It’s seven years since Nigeria football legend Stephen Keshi died

Today marks the 7th anniversary of the passing of the late Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, a football legend, icon, former Nigeria National team Captain and Coach.

It has been customary to remember the legendary “Big Boss” on June 7 of every year with an annual memorial lecture and the Stephen Keshi National Under 17 Football Tournament. The activities are carried out under the umbrella of the Stephen Keshi Football and Vocational Training Center (SKFVTC) to commemorate his lifetime achievements in football and sensitize the football family on the need to remember those who have served the country meritoriously.

This year’s activities would have marked the sixth edition of the annual memorial lecture and the Stephen Keshi National Under 17 Football Tournament but had to be put off because of the suspended NLC/TUC strike in reaction to the removal of fuel subsidy hitherto scheduled for Wednesday, June 7, 2023. The Board of the SKFVTC is to err on the side of caution to avoid any untoward effect of the actions of labour and its civil society allies.

Late Stephen Okechukwu Keshi died in Benin City on June 7, 2016. After his demise, the Late Enogie of Obazuwa, HRM Edun Akenzua, a close friend of the “Big Boss,” sought ways of immortalizing him.

During one of the brainstorming sessions, the Royal Father said, “I want to honor my friend Stephen Keshi by donating a vast land to build a football village, which would turn Obazuwa into a tourist destination. Sadly, the Enogie also has joined his ancestors. Though getting support for them has been challenging, the Board of the SKVTC remains unrelenting and working hard to actualize Enogie’s dream.

The Stephen Keshi Football and Vocational Training School Centre, Obazuwa, occupies a vast plot of land measuring 1,000 feet by 1,000 feet, which is close to a seaport in Edo State. The plot was gifted free of charge to the SKFVTC, which was set up as a public-private partnership project aimed at revolutionizing the football profession in the country.

When completed, it will serve as a development center for the training of budding sports talents in Nigeria and Africa; more importantly, the football complex will help to immortalize the name of Stephen Keshi and the Late Enogie of Obazuwa, HRM Edun Akenzua for their contributions to Football development.

Stephen Keshi started his football career early in life. In 1977, he played and won the Principal’s Cup with the Saint Finbarr’s’ College, Lagos football team 1977. He after that, played as a defender for many clubs internationally and for the Super Eagles of Nigeria.

He was a member of the Super Eagles in the 1994 FIFA world cup and the African Cup of Nations. Late Stephen Keshi played as a legendary payer in five countries: Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Belgium, France, and the United States of America.

As a manager, Keshi scored so many firsts, namely: First Nigerian to win the African Nations Cup as a captain in 1994 and as Coach in 2013; First Nigerian coach to take Nigeria beyond the second round in 2014; First Nigerian Coach to qualify a foreign nation (Togo) for the world cup; First Nigerian Coach to qualify two nations (Nigeria 2014, and Togo 2006) for the FIFA World Cup.

The SKFVTC integrated football village has four football-playing pitches, hostels, an agro-allied section, primary and secondary schools, vocational training workshops, etc. When completed, the SKFVTC; can, directly and indirectly, generate employment for more than one thousand Nigerians.

The objectives of the SKFVTC include but are not limited to the following: Serve as an integrated non-profit football village for identifying, nurturing, and developing talented football youths nationwide; Nurture young footballers that would help Edo State produce talented football players that will serve as a pool for the national league/Super Eagles; Expose young footballers to the conventional academic curriculum (primary and secondary) and vocational training so that if they cannot continue in their football endeavors, they would fall back to their vocations to support themselves.

Others are Teach young footballers leadership skills, virtues of service, nationalism, and patriotism; Serve as a resource centre for sports training and development; Create dual career pathways for passionate and teeming sports-loving youths who love football but need help to make it to the professional cadre, et cetera; Seek ways to rehabilitate ex-internationals by employing them as coaches and trainers; Source for investors to build, operate and transfer the infrastructures; Encourage donors who would build and donate physical structures to the Centre and have them named after them; and Host the 2023 edition of the Stephen Keshi Under 17 tournament at the Obazuwa site.

It has maintained an unbroken lecture series since 2017 to the glory of God. It is also worthy of note that we have successfully staged five SKFVTC boys’ under-17 tournaments, and the Bendel Insurance Feeder team won two of the last four editions. The successful hosting of the previous games would not have been possible without the unflinching support of the Executive Governor of Edo State, His Excellency Godwin Obaseki, the admirable Football playing Deputy Governor of Edo State, His Excellency Rt. Hon. Comrade Philip Shuaibu, who had assisted us with the prize money and an arena for the last edition’s final. The SKVTC has also received immense support from the Chairman of Edo State Sports Commission, Honorable Yusuf Ali, and the mother of Sports in Edo State, Mrs. Sabina Chikere. the Permanent Secretary of Edo State Sports Commission, says BOT Secretary Augustine Popo and BOT Chairman Louis Brown Ogbeifun in a statement.

Cheerfully, the Certificate of Occupancy has been processed through the Edo State Geographic Information Service (EDOGIS), the State Government Agency charged with Lands administration, management, registrations, geo-mapping, and surveys. Once we make the necessary payment, it shall be ready for the signature of the Executive Governor of Edo State.

Finally, the Stephen Keshi project is one of the seven projects we intend to launch in the six geo-political zones to immortalize out past and living legends. We, therefore, call on all football-loving enthusiasts to partner with us on this laudable journey.