“Hello Sir, I am Aderonke Ogunleye, a sports journalist from MTNfootball.com, I want you to react to your new appointment as the Eagles Coach,” I called his number in the USA.
In return, he said: “Do you know the time? It is 1am in the morning and your call just woke me up.
I hurriedly apologised and said I would call back.
Keshi: No, I am up already……. (he went on and on but he reacted, I had a story, an exclusive which I excitedly sent to my boss, Samm Audu. We got the first reaction after he was announced as the Super Eagles gaffer.’
As a kid I watched him play. It was an honour for me to even speak to him, a legend.
Surprisingly, few weeks later a number called me and said “Hello I am Stephen Keshi and you can come for the interview, good to hear your tiny voice again.” My head was swollen as if I hit the jackpot.
That was the beginning of our mutually adopted father and daughter relationship and whenever I needed news, he would give me.
Keshi would always call Super Eagles top players to his apartment for me to interview. He will say you are like my daughter, ambitious, hardworking with integrity.
“I will always support you young woman. I am always here.” I loved that man like my biological father.
Many a time, he will call to check on me and advice; about the importance of marriage, my integrity, which should not be compromised, about the borrowed time that we are all living, about the importance of doing good.
He knows how much I love charity. Giving back gives me joy and he introduced me to an ex-international, Paul Okuku who came in from the US and we worked together.
Many people do not know this about him:
He is stubborn and he will never allow you cheat him.
He is a thorough family orientated man.
He loved, adored and respected his late wife so much so that he used to talk to her about 10 ten times daily.
Keshi loved his whiskey.
You might not know this but he was an extremely shy man, whose smiles can heal a broken heart.
He speaks French, English, Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa fluently.
How else can I describe this great man as I type this with a heavy heart?
I visited him severally in South Africa during the African cup of nations which we later won.
Despite his troubles and strife with the NFF, he fought doggedly and won it for me as he claimed, for West Africa, for Nigeria and for himself, most importantly.
I have never encountered a better person in Nigerian football, he was an all-rounder.
He has seen me shed tears many a time, I will carry my troubles to him and he will say my daughter all will be well, and by the time I leave, I would be all smiles and giggling.
We usually part with me saying “Goodbye Daddy” and he “Goodbye my daughter.”
Just two weeks ago, I was in my room at the fifth chukker polo club in Kaduna. He called in the early hours but, I missed his calls.
I was actually shocked at first as we hadn’t spoken since the funeral of his late wife. The shock turned to anxiety when he didn’t answer my returned calls.
Few hours later, he called back and said to me, Aderonke omo mi (my daughter) we normally speak Yoruba.
Keshi: How are you doing, it has been a while, how is your family, all ok? How is your husband, son and work?
Me: Daddy, you ‘fashied’ (forgot) me all this while, I am okay oh, we are okay, you sound much better than the last time we spoke. Well, we bless God.
He prayed for me, wished me well and told me to continue working hard. He said he was seeing me everywhere and reading about me every time, and concluded by saying how proud he is to be my adopted daddy.
I am writing this with tears in my eyes and a heavy heart.
I know he is in a better place, probably in touch already with his wife who passed on last year December.
My thoughts are with the children, family and loved ones. He never counted his days, he made his days count.
May light lead your path, fare thee well my daddy… Bye bye Stephen Keshi as I pray for the repose of your soul.
You will be missed and never forgotten.