R L: Keshi’s children, Jennifer and Junior and Emeke Enyihor at the NFF secretariat in Abuja …on Monday
* Adebayor mourns the former Togo gaffer
Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
Controversy seems to be trailing the burial ceremony of foremost Nigeria’s ace footballer and coach, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi.
At Illah, his hometown in Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta State, the position is clearly that his kith-and-kin are expecting the remains of their beloved son to be brought home for interment.
However, some indigenes of the quiet agrarian community expressed worry at the rumour making the round that Keshi might be buried in his in-law’s place outside his native Illah.
They said that they feared that some individuals who had in the past distanced themselves from Keshi especially during his trying moments, were now angling to play some central role in the footballer’s burial arrangements, hinting it could be a guise for money making from the death of their illustrious son.
Some of those who spoke on condition of anonymity stated that it was impossible to contemplate burying Keshi at his in-law’s place whereas he has a house at his home town, Illah, where he is also a titled chief and his relations are still alive.
“We are surprised that at death, so many persons who were not interested in Keshi became so interested based on what they stand to gain,” a close family source confided to newsmen in Illah on Tuesday.
The respondent queried, “When Keshi’s wife died, which was not long ago, how many star footballers identified with him? Was the Nigeria Football Federation led by Amaju Pinnick involved? If Keshi was to wake up today, how will they feel?
“They are just playing to the gallery. Has NFF met its obligations to Keshi? Let them bring his remains home and allow us to give him a befitting burial deserving of a hero who has served the country meritoriously.
“All these interests in Keshi is affecting us, they should not disorganise us because of Keshi’s death, we are seriously pained that people are interested in what they stand to gain rather than giving honour to a hero?” stressed the Keshi family source.
Meanwhile, Togo captain, Emmanuel Adebayor, is mourning the death of Keshi his erstwhile coach.
Keshi qualified the Sparrow Hawks for their first and only World Cup finals appearance in 2006 and in the first of two spells in charge of the national team.
Adebayor was a prominent member of the squad under the former Nigeria international, and has described his former gaffer’s demise as a “great loss to African football”.
“I knew Keshi when I was very young. He taught me a lot in my career. His death is a great loss to African football,” Adebayor told AFP .
Adebayor was speaking in the aftermath of an exhibition game played in Lome on Sunday in honour of the late tactician. The game, watched by a crowd of almost 8,000 fans at the Municipal Stadium, was between the current Togolese national team and Keshi and Friends. It ended 6-2 in favour of the Hawks.
Keshi and Adebayor were involved in a bitter dispute that came to a head when the latter was left out of Togo’s opening game at the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations, a 2-0 defeat to DR Congo.
The official line was that of an injury to the then Arsenal striker, but reports later emerged that there was in-fighting on the Togo team bus, with Keshi being restrained by the rest of the squad from a fist-fight with the player.
Keshi, it emerged, felt he was owed a fee for the player’s move from Monaco to Arsenal in the 2006 January transfer window.