Stephen Keshi Says, “I Want To Be Remembered As A Pleasant Man”

 I am not a football fan. No. But I was forced to have
an interview with the then Super Eagles Coach, Stephen Keshi, who sadly, died
this morning. Then, I was STYLE EDITOR, PUNCH. It was one of those crazy weeks
when you would not have any personality to put up on the lifestyle cover. It
was crazy! With the help of our then Sports Editor, Adekunle Salami, we got to
talk to Keshi.

Anna Oboho, my colleague, was also on hand to run the
“I hope you are fine girls,” he humorously asked the
two of us as we conducted the interview via telephone.
That was on August 22, 2013.
He was very apt in his answers and he talked about his
life as a coach, a husband and father.
As a coach, he said, “One is bound to face attacks and
criticisms. Most people blame coaches after every game, they point out what is
good and what is not good. Even if you are winning, there are still some people
around that would tell you that there are things the coach did not do right.”
We asked if he got angry at such comments and he said, “I
respond by   focusing on the business at
hand and doing what I have to do.”
Then, he spoke on the tension inherent in any match: “There
is no way to relieve tension because tension will always be there long after
the game is over. It does not matter the outcome of the game, you just put it
behind you and tell yourself that it is in the past. You have to think ahead.  In a game, you have three possibilities— you
are winning, losing or drawing. Whichever one comes in, manage it and go ahead.”

Keshi and Kate when their daughter got married in 2015

That year, he was 51 years and told us that his
marriage to the late Kate was 31 years. Anna and I became curious and asked why
he married so early.
Keshi, who spoke Yoruba very fluently laughed and said,
“I met her in Benin City when I was playing for New Nigerian Bank.   When I met her, I knew right away that she
was the person for me. I married at a very young age. If I did not marry then,
it would have been difficult for me to settle down. It was my decision at that
moment and I took to my parents’ advice too.”
Didn’t an early marriage affect him career wise?
He said, “It was not easy because members of our team
were all young. Then, very few of us were married and as football players, we would
hang out. Some people say that once a man is married, he is in prison and his
wife does not allow him to go out and be as free as he used to be. That did not
happen in my case because my wife did not tie me down or question my movements.
Till date, I still hang out with my friends.”
We asked him on women and how he handled temptations.

Keshi’s daughter, Ifeanyinwa weddes March 2015

Quite jovial, he replied, “It is not every woman that
you see that you want to sleep with.  
Self discipline is very important to your success in whatever you do and
the fact that women flock around you should not make you lose focus.”
We told him we heard he was almost tied down with a
woman while he was playing in Cote D’ Voire and he laughed heartily. He said, “No.
They couldn’t tie me down with a woman. I only played in Cote D’ Voire for
seven months and after the competition, I left for Belgium.”
Our cordial conversation almost turned awry when we
asked that he has to be styled in suit for our photographer in Benin to run a
photo shoot with him. He declined.
“I no dey wear suit,” he said.
We begged and said it was a Style magazine and he had
to look dandy.
At a point Slam, our sports editor and I spoke Yoruba
to him and begged that he wore suit. Keshi declined still.
His opinion was, “I have had people who have approached
me several times, offering to style me in either suits or other attire. But Africa
is very hot and I cannot be wearing suits around the place. Secondly, my job
makes me sweat at all hours. I am always on my feet, screaming, yelling and
jumping about. You should not expect me to put a tie around my neck and remain
uncomfortable throughout the day. 

“Again, I want to be on the same attire with the
footballers. There is nothing wrong with me wearing a green/white track suit;
it is the colour of the Nigerian flag, the colour of the team and I am proud to
wear that instead of suits. I don’t even like suits! I used to wear suit when I
was playing in Europe, now I am tired of wearing them. Though I may come back
to them later, I am not wearing anything other than African attire.”
But what will he not be caught dead in? He promptly
replied: “White trousers, I don’t fancy them at all.”
He ended up on the SUNDAY PUNCH S.P.I.C.E cover on
August 25, 2013 in a creamy brown native attire.
We enjoyed his jokes and before the interview ended we
asked him:
“What do you want to be remembered for?”
Keshi replied, “I want to be remembered as a guy who is
pleasant to be with.”

He continued: “I am a reserved person; I like to be on
my own as well as with my brothers; I don’t like putting unnecessary pressure
on people and I don’t like people putting pressure on me.”
R.I.P Stephen Keshi.