Sam Okwaraji: 29 Years Later, No National Accolade


Sam Okwaraji would have been 54 years old and practising law had he survived the August 12, 1989 incident at the National Stadium, Surulere.

The Nigerian had marched on to the field with teammates in an Italia 1990 World Cup qualifier against frequent foe, Algeria.

He slumped on the football pitch before being rushed to the hospital where it was declared he died from cardiac arrest.

Twenty-nine years after the death of the midfielder, his memories linger whenever August 12 approaches.

Born in Umudioka, Imo State, Okwaraji is hyped as the only player who would foot his flight bills to and fro any national assignment, a former Golden Eaglets striker claimed.

A former Golden Eaglets Striker, Eche Ezechukwu, was quoted in a NAN report saying: “Okwaraji remains the only Nigerian player who paid for his flight expenses whenever on national duties and truly saw wearing the national colours as an honour.”

A monument is erected on his behalf at the Surulere National Stadium.

The Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, however, celebrate Okwaraji on August 12 with an  Instagram post, only.

Aside those, there appears to be no other visible honour accorded the fallen hero.

A Wikipedia search on the player returns with just his name and no national recognition of any sort – not from the football federation or the Nigerian government.



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Macaulay Maduwuba is the Chief Content at Kanu Sports TV

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