Samuel Okwaraji: A National Hero 15 Years After

I remember vividly that August 12th 1989 afternoon that the Eagles took the Angolans in a world cup qualifier in Lagos. At the then National Stadium (now national forest) Lagos. We won the match by a lone goal but we lost an icon called Samuel Okwaraji who slumped and died a little after he was taken off the pitch. My mum kept calling him Obeto (the braided one) not knowing that he was going to say bye to the nation he loved so much..
Also remembering the 5 fans who died from congestion at the National Stadium on the very same day.

Samuel Sochukwuma Okwaraji (19 May 1964 – 12 August 1989) was a professional footballer who played internationally for Nigeria. He was also a qualified lawyer who had a masters in international law from the University of Rome.[1] He collapsed and died of congestive heart failure in the 77th minute of a World Cup qualification match against Angola at the Lagos National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos State on 12 August 1989.Okwaraji had a career in Europe which included playing for NK Dinamo Zagreb, VfB Stuttgart and SSV Ulm 1846 while finishing his education in law. In his short stay with Dinamo Zagreb, Samuel scored 3 goals in a friendly game vs NK Budućnost Hodošan. The game was played on 30 April 1986, and Dinamo Zagreb won 12-0. Samuel's only official game for Dinamo in the Yugoslav First League was as a substitute on 18 May 1986 against FK Priština. The game was played at Maksimir stadium in Zagreb, the 29th round of 1985/86 season. Dinamo Zagreb won 4:3.
International career

He made the Green Eagles squad in 1988 and at that year's African Nations Cup he scored one of the fastest goals in the history of the championship against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon. He played along until the final match, where the Eagles lost to their perennial rivals Cameroon by a lone goal.
Last game and death

Okwaraji collapsed ten minutes from the end of a World Cup Qualifier against Angola in Lagos and died from congestive heart failure. An autopsy showed that the 25-year-old had an enlarged heart and high blood pressure. The sudden death was similar to that of Marc-Vivien Foé 14 years later.

This picture was taken in January 1988 at Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu. It was the 1988 Seoul Olympic qualifying match against the Desert Warriors of Algeria. Late Samuel Okwaraji made his debut for the Super Eagles on that occasion.The match ended two goals to nil in favour of Nigeria. Now called the Super Eagles, the Nigerian national football team was formerly known as the Green Eagles and in April 1994, they reached 5th in the FIFA World Rankings, the highest ever for any African football team.
PIX :1 Ademola Adesina, Sunday Eboigbe, Samuel Okwaraji, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi (now the Head Coach of the Super Eagles) and Peter Rufai
PIX:2 Samuel Okwaraji, Stephen Keshi, Peter Rufai and Coach Ganiyu Salami.

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