It was on August 12, 1989, exactly 32 years ago today that Nigeria lost the Best African Player we never had, Samuel Sochukwuma Okwaraji, a mercurial midfielder who died on duty while playing for the Green Eagles of Nigeria inside the main-bowl of the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos State, during a 1990 FIFA World Cup Qualifier against Angola.
He collapsed in the 77th minute of the game and was later confirmed dead due to complication of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, with autopsy showing enlarged heart and high blood pressure.
The death of the 25-years old gripped Nigeria and left the football-crazed nation stunned at the loss of a rising star.
Okwaraji is often remembered for this famous quote of his allegiance to country over club.
“I am a Lawyer you know and signed to play football for certain conditions but I don’t think it included reselling my service 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 whether you like it or not.”
His teammate and Super Eagles former attacker, Etim John Esin, believes the late national team star, Samuel Okwaraji, would have been saved if the country had the right equipment and medical personnel when the star slumped at the Lagos National Stadium in 1989.
Rest in Peace Barrister Samuel Okwaraji!