Tributes have flooded in from African football legends and FIFA for Stephen Keshi.
The former Nigeria captain passed away in the early hours of Wednesday in Benin at the age of 54.
Former South Africa captain Phil Masinga; ex-Ghana attacker Nii Odartey Lamptey; ex-South Africa defender Neil Tovey; ex-Zambia captain Kalusha Bwalya; and ex-Ghana defender Mohammed Gargo said they were devastated by Keshi’s passing.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino; South Africa coach Shakes Mashaba; and South African Football Association President Danny Jordaan said they were saddened and shocked by the death of the former NNB captain.
“It is a big loss for the whole African football fraternity…especially Nigeria,” former Bafana Bafana forward, Masinga who faced Keshi in a 1994 World Cup qualifier in Lagos, told Goal on Thursday.
“He did so much for Nigeria as a player and as a coach.
“I played against him in the early 90’s, we faced Nigeria in Lagos if I remember correctly
“He was a very good defender, a well respected player in Nigeria…as a captain the players had a lot of respect for him.”
Former Black Stars playmaker Lamptey, who Keshi was accused of smuggling to Belgium to sign for Anderlecht, told Kasapa 102.5 FM said the deceased did a lot for him.
He said, “I stayed with him for a minimum of six months and he fed me on a daily basis, encouraged me and all that
“He did a lot for me. My first contract I signed in Europe- Belgium he went with me and signed the contract for me. What he’s done for me I can’t pay him back. I appreciate him a lot.”
Former Black Stars and Borussia Dortmund defender Gargo said, “I am really surprised to hear that Keshi is no more I cannot even believe it.
“I am a Muslim and I believe that we will all die one day but to think that Kesi would be gone so soon was thinkable.”
Bwalya said he had lost his “good brother”.
He told PowerFM “He was a funny guy and a leader but didn’t impose himself on people but people who spoke to him walked away thinking ‘I have spoken to a real man’. Stephen was a big man of Africa and the world so my sincere condolences to his family.”
Infantino wrote on FIFA’s website, “I would like to express my deepest sympathy on hearing the news of the loss of the Nigeria great Stephen Keshi.
“On behalf of the international football community, please allow me to extend my deepest condolences to the football community of Nigeria and, most importantly, to Stephen’s family, friends and love ones. We hope that, in some way, our words of support may help bring a little bit of peace and solace in this time of sadness.”
Mashaba said, “Words cannot describe this shocking loss. Keshi was not only a giant of African football but was a global football icon.”
Jordaan said by virtue of SAFA’s close links with the Nigerian Football Federation, his association with Keshi were equally strong and intimate.
He told Goal, “At 54, Keshi was one of the bright young coaches coming out of this continent and having been a captain and solid player during his playing days, you can’t find a better individual whose life was wholly dedicated to the game of football.”
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