies held in their honour. The Delta State Government named a stadium after him in Asaba and also promised to build a sports institution in Illah, which would be named after him. This has not been done.