August 12, 1989, remains one of the most-talked-about days in Nigeria’s football history.
It was not the day the country recorded its biggest win or defeat in international football neither was it the day Nigeria qualified for the first FIFA World Cup.
It was a dark day in which one of the country’s promising football stars, Sam Okwaraji, died at the National Stadium in Lagos while in action for the national team in a World Cup qualifier against Angola.
Thirty years down the line, many things have been said about the dreadlocked footballer who was also a qualified lawyer before his death.
Some Journalists, however, caught up with Peter Nieketien, former Nigeria midfielder who was in the Super Eagles camp with Late Okwaraji till a day before his sudden death
“We will continue to pray for his soul to rest in peace, we were together in the national team camp before the unfortunate incident happened,”
Nieketien recalled in an exclusive interview.
He continued: “It was at my club side (Iwayanwu National) that I first met Okwaraji when he came around for holiday, I think that was in 1987, we trained briefly together before he was introduced to the national team handlers and he was invited to the camp that is how we became teammates.”
Speaking on the last day he was with Okwaraji, Nieketien said he was dropped from the final squad to face Angola
“On that fateful day, Friday, the team list for those who will play on Saturday was announced and my name was excluded.
“I remember vividly that Okwaraji went to meet the coaches to ask why I was dropped.
“He believed that I was better than some of the players on the list selected to play in my position, I just told him not to bother himself that I wished the selected players the best of luck. But almost immediately in anger, I left Durbar hotel in anger and went back to Owerri.
“When that unfortunate incident happened, we were watching it on television because of the anger, I did not stay back to watch the game in Lagos at the Stadium but went straight to Owerri because I was with Iwayanwu National even though I am originally based in Lagos.
“When we saw him slump on TV, we were all praying that he comes out alive. But that was not the case, we lost him and it was quite unfortunate as we lost a passionate, patriotic and humble gentleman in the person of Sam Okwaraji.
“While we were at the camp in Durbar hotel, we were roommates, he was a very friendly person. In fact, he was one of the people initially making arrangements for me so I can go and play professionally in Belgium. He already came with some scouts but everything crumbled with his death, if not I could have played in Belgium in 1989, but in everything, we still have to thank God.”
Though the dream of playing in Belgium was aborted, Nieketie who is now a certified coach did play abroad in other countries.
“After losing the FA Cup final to BCC Lions in 1989, I moved to Gabon, I was there for three years before moving to Malaysia and played there for three also before I went to Germany. I played just a season in Germany before I had an injury”
Asked what best way Okwaraji can be immortalized, Nieketie said adequate welfare for the family of the deceased was paramount.
“Okwaraji was a breadwinner before he died, the welfare of his family must be paramount if he is to be immortalised in any way,” he said
Real Madrid: What Zidane said of Bale, Modric’s red card, 3-1 victory over Celta Vigo
Real Madrid manager, Zinedine Zidane, has insisted that winger, Gareth Bale is going to stay at the club following his side’s La Liga 3-1 victory over Celta Vigo on Saturday.
He also said that the red card midfielder, Luka Modric had during the match, will not affect his side’s midfield in their next league game against Valladolid.
Zidane, however, said his players did well to get all three points against Celta Vigo.
Goals from Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Lucas Vazquez gave the Los Blancos all three points against Celta Vigo.
“Bale is going to stay. Every single player we have here gives us reasons to think positively about the team,” Zidane told reporters after the match.
“We have to focus on our current season. Hazard’s injury is very bad luck and it did not change the plans we had for Bale. Gareth, James and everybody who’s with us will defend this shirt as it deserves to be defended.
“We completed a very good game from the get go. Also when we were down to 10 men. We struggled to get this result and we’re satisfied and happy. There won’t be many teams capable of winning here. Our preseason was tough but we worked well knowing that the important thing was the real competition.”
Zidane added: “It’s tough to play away and we played a complete game. We did well all game long and I appreciate the effort everyone put in. Vini and Gareth’s defensive work was crucial, and the same can be said about Lucas and Isco’s. Everyone played well defensively and we know what we can do offensively.
“We are not worried about Modric’s red card. We will handle the season with what we have. We have the players to take care of it.”
Siasia reacts on FIFA ban
Former Super Eagles coach Samson Siasia on Saturday appealed for calm over his life ban by the world football governing body, FIFA, on Friday.
Siasia was banned for life from the game following a match-fixing probe by FIFA.
Siasia, who spoke to journalists in Abuja through an associate, Opukiri Jones-Ere, at the main bowl of the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, said the matter was currently being looked into by his lawyer.
The former Super Eagles forward said he was hopeful of a positive conclusion of the matter.
“We want to please plead with everyone to be calm as the issue has been handed over to a lawyer and he is looking at the case.
“So, at this moment, Siasia will be unavailable to speak to the press.
“I want to also appeal to you all to be patient with us, considering the fact that he is already going through so much stress with regards to his mother’s kidnap which we are dealing with at the moment.
“We appreciate you all for your concerns and solidarity messages which have received from the onset of this situation.
“So, my kind appeal is that you all give us some time for the lawyer to look into the case and as soon as possible, hopefully by next week, we will come up with our position and further action to be taken on the issue.
“On behalf of the family of Siasia, we want to once again thank you for your concerns and we pray that this will end well,” he said.
FIFA had said in a statement on Friday that the adjudicatory chamber of their independent Ethics Committee found the 51-year-old Siasia guilty.
He was “guilty of having accepted that he will receive bribes in relation to manipulation of matches in violation of FIFA Code of Ethics.”
Siasia played 51 times as a striker for the Nigerian national team and later coached various national youth sides before his first spell as senior coach in 2010.
His case is the latest to emerge from FIFA’s long-running investigation into the activities of Singaporean Wilson Raj Perumal, who FIFA has called a “known match fixer”.
He has admitted such activity in several interviews.
FIFA said Siasia was banned for life “from all football-related activities (administrative, sports or any other) at both national and international levels.”
Siasia was also fined CHF 50,000 (N18.6 million).
The former Nigerian international was appointed Super Eagles head coach from 2010 to Oct. 2011 and he was reappointed in 2016.
NAN reports that FIFA had in 1989 banned Nigeria for two years from age-grade football competitions over discrepancies discovered in the ages provided by the duo of Siasia and Dahiru Sadi.
The ages were provided while registering both players for the 1985 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in the then Soviet Union and the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea.
FIFA slams life ban on Siasia
World football governing body, FIFA has banned former Super Eagles coach, Samson Siasia for life.
Siasia was banned from all football-related activities by FIFA after being found guilty over bribery and attempt to manipulate matches at the international level.
A statement from FIFA reads: “The adjudicatory chamber of the independent Ethics Committee has found Mr. Samson Siasia, a former official of the Nigeria Football Federation, guilty of having accepted that he would receive bribes in relation to the manipulation of matches in violation of the FIFA Code of Ethics.
“The formal ethics proceedings against Mr. Siasia were initiated on 11 February 2019 and stem from an extensive investigation into matches that Mr. Wilson Raj Perumal attempted to manipulate for betting purposes.
“This large-scale investigation was conducted by FIFA via its competent departments and in cooperation with the relevant stakeholders and authorities.
“In its decision, the adjudicatory chamber found that Mr. Siasia had breached art. 11 (Bribery) of the 2009 edition of the FIFA Code of Ethics and banned him for life from all football-related activities (administrative, sports or any other) at both national and international level.
“In addition, a fine in the amount of CHF 50,000 has been imposed on Mr. Siasia. The decision was notified to Mr. Siasia today, the date on which the ban comes into force.”
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