By Jacob Ajom
Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the 8th-day Fidau prayer, an Islamic rite, for late Yisa Sofoluwe, who died in Lagos, Tuesday, last week.
The prayer, which begins at 2p.m., holds at Rowe Park Sports Centre, Yaba, Lagos.
According to Waidi Akanni, former Chairman of the Lagos State Football Association and a close friend of the deceased, though it is a purely religious affair, it would also witness the attendance of non-Muslims like friends, former footballers, sports administrators, ministry officials among others who may not be necessarily Muslim faithful.
Significantly, Akanni also said they— friends and ex-internationals, would avail themselves of the opportunity provided by the Fidau prayer to sell the idea of initiating an endowment fund for ex-athletes; not just for ex-footballers.
Akanni said: “What we see is more than what the NFF alone can handle. We are talking about N5 billion endowment fund for ex-athletes.
“The federal government, through the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, should kick-start the take-off grant for the fund, so that whenever a former athlete falls sick, the fund would readily come to the rescue.
“We have seen how bad the situation is with most of our ex-internationals. I know how much was spent on the late Sofoluwe alone.
“Although help came from the Lagos State government, the NFF, the Sports Ministry and a lot of goodwill from concerned Nigerians, it came so late.
“Over N800,000 was spent on tests alone. If the money was there from the word go, perhaps, Yisa, and many others that have died, could have been saved.”
Justifying his call on the federal government to spearhead the endowment fund, Akanni said: “When we were playing, we played for Nigeria. That is why I feel the federal government should take it up.”
He continued, “ours is a profession that has no retirement benefits and no pension. We spend our youth in service to the nation and on retirement we are left to wallow in abject poverty.
“Government must come to our aid.”
Meanwhile, another prominent grassroots football icon, Adebowale Ogunade, passed on Sunday. He was 48.
Ogunade, known by his teeming fans as Big Debo, died at the Ikorodu General Hospital after a brief illness.
He once played for Police Machine FC and Flour Mills Football Club— both of Lagos.