Stephen Keshi was born as Stephen Okechukwu Chinedu Keshi on 23rd of January, 1962 in Azare, Bauchi State, Nigeria. He was a descent of Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta state, Nigeria. He was popularly called “Big Boss”.
He was both a former Nigerian football defender and a football Manager of the Nigeria national team. He played for Nigeria in the 1994 African Cup of Nations, tenaciously displaying skillful performances alongside his teammates, hence winning the much-competed gold medal in the Nations Cup. Stephen Okechukwu Keshi broke history alongside Egypt’d Mohmoud El-Gohary as they became the only two people to win the African Cup of Nations as both player and coach.
During his professional football career, Keshi predominantly played with Belgian clubs. In a bid to advance in the game of football, Keshi left for the United States of America, enrolled in a coaching school to be educated with the nitty-gritty of football management. Later in the year 1996, Nigeria’s Augustine Eguaveon, his football colleague joined him. They played together for the short-term Sacramento Scorpions in California. The duo played as the backbone of the team’s defence. Keshi was a member of the Nigerian national team coaching staff, most particularly as the Junior Eagle’s head coach at the 2001 African Youth Championship which served also as qualification for the 2001 FIFA World Youth Championship. However, the qualification was without success.
In the early period of professional coaching career, Keshi coached the Togo National football team between 2004 and 2006. He exhibited ample competence in managing the team that made them to qualify for their first World Cup tournament, Germany 2006. Due to his failure to push the team through to the knock-out stage in the 2006 Africa Cup of Nation that was held in Egypt, Keshi was sacked and substituted by German’s Otto Pfister prior to the World Cup finals. Unfortunately for Pfister, he did not last past a controversial World Cup campaign that almost resulted in players’ strike over their salary. As a result of this, Togo stayed without a manager not until in February, 2007 when Stephen Keshi was re-negotiated with for a friendly match against the Indefatigable Lions of Cameroon.
In April 2008, Keshi was appointed on a two-year deal as a manager of the Mali national football team. When Mali was eliminated out of the group stage in the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, Keshi became fired as Mali’s head Coach in January 2010.
In 2011, Stephen Keshi was named the head coach of the Nigerian National Team. He qualified Nigeria for the 2013 Nations’ Cup and finally sealed their outing with a humungous victory after Super Eagles defeated Burkina Faso in the final. Keshi worked his way to become the first African coach to qualify two African countries (Togo and Nigeria) to the World Cup finals; a record no African has broken. He achieved this feat by qualifying Nigeria to the Brazil 2014 World Cup after thrashing their Ethiopian counterpart with 4 goals to 0ne on aggregate in a play-off. He proved his mettle by paving Nigeria’s way to becoming the first country to achieve both an African Cup of Nations trophy and World Cup qualification in 2013.
In the Brazil 2014 World Cup, Nigeria crept out of the group stage after a goal less draw with Iran, a controversial 1-0 victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina and a 2-3 defeat by Argentina. However, Nigeria managed to progress to the knockout stage of the 2014 World Cup courtesy of Bosnia and Herzegovina who walloped Iran with three goals to one. Unfortunately, Super Eagles could not progress beyond the first knock-out stage after succumbing to defeat in the hands in France.
However, Keshi failed to qualify Nigeria for Morocco 2015 African Cup of Nations as he could not win any game in the qualifying series. In July 2015, Stephen Keshi quitted as a Super Eagles head coach following the expiration of his contract with the Nigeria Football Federation. However, he won some honours including the African Coach of the Year 2013 among others.
Stephen Keshi was married to Nkem Kate Keshi (Aburime) for over 30 years. On 10th of December 2015, his wife, Kate gave up the ghost after a three years battle with cancer. Six months later, Keshi joined her. Keshi died in the early hours of Wednesday morning, the 7th of June 2016 at the age of 54. Keshi had suffered of Hypertension and left to himself after the burial of his lovely wife. He died of Heart Attack in Benin City. He is survived by four children.