Breaking News
Translate

Emotions as Ex-Eagles play for Okwaraji in Lagos

By Onochie Anibeze

I was the first person he called. He asked me to call the medical personnel in when he appeared to be choking or in some kind of discomfort. He was still on his feet then and the medical team would not be allowed unless the referee so signalled especially when the game was still in play. But few seconds later, he was down and closer to Samson Siasia who started shouting and trying to help open his mouth. He was then battling with life. He lost that battle and that day saddens me anytime I remember it. I feel terrible.

For days, I thought it wasn’t real and that Sam had not gone. It’s a great thing that Lagos State under Raji Fashola is honouring him. We all thank Fashola for this. It’s 20 years now and this is happening. Lagos is always thinking ahead. Right now, they are ahead and we feel good to play in Lagos for our colleague. I hope others emulate Fashola.”

REMEMBRANCE .. . Okwaraji and teammates in the match that took his life. Photo courtesy, David Ngodigha Library. From left standing, David Ngodigha, Uche Okafor, Stephen Keshi, Samson Siasia, Sam Nwobuh, Chidi Nwanu, Ademola Adeshina, Alloy Agu, Sunday Eboigbe, Ganiyu Salami (Assistant Coach, Dr. Raufu Ladipo)Supporters Club sqatting Dahiru Sadi, Sam Okwaraji, Bala Ali, Etim Esim, Austin Eguavoen, Humphrey Edeboh.
REMEMBRANCE .. . Okwaraji and teammates in the match that took his life. Photo courtesy, David Ngodigha Library. From left standing, David Ngodigha, Uche Okafor, Stephen Keshi, Samson Siasia, Sam Nwobuh, Chidi Nwanu, Ademola Adeshina, Alloy Agu, Sunday Eboigbe, Ganiyu Salami (Assistant Coach, Dr. Raufu Ladipo)Supporters Club sqatting Dahiru Sadi, Sam Okwaraji, Bala Ali, Etim Esim, Austin Eguavoen, Humphrey Edeboh.

These were the words of Uche Okafor while previewing today’s match in memory of Sam Okwaraji who slumped and died while playing for Nigeria on August 12, 1989 in a World Cup qualifier against Angola. Okwaraji’s teammates will line up against Lagos All Stars, an association of retired footballers.

David Ngodiga is another player who is very emotional about today. Okwaraji was his close friend. They left for the match from the same room but while he returned to the room, Okwaraji’s body was in the morgue. The sun had set on Nigerian football. And that was the story of, arguably, the most patriotic Nigerian player of his time. He never gave conditions for playing for Nigeria and gave his all each time he was on national call. “It is still fresh in my memory,” Ngodiga told this reporter. He was in goal the day Okwaraji died. He was marvellous and Okwaraji was resilient, defending and attacking, working so hard that exhaustion took his life. “It’s painful we lost a gem like that,” Ngodiga continued.

“It is great that Lagos State is honouring him with a memorial match and other events. We remain grateful to Governor Fashola and his men. The commissioner of sports, Adeneji-Adele, has got in touch with most of us and we will be in Lagos to play the match at Teslim Balogun Stadium. We will be there to honour our fallen colleague and also thank Fashola.”
August 12, 1989 Team Against Angola
1 David Ngodiga
2 Chidi Nwanu
3 Uche Okafor
4 Sunday Eboigbe
5 Stephen Keshi
6 Ademola Adeshina
7 Sam Okwaraji (wearing           Jersey N0.6)
8 Etim Esim
9 Bala Ali (late)
10 Humphrey Edebor
11 Samson Siasia
12 Rashidi Yekini
13 Alloy Agu
14 Sam Nwobuh (late)
15 Dahiru Sadi
16 Oasaro Obabaifo (late)
17 Dominic Iorfa


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.