Former Nigerian international, Samuel Sochukwuma Okwaraji, who died while playing for the national team on August 12, 1989 will be remembered by the country’s football federation during the Federation Cup quarter-finals matches on Wednesday.
According to a statement issued by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), portrait of late Okwaraji will be displayed at all the venues for the quarterfinal matches in the Federation Cup for men and women.
“On Wednesday, the portrait of the late midfielder would be displayed round the eight venues of the Federation Cup quarter finals in remembrance of him: Enugu, Benin City, Neros Stadium, Oleh, Lokoja, Abuja, Ilorin and Makurdi,” NFF said.
Okwaraji died at the age of 25 while featuring for Nigeria in a 1990 FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Angola at the National Stadium in Lagos on August 12, 1989. The former Nigerian international collapsed and died 13 minutes before the end of the match with medical reports later revealed that he died as a result of an enlarged heart and high blood pressure.
However, on the eve of 26th anniversary of Okwaraji’s death, NFF president, Amaju Pinnick, took time to eulogise the late footballer, describing him as “a consummate professional.”
“It was a horrible day, for someone like me and several other Nigerians who were right inside the National Stadium, Lagos that day. By all accounts, Sam Okwaraji was a consummate professional and was a shining example of patriotic fervour,” he said.
Mr. Pinnick also commiserated with Okwaraji’s mother, Mrs Jane Okwaraji.
“Mama, there is nothing I can say other than to tell you to continue to take solace in the fact that Sochukwuma was a star for Nigeria, a name that no one has been able to forget no matter how much they tried. He was the quintessential professional and patriot per excellence.
“Please, be rest assured that Sochukwuma will continue to be in our hearts and consciousness. He was a rare gem. I assure you that the NFF will continue to keep in touch with you,” Pinnick told Mrs Okwaraji over the telephone.
Brother of the late footballer, Patrick Okwaraji, said the telephone call by Pinnick was uplifting. “We are grateful to the NFF President for his phone call. At least, Mama is feeling better now,” said Patrick Okwaraji.
Quarter final fixtures (Men)
Lobi Stars v BJ Foundation (Lokoja) – 3pm
El-Kanemi Warriors v Enugu Rangers (Abuja) – 3pm
Nasarawa United v FC Ifeanyi Ubah (Ilorin) – 3pm
Akwa United V Tornadoes Feeders (Makurdi) – 3pm
Quarter final fixtures (Women)
Rivers Angels v Confluence Queens (Enugu) – 3pm
Edo Queens v Bayelsa Queens (Neros) – 3pm
Osun Queens v Nasarawa Amazons (Benin) – 3pm
FC Robo v Sunshine Queens (Oleh) – 3pm.
By Olisemeka Obeche