Heaven could not wait to grow richer with you champs!

26th July 2016
From me to you
Column

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By Joe-Brown Tlhaselo -


Dear Stephen Keshi

The Boss!! So God has decided it is time? My Super Eagle!! I write you this letter with a heavy heart after I learnt of your sudden departure to the land of everlasting plenty. How could you Super Eagle? Just as we were still warming up to the news of your possible coaching stint in South Africa, you decide to just leave us like that without a warning? I hear they talk of some cardiac arrest that has left me dumbfounded. At least if we had known you to have any form of a heart problem before, we would understand why you left. But to be told it was a heart complication that abruptly took you away when a few hours before you were laughing and full of life, is just hard to take in. That is why those who were with you earlier asked if you were involved in a car accident - it was just too unbelievable.

It pained me even more to hear your protege Joseph Yobo say you had just been speaking to him in your usual encouraging demeanor and that he could not have guessed you were speaking to him for the last time. I can't imagine the pain in your four children who were expecting your arrival in the US on the same Wednesday you instead took flight to God's land. I pray and hope that your mother, brother and sisters will be able to cope with the loss so painfully felt by the rest of the continent and the world. Yet I know the Heavens are smiling. There is a lot to celebrate up there, for they have just welcomed another sporting hero. Perhaps the sadness on Earth will drown in the elation of those who have watching over you from Heaven, especially your wife Kate whom you must have missed dearly. Only on January 15 this year did I see you cry like a baby when you were saying your last Earthly goodbyes to her after that protracted battle with cancer. Only about four or five months later, the two of you have reunited in heavenly bliss and will now be enjoying a painless and everlasting embrace. I hope your family sees your departure in that positive light - that you chose to be with your sweetheart whom they know you loved more than anything else in this world.

That really there was not anything left for you to live for on this troubled Earth. You have played your part Super Eagle, and the African continent will forever bask in the legacy you created for its promising talent that continues to find life in the opulence of European football leagues. Many do not know that it was your show of unwavering loyalty to your club New Nigeria Bank, that got you banned from playing in Nigeria, thus opening an opportunity for your move to Belgium, the eventuality of which saw many more Nigerians receive attention from European clubs. Maybe on hindsight, we should thank the Nigerian FA for that ban after you chose to play for your club instead of reporting for national team. Your resultant move to Europe literally opened the floodgates for the African talent and I am sure those who continue to benefit from your legacy are rather smiling and celebrating your life instead of wallowing in the sadness of your grand flight to your Maker. Akon summed it well when he said the life we have is borrowed because we are not promised tomorrow - I also say we should accept that you were just God's loan to the world, and that the loan has served its purpose of building football on the African continent. Just so you know, you are the reason I fell in love with the Super Eagles. Back then when you played along the likes of Siasia, Yekini and Fashunu, you guys were a marvel to watch.

The same weekend Ivory Coast annihilated my beloved Zebras 6-0, you guys gave us joy when you danced on the field to beat Bafana Bafana 4-0. I remember wildly celebrating that victory after the Msanzi people had laughed at us, calling Botswana a disgrace to Southern African football. It was from then that I wanted to watch every Super Eagles match, the tenacity and arrogance you showed on the field. Long before the world knew the word, you guys had swagger, and it lived on through the unbelievable skill we later enjoyed from the likes of Jay Jay Okocha and Nwanku Kanu. These boys continue to talk in glowing terms about you. Even when you still walked the paths of this Earth, they attributed the wealth of talent they have to their encounter with you. You were an inspiration and a great leader who was not scared to challenge the norm. I remember how haters dismissed your bravery when you purged the Super Eagles squad of the celebrity stars who always wanted the Nigerians to beg them to represent their country. You stood your ground and assembled a team of nonentities that the world had never heard of before. Loaded with inexplicable confidence, you brought them to South Africa for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations where they emerged champions - the first time Nigeria did since you lifted the cup yourself in 1994. Yet the haters in your country still did not want the world to see your greatness. Your immediate resignation after the continental glory stunned the world, but we were thankful to see the state president bring you back to continue leading the team.

Like many of us, Goodluck Jonathan could not understand how an achiever like you could be rewarded with so much hatred. Sometimes I wish our president here had done the same with our coach Stanley Tshosane. Had our Khama done the Jonathan by instructing the coach to be reinstated, we would perhaps be on our way back to Gabon where Stan took us in 2012. For now we do not know where our Zebras are headed, just like we do not know what is happening with the Super Eagles since you were pushed out of their nest. But we will forever remain thankful to have lived to see you grace our football pitches. We will remain forever grateful for the joy you gave us, the hope you bestowed on us that one day our African football leaders will acknowledge the truth that our national teams do not necessarily need foreigners to win the Africa Cup of Nations.

We will forever remember your humble demeanor, the smile on your face, your fighting spirit. Your coach Clemens Westerhof must be proud to remember that it was during his reign that you got to be called The Big Boss because of the super powers he had given you as that no-nonsense captain of the Super Eagles - the captain that worked with the coach on deciding the final eleven for your matches. You were indeed Big. You still are, and you will forever be. Heaven is now rich with talent - what more with your brother in arms Shaibu Amodu following you there in a space of two days, within the same week the great Mohammed Ali had earlier arrived! We will miss you all brothers, you were an epitome of greatness.




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