Tributes in a season of demise

Joe Erico, Yisa Sofoluwe
Late Jogo Bonito

By Segun Idegbami

Prior to now month, 4 former worldwide soccer gamers, a former Chairman of the Nigeria Soccer Affiliation and a high quality sports activities journalist have all handed on.

It has been a really painful interval for these of us within the soccer fraternity, a reminder of the fragility of life and of our mortality.

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When quite a lot of journalists referred to as me a couple of days in the past to pay tribute to Yisa Sofoluwe, I turned it down just because it felt like I used to be nearly sounding like a damaged file.

By no means has there been a interval reminiscent of this – four colleagues in a month? Might the Creator of the Universe, who sees and is aware of all, who is aware of the why and the how, intervene within the uncertainties of our current instances.

After I have a look at what essentially the most superior international locations are doing to cease the rampage of the Coronavirus and the sluggish successes being recorded, and examine these with the nonchalance and the shortage of seriousness of our rapid atmosphere the place individuals are occurring with life as if we belong to a different planet, I realise that we’re all sitting geese.

In 2021, I’ve misplaced four cousins, and three shut buddies to the Coronavirus. With the variety of individuals privately admitting to having survived it, a very scary image of the state of affairs in being painted.

In the meantime, I have to pay my tributes to our soccer heroes, whose deaths could not have been from Coronavirus, however are positively collateral throughout this season of demise.

READ ALSO: Sports activities journalists react to Joe Erico’s demise

Protection Minister— Yisa Sofoluwe

Just a few days in the past, Yisa Sofoluwe died in a hospital in Lagos. At 53, his demise is extraordinarily painful. Yisa was an incredible soccer artist, probably the most elegant defenders to observe on the soccer discipline.

He was at all times cool, calm, and calculative. He by no means did the pointless factor, like dive into harmful tackles, or kick an opponent. He at all times saved his deal with for when it mattered essentially the most.

Smallish in stature, fragile-looking, this right-footed participant may play on each defensive flanks. I at all times noticed him as a participant that was born to play in protection, but he had the power to glide down the flanks and be a part of assaults with beautiful passes and crosses that had been delivered with some delicacy and precision. Yisa was a magnificence to observe throughout matches.

He was given the nickname ‘Protection Minister’ by late Ernest Okonkwo, the long-lasting sports activities radio commentator, due to his mastery of the artwork of defending. Yisa made it look straightforward, easy and exquisite. Not for him the crunchy, bone-breaking tackles that almost all determine with defenders.

But, beneath his easy fashion lies a steeliness, a ‘poison’ that solely those that ever performed towards him can confess to. He was a troublesome participant to play towards, a nuisance to opposing wingers, and onerous to beat with a dribble or velocity, due to the extent of his clever play.

Outdoors of his soccer profession, like the remainder of us, he was a struggler, on the transfer on a regular basis to discover a strategy to survive and dwell nicely. He was a nomadic coach, going from one small membership, or academy, to a different in my studying of him each time we met.

Soccer in Nigeria was by no means constructed on a stable basis, or on fertile floor to cater for its exponents when their enjoying careers are over. I’m now sounding just like the chorus of a track.

So, I bumped into Yisa occasionally on the struggling circuit, and I used to be by no means happy along with his fragile appears to be like although he at all times assured me he was doing high quality. He was a humble pilgrim, type and delicate, a relentless smile on his face, unassuming along with his innocent, ageless and fragile body. While you met him, you needed to hug him.

At 53 years of age, he died too younger.

His place within the unofficial (as a result of there may be none formally until now) Corridor of Fame of Nigerian soccer is safe. In a latest unofficial polling sport that I created on social media, he was listed amongst the best full backs in Nigeria’s historical past. That, certainly, speaks volumes.

Relaxation in good peace, Yisa.

Sam Ikedi

I knew Sam, however not sufficient to do justice to his place within the annals of Nigerian soccer. He was too removed from the circuit after his profession in soccer.

