Twenty-six years after the sudden death of ex-international, Samuel Okwaraji, sport enthusiasts on Tuesday urged the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to institute an annual programme in his remembrance.
They told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in separate interviews that the late player should be properly immortalised.
NAN reports that Okwaraji slumped in the 77th minute during a World Cup qualifying match between Nigeria and Angola played at the National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos State, on Aug. 12, 1989 and was later pronounced dead.
The result of an autopsy carried out on his corpse revealed that the 25-year-old player had an enlarged heart and high blood pressure that resulted in congestive heart failure.
Bright Omokaro, a former Super Eagles player, said that it was unfortunate that the memory of the player was fading away from the heart of Nigerians.
Omokaro noted that a sports’ facility should be named after Okwaraji in order to give the present crop of footballers the push to want to represent the country well.
“It is very unfortunate that we lost Okwaraji, 26 years ago and don’t get to hear anything about his contribution to football when he was alive.
“This was a man that played professionally outside the country but travelled to Nigeria at his personal expense to represent the country during which he met his untimely death.
“Twenty-six years gone and no single stadium or sporting event was named after him, and we expect the present footballers to be committed when playing for Nigeria,’’ he said.
Another ex-international, Etim Esin, said it was pathetic that nothing had been done to appreciate the family of Okwaraji since his untimely demise.
Esin noted that Okwaraji’s death was a peculiar case because he died while representing the nation, compared to other ex-football or sports men who have passed on due to old age.
“Rashidi Yekini was celebrated in far-away Portugal when he died but we cannot celebrate a man that died on active duty and 26 years after his death, there is nothing to show for it.
“Many of our colleagues have passed on over the years without anybody knowing about it, I hope things will change for the better,’’ he said.
Also, a former Super Eagles player, Friday Ekpo, told NAN that a charity match should be played annually in Okwaraji’s honour.
He said that such honour should cut across all sports to remember past heroes who had contributed to the development of football and sports generally in the country.
“A competition or match should be organised in his memory so that generations yet unborn will know that there was once a football legend by the name Sam Okwaraji who played passionately for Nigeria,’’ he said.
NAN reports that the only significant thing in memory of Okwaraji was a bust erected in his honour at the National Stadium, Lagos.
The late midfielder, who had eight appearances for the national side, also played professional football for Dinamo Zagreb FC of old Yugoslavia, VfB Stuttgart FC of Germany and SSV Ulm FC of Germany.