Saturday, 11 August 2012

SAMUEL OKWARAJI; 23 YEARS AFTER YOUR MEMORY LINGERS ON


 He is one of the brightest talent to have come out of Africa, the star was dimmed on the 12th of August, 1989, while playing for his nation in a 2nd round Group c, Italia World Cup, qualifier against the parlanca negras of Angola, He slumped and died right there on the pitch, at National stadium, Surulere Lagos, He surrendered to what the doctors called congestive heart failure. Though the green Eagle’s won the hard fought battle 1-0,( the goal was scored by Stephen Keshi in the 44th minute) But lost the sole world cup ticket to the indomitable lion’s of Cameroon. The lost ticket was one of his numerous dreams which the cold hands of death did not allow him to fulfill, as he was unable to complete his PhD thesis and also his dream to play in the then prestigious Belgium League was unfulfilled, (just sign a record 450,000 dollars with a Belgium club). And many other promises made to his team mates about securing for them a move to Europe.

1964 -1989
  He was born in Orlu Eastern Nigeria to the Okwaraji family On May 19, 1964 and he shone like a million star by passing his WASC examination in flying colors and he got admitted into the University of Rome to study law, where his prodigious footballing talent was spotted by the Eagle eye of the AS Roma Scout and was promptly signed on while he was still a student in 1984 (at age of 20) this marked the beginning of a short but illustrous footballing career.
            In just five years, he was able to play for NK dynamo Zagreb, Vfb Stuttgart and SSV ulm 1846, In the process he bagged the bachelor and masters degree in International Law and can speak five languages fluently that is English, German, Spanish, Italian and Igbo language, this shows the amount of courage in his large heart and the fact that he started playing career abroad before coming back home to play for Nigeria and not the other way round summarizes the potentials in him. 
okwaraji in jersey no 6. nig vs ang 12/8/89

            On that fateful Saturday afternoon, Nigerians were trooping out in their thousands all roads lead to National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos. By 12noon the stadium was jam packed and was overcrowded at the 4pm, expectations were high, At stake is the then elusive world cup ticket and a win for the Green Eagles was non Negotiable which a draw in Yaound√© in a fortnight guarantee Nigeria’s first World cup berth, All media attention was on one Man, A dreadlock Nigeria No 6, Samuel Sochukwuma Okwaraji because of the incident that occurred prior to the match between his club SSV ulm 1846, and the then NFA chairman, captain obakpolor of blessed memory, that before they can release him Nigeria will have to pay 45, 000 dollars, the amount the club will lose in gate taking while he was away with the national team and the chairman brokered a deal of 15,000 dollars for him to be released but the player was reported to have charged at his club managers, that he will be representing Nigeria without paying a dime, he was quoted by Obakpolor as saying “I am a lawyer you know and signed to play football for certain conditions but I don’t think it included reselling my services to my country, you or your club cannot stop me from playing for my country, let me tell you, I am going to represent my country in the world cup in Italy Whether you like it or not” end of quote.
            He left the club and embarked on a journey of no return to represent his country.
He lasted only 77 minutes on the pitch before he slumped and died, lying on the turf very close to Bala Ali and an Angola No 4 jersey player; his level commitment, patriotsm, Discipline, Professionalism is unparalleled and a role model among his mates, he never hold the country to ransom over match bonus, flight or return ticket money he would rather pay his way and not ask for refund or any match bonus.
            Samuel, your life seems short but it was eventful and memorable, still fresh in my memory is your thunderous strike against Cameroon in maroc 88, which resulted in one of the fastest goals in the AFCON history, and your exploits at the Seoul 88 Olympics.
            The sporting world still missed you, but it is your Aged mother and kids left behind that missed you most.
 The government numerous unfulfilled promise made nonsense of your sacrifice and love for your nation and they cant even keep to their pledge of retiring the jersey no 6  which you wore last playing for your nation, in your honor and in that of those passionate seven fans that died with you due failure of the security personel  to control the over crowded stadium on that fateful day.
            Adieu Sochukmma.
Nigeria Team list on that fateful day:
1. David Ngodigba                   2. Sadi dahiru              3. Bala ali          4. Stephen Keshi     5. Andrew uwe     6. Samuel okwaraji           7. Osaro Obabaifo       8. Austin Eguavon   9. Samson Siasia   10. Etim esin                 11. Uchenna Okafor (RIP).


2 comments:

  1. May his soul continue to rest in perfect peace

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  2. May his soul rest in peace, what an icon, pray God give us his kind of player again in the Nigeria football team.

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