Legandary football icon Stephen Okechukwu Keshi was a Nigerian football defender and manager. He was born on January 23, 1962 in Azare, Bauchi State and hailed from Illah in Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta State. Keshi had his early education at Saint Paul’s Catholic Nursery and Primary School, Apapa Road, Lagos State. He then attended Saint Finbarrs’ College, Akoka, Lagos in 1976 and subsequently received his high school certificate at Saint Gregory’s College.
He earned 60 caps for the Nigerian national football team, making him the nation’s second-most capped player at the time of his retirement.
He represented the country at the 1994 FIFA World Cup and the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations, captaining the Super Eagles to victory in 1994 African Cup of Nations. He also played club football in five countries including California (Sacramento Scorpions) and Belgium where he won the Belgian league championship with R.S.C. Anderlecht in 1991. After a playing career mostly with Belgian clubs, Keshi went to the United States to be educated in coaching.
As a manager, Keshi coached Togo qualifying the team for the only FIFA World Cup appearance in its history in 2006. However, he left the position prior to the tournament and was replaced by Otto Pfister. He later coached Nigeria, where he became one of only two people, along with Egypt’s Mahmoud El-Gohary, to have won the Africa Cup of Nations as both a player and a coach. He led Nigeria to qualification for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, which they went on to win and also led Nigeria to the 2013 Confederations Cup.
He also worked as manager of the Mali national football team, after being appointed in April 2008 on a two-year deal. Keshi was sacked in January 2010, after Mali’s early exit in the group stages of the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations.
Keshi set a record in African football by being the first African coach to successfully qualify two African nations (Nigeria and Togo) to the World Cup Finals. He also helped Nigeria become the first country to achieve an African Cup of Nations trophy and World Cup qualification, both in 2013.
He was married to Kate (née Aburime) for 30 years. She died on 10 December 2015, after battling cancer for three years. They had four children. On June 7, 2016 Keshi had a heart attack and died en route to hospital in Benin City.