Paul Okoku

By John Egbokhan

Former vice-captain of the Flying Eagles squad to the 1983 FIFA U-21 World Cup in Mexico, Paul Okoku, has urged Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, to include the scholarships promised members of the team by the federal government into a supplementary budget to be presented to the National Assembly for prompt passage.

He recalled that the 1983 Flying Eagles squad were promised scholarships by President Shehu Shagari immediately after the tournament in Mexico City.

Okoku noted that the presidential proclamation was yet to be implemented by successive governments, causing untold hardship to many of the members of the team.

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In fact, while waiting for the fulfillment of the scholarship, some members of the team, like captain Ali Jeje, have died, albeit in penury, prompting renewed calls for the redemption of the presidential declaration before other members of the glorious team die unrewarded.

While thanking the Minister of Sports for visiting the family of late Ali Jeje, where he gave them financial aid, Okoku urged Dare to deepen the narrative by revisiting the pending scholarship through a supplementary budget to the National Assembly.

Okoku said: “We, members of the Flying Eagles squad to the 1983 FIFA World Cup in. Mexico, commend the honourable Minister of Sports for his visionary leadership.

“But it is important to bring to the minister’s notice the presidential declaration of former President, Shehu Shagari in 1983, where he said all the members of the team to the FIFA World Cup in 1983 be awarded scholarships to study in universities as all of us were school kids.

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“Regrettably, we are yet to get the scholarships but have been made aware by the National Assembly, who have acknowledged our yearning, that the Minister of Sports should include our scholarship in a supplementary budget to be forwarded to them for passage, so that the labour of our heroes past will not be in vain,” added Okoku.

The 1983 Flying Eagles side were the first team in the history of Nigeria to play in any FIFA-organised tournament.

They also won the WAFU Cup, defeating Ghana in the finals in October 1983.

The side also defeated Ivory Coast to win the Tesema Cup, to become the best U-21 team in Africa, after both countries had qualified for the U-21 World Cup in Mexico.

The Ivorian side were led by Yusuf Fofana, who went on to become one of the legends of African football.

Vanguard News Nigeria


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