At last, late former Super Eagles Head Coach, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, is to be given a state burial befitting an icon who brought many laurels to Nigeria.
The late ex-international who died on June 8 after winning Africa’s highest football honour twice as both player and coach, is being proposed for burial in his ancestral home of Illah, in Delta State, in the weekend of July 27- 29.
In a tentative burial plan, a night of tributes is to hold in Abuja while lying-in-state, church service and novelty football match in Benin City are to precede the final interment in Illah, his home town.
The Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung, gave the hint when the children of the late coach called to officially inform and thank the federal government for the support given to the family since Keshi’s demise.
Already, the minister is proposing a 20-man national committee for a state burial that will comprise family members, the Nigeria Football Federation, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, stakeholders including coaches, administrators, ex footballers, the media and representatives of Delta and Edo states.
Military and para-military bodies including the Nigeria Police, the Department of State Services, the Nigerian Army, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and football supporters club are not going to be left out of the planning.
Dalung commiserated with the children who lost both parents within six months and urged them to be strong in the Lord.
“Coach Stephen Keshi will be remembered for his uncommon charisma, unrivaled leadership qualities and ability to command respect from players, peers and football enthusiasts.
He was a national hero and would be given a befitting burial. In fact, Keshi belonged to the government and he will be buried by the federal government.
“This committee will ensure a hitch-free burial and liaise between the government and the family to ensure that the best funeral is given to our hero,” revealed the minister in his comforting words to Keshi’s children.
Dalung also revealed that a memo which will suggest ways of immortalising both Keshi and Coach Amodu Shaibu is to be presented at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja.
Meanwhile, Keshi’s children have praised the efforts of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports, Nigeria Football Federation, the governments of Edo and Delta states, and the global football community, since the demise of the legend.
A letter signed by Jennifer Keshi and addressed to the NFF General Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi, read: “The children of the late Stephen Keshi, Jennifer, Stephanie, Sophie, Stephen Olufemi Keshi and Stephen Keshi Jr, would like at this time to express our thanks and appreciation to the people of Nigeria, Africa, the Football community all over the world, most especially the Nigeria Football Federation, Edo and Delta state governments, our relative, friends and well-wishers who have surrounded us with their love and care in this period of bereavement.
“We are deeply touched by the numerous calls, visits, prayers, words of encouragement and the show of willingness to be a part of the burial arrangements. Your acts of kindness and generosity have made our burden bearable. Thank you from the depths of our hearts.
“Our late dad was not only a wonderful husband to a wonderful wife, he was a soccer icon. Our mother who passed on to glory few months ago, together they were the most precious people we ever had. Their parenting and love for us knew no bound. They protected us and shielded us and prepared us for life,” recalled the children in the letter to the NFF.
Similarly, the Sports Committee of the House of Representatives has hailed the late Keshi as “a man of peace, a gentleman and a thoroughbred professional footballer and coach.”
In a letter signed by its chairman, Hon. Goni Bukar Lawan and addressed to NFF president Pinnick, the committee wrote: “The death of this great icon at this point of our history is a great shock to the committee and indeed the football community. The vacuum of his death will definitely be difficult to fill.”