* Dalung heads burial committee * Ex-players in Diaspora send condolences
For his contributions as both player and coach of the senior national team, the Federal Government may have concluded plans to name one of the national stadiums in the country after late former Super Eagles Head Coach, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi.
Keshi, 54, died on June 8 in Benin City. He won the continent’s highest football prize, the Africa Cup of Nations, as a player and coach as well as qualified Nigeria for the FIFA World Cup and even equaled Eagles best ever performance.
Ahead of his burial tentatively scheduled for July 27-29 in his ancestral home of Illah, Delta State, top government sources in Abuja revealed yesterday that a proposal to honour the late football legend has been tabled before the Presidency.
The Abuja National Stadium specifically commissioned in 2003 to host the 8th All Africa Games is being touted to be the edifice that may be named after the illustrious ex footballer.
A family source who spoke on condition of anonymity hinted that children of the late Keshi had asked the government to honour their father with a lasting legacy.
“The final decision rest with the Federal Government but the family is aware that there are such plans”, a family source revealed yesterday.
To give Keshi a befitting farewell, Youth and Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, has indicated that he or the Permanent Secretary of the ministry will now head the expanded committee for the burial of late soccer icon.
Several state governments have already signified their intentions to be part of the burial. Among the states are Lagos, Cross River, Rivers and Keshi home states of Edo and Delta.
The 20-man committee initially announced may have been expanded to 25 with several important sectors like the supports club, sports journalists, representatives of the NFF, all states indicative of participation in the burial, the Police, Civil Defence, Army and a strong team from his ancestral home in Illah all involved.
Among the media men already touted to be in the committee are IAPS big wig, Mitchell Obi and former NFF Spokesman, Austin Mgbolu.
The family is fully involved in the latest development and they have agreed that Keshi’s body will lie in state at the National Stadium in Abuja, from where it would be moved to Benin City for another lying in state. From the Edo State capital, the body will move to the Delta State capital Asaba, from where it will make its final journey to Illah for burial.
Meanwhile, some of Nigeria’s ex-international now living in the Diaspora have opened a condolence register in remembrance of Keshi and Amodu Shaibu.
According to a statement issued by the Nigeria Ex-international Footballers’ Association, (NEIFA) and signed by Paul Okoku, NEIFA’s President, Francis Moniedafe said the former footballers received the news of the passing of Keshi and Amodu with deep shock.
While commiserating with the families of the deceased, Moniedafe said Keshi and Amodu touched the lives of many youngsters positively.
“The president of the Nigerian Ex-International Footballers Association, (NEIFA), Francis Moniedafe, Dr. Femi Olukanni, Nathaniel Ogedegbe and Ikechukwu Ofoje and other NEIFA members wish to express our deepest sympathy to the families of the late Stephen Keshi and the late coach Amodu Shaibu over their sudden deaths.
“We pour our grief in remembrance of them. You will be greatly missed in Nigeria and in the continent of Africa, particularly, in the circle of footballers’ fraternity and sporting world because you contributed immensely to youth development in football effortlessly. You also touched the lives of many young men, in many positive ways,” the statement concluded.