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Africa's top football personalities pay tribute at Unity Match

Stephen Keshi's passing dominated the conversations as some of the biggest names in world football gathered in Kumasi for a charity game.

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The 54-year old is regarded as one of the continent’s finest ever central defenders and coaches having triumphed as a player with the Super Eagles in 1994 at the Nations Cup before he won the trophy with them as coach, becoming only the second man to do that.

During a magnificent international career too, he was involved in some epic battles with Ghana particularly in the semi-finals of the 1992 Nations Cup. His passing dominated the conversations as some of the biggest names in world football gathered in Kumasi for a charity game.

Two members of that team have particularly fond of the man called Big Boss.

“Apart from the fact that he was professional, he was a good guy,” former Ghana goalkeeper Abubakari Damba said.

“In Senegal 92 after we beat Nigeria he came into the dressing room and congratulated everyone. It was rare given the intensity of the rivalry. This is a wonderful guy that we have lost.”

Damba also praised Keshi’s achievement as a player.

“He should be eulogised by everyone. This is a young man who transformed himself into not just a very good player but a leader. He won the nations cup and transited into a very good coach who won the nations cup. That is a huge thing”

“He was not just a very god player, he also cared about people. The story of the risks he took in helping Nii Odartey Lamptey begin his professional career in Belgium underlines that,” Tony Baffoe said.

“I remember his battles with Abedi Pele at Senegal 92. They were intense but it also taught me a lot about being a good central defender. He has presence, he had authority and sometimes he didn’t need to say anything to get attention. In my second match for Ghana we played Nigeria at the Surulere Stadium and when Keshi emerged the stadium went absolutely crazy. It was incredible.

“I stayed in touch with him because I also knew him from our days in France when I was at Metz and he was at Strassburg. He was a big role model to me. This is very painful. I can only wish his family the best in this difficult moment.”

Former Ghana captain Stephen Appiah said:

“Stephen Keshi is one of the legends of the African game. He always had a good word of advice. It is a big blow because we need people like him to encourage us because of what he has done and achieved.

“Both on and off the pitch, he gave a lot to his country. You never hear negative things about him, He commanded respect and people bowed at his name. “

Cameroon and West Ham star Alex Song said this is not just Nigeria’s loss but Africa’s loss too.

“I have been distraught all day. Players like himself broke down barriers for African and had begun to do that for African coaches. I can only hope that his family would find the strength to deal with this.”

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