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Iconic Nigerian player and manager Keshi dies aged 54

Nigeria's coach Stephen Keshi cheers on his team during their 2014 World Cup round of 16 game against France at the Brasilia national stadium in Brasilia June 30, 2014. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino/Files
Nigeria's coach Stephen Keshi cheers on his team during their 2014 World Cup round of 16 game against France at the Brasilia national stadium in Brasilia June 30, 2014. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino/Files

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Former Nigeria defender Stephen Keshi, who won the African Nations Cup as both a player and a coach, died of a suspected heart attack on Wednesday, the country's football association has confirmed.

The 54-year-old coached Nigeria to the Nations Cup title in South Africa in 2013, 19 years after lifting the trophy as a player, only the second man after Egypt's Mahmoud El-Gohary to achieve the feat.

Keshi is regarded an iconic figure in a golden generation of Nigerian players that includes Finidi George, Rashidi Yekini, Jay-Jay Okocha, Samson Siasia, Daniel Amokachi and Sunday Oliseh, captaining the team at the 1994 World Cup in the USA.

During a 20-year playing career, Keshi had spells in France and Belgium, most notably for Anderlecht, and also in the U.S. during the Sacramento Scorpions' brief existence in the mid-1990s.

He found almost instant success as a coach, leading Togo to surprise qualification for the 2006 World Cup, one of three spells in charge of the side. He also had a two-year stint with Mali.

He took over the Nigeria national team in 2011 and while overseeing an overhaul of the squad, took a young team to the continental title two years later.

Despite a strong showing at the World Cup in Brazil in which the side lost in the second round to France, Keshi did not have his contract renewed, though he did later return to lead the team on a match-by-match basis.

His tenure with the team was finally ended in July last year.

Keshi's wife Kate died last December after a three-year battle with cancer. The couple had four children.

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by John O'Brien)

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