ABUJA: Former Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi has died at the age of 54.

Keshi, dubbed “Big Boss” by fans, died in Benin City in southern Nigeria from “cardiac arrest”, according to a statement from his family.

His brother and manager, Emmanuel Ado, confirmed Keshi’s death.

“It is true, my brother has passed on. He has gone to meet his wife,” Ado said, referring to Kate, Keshi’s wife of 35 years, who died last year after a three-year battle with cancer. The couple had four children.

After taking over as coach of Nigeria in 2011, Keshi led them to victory in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa and then guided them into the Round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil where they lost to France.

He was only the second man to win the Africa Cup of Nations as a player and coach – after Egypt’s Mahmoud El-Gohary – following his success 19 years earlier when he was a key defender for the Nigeria team.

Keshi was regarded as an iconic figure in a golden generation of Nigerian players that included Finidi George, Rashidi Yekini, Jay-Jay Okocha, Samson Siasia, Daniel Amokachi and Sunday Oliseh, and captained the team at the 1994 World Cup in the USA. He made a total of 64 appearances for Nigeria and scored nine goals.

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

Keshi also coached Togo when they qualified for the 2006 World Cup – one of three spells in charge of the side – as well as taking charge of Mali for a two-year stint.

He did not have his contract with Nigeria renewed after the 2014 World Cup, although he later returned to lead the team on a match-by-match basis before his tenure was finally ended in July last year.