Johannesburg (S/Africa) – South Africa’s national team head coach, Ephraim Mashaba, on Saturday described former Super Eagles coach, Stephen Keshi, as an advocate of young players.
Mashaba said at a memorial service for Keshi organised by his friends at Christ Ambassadors Church, Kempton Park, Johannesburg, South Africa that Keshi’s investment in young players paid-off when the Super Eagles won the AFCON tournament in 2013.
He also said that Nigeria`s qualification for the World Cup in Brazil resulted from such investment.
“We should celebrate the life of an icon. Keshi was a confident man. I have never seen Keshi angry and he was always looking for excellence,” he said.
The coach said that Keshi bought him a suit for turning around the fortunes of his country`s national team.
“I liked Keshi`s style of play. To the family, I say, do not be dismayed. God will strengthen you,” Mashaba said.
Nigeria`s Consul-General in South Africa, Amb. Uche Ajulu-Okeke, commended the organisers of the event for remembering Keshi`s contributions to Nigerian football.
Ajulu-Okeke said Keshi made Nigeria and Africa proud as a coach and player.
“He brought unity among Nigerians through football and it would have been an honour to host him if he had become a coach in South Africa,” she said.
Former Super Eagles keeper, Willy Okpara, commended Keshi for opening the opportunity for Nigerian players to move to Europe.
Okpara, team Manager of Orlando Pirates Football Club of South Africa, said Keshi fought for the right of players in the national team.
“The big boss is one of the coaches in Africa to win the African Nations Cup as a player and coach.
“Keshi`s advice made me to be in South Africa . We will miss him,” he said.
The President of the Nigeria Union, South Africa, Ikechukwu Anyene, said that the union worked closely with Keshi when Nigeria played matches in South Africa.
“Nigeria Union worked closely with Keshi and we are proud to be associated with his achievements.
“Keshi was an African legend. As a coach and player, he did Nigeria proud. We will miss him but we thank God he will remain a legend in our hearts,” he said.
Idah Peterside, Bishop of the church and ex-Super Eagles player, said Keshi was a life saver for colleagues in the national team.
Peterside said the former coach was regarded as a stubborn person, “but the truth is that he was protecting the interest of his colleagues in the national team.
“He was a good man and had a purpose for being stubborn. He was a legend and helper of men” he said.