Amongst different issues, he was a former Bendel Insurance coverage FC participant who additionally performed briefly for the nationwide crew. Besides one was round within the early 1970s, one is unlikely to know lots about him. He performed briefly however very nicely. His very gentle pores and skin stood him out and shone brilliantly wherever he performed in these days.

Sam was barely forward of me within the technology of Nigerian footballers, however we performed towards one another a couple of instances. I don’t recall a lot about his soccer, however we turned buddies exterior the sport.

I didn’t observe his profession after he retired, however from what I now have gathered from the tributes by people who knew him higher, he was additionally a struggler like the remainder of us.

Might he relaxation peacefully additionally with our Lord.

Joseph Erico— NEPA One!

Joe Erico was my good friend.

I met him within the nationwide crew. He was one of many causes I used to be invited to the nationwide crew. I scored a good looking aim towards him with him in aim within the opening match of the 1973 Nationwide Sports activities Pageant when he stored for Lagos State and I used to be a striker for Western State. I used to be instantly, thereafter, invited to the Inexperienced Eagles in December of 1974.

He was the goalkeeper for NEPA FC, and that’s why I personally nicknamed him ‘NEPA One’ after we met once more within the nationwide crew in 1976 and have become buddies.

Everybody else referred to as him ‘Jogo Bonito’, which in Portuguese language interprets to ‘stunning play’, an apt description of the sort of soccer Joe Erico taught all of the groups he coached when he transformed from participant to teach. His groups performed like Brazilians, a soccer philosophy he adopted after we returned from our Brazilian journey in 1979 preparatory to the 1980 African Cup of Nations.

Joe Erico occupies a really particular place in Nigerian sports activities. He was an athlete and an on-field soccer striker. He excelled in each. Till his harm on the soccer discipline that gave him a knocked-knee and a limp, he was ok for each the nationwide athletics and soccer groups. Then the accident.

He gave up high-jumping, transformed to goalkeeping and have become one in every of Nigeria’s first selection nationwide goalkeepers, sharing the limelight with Emmanuel Okala. He stored aim for a lot of the 1976 AFCON in Dire Daybreak, Ethiopia, the place Nigeria gained her first Bronze medal.

When he couldn’t make the 1980 squad, he turned a coach, went to Brazil together with Chief Adegboye Onigbinde, Jossy Lad, Amodu Shaibu, John Zendai, and some others to be skilled within the Brazilian philosophy of soccer. He got here again and have become the best trainer of ‘Jogo Bonito’.

Joe and I labored in my sports activities academy for MTN for a couple of years throughout the interval of the MTN Scholar/Athlete Soccer program. Below him, many younger footballers ended up in American schools.

He did very nicely as a businessman, coach, and father of very gifted youngsters who’re all US-based, enjoying skilled sport and doing extraordinarily nicely.

By way of life after our soccer careers, Joe Erico made an incredible success of his. He was one of many few very profitable ones. He travelled extensively with the assist of his spouse who labored then with Nigeria Airways, and was a robust pillar. He labored all around the United States throughout a number of summers, teaching youngsters in clinics organised by Sam Okpodu, for a number of years.

He was a keep-fit fanatic, a each day face within the health club of the Nationwide Institute of Sports activities, NIS, contained in the Nationwide Stadium, Lagos, for his exercises.

As he returns house to our Father in heaven, I want him a peaceable journey.

Goodnight, NEPA One!

Nwabueze Nwankwo— Dan Vadis Nwa

I had not absolutely absorbed the shock of Joe’s demise when the ‘messenger’ got here calling once more to tick off one more Nigerian soccer hero.

This time it went Eastwards to Abakaliki, the place my good friend, the one I referred to as Dan Vadis, after the favored American war-film actor, had settled to wrestle for his personal survival within the night of his life.

Nwabueze was the last word ‘warrior’ within the Rangers Worldwide FC of Enugu when the crew emerged from the Civil Conflict in 1970 and began to play like wounded troopers.

The principle ‘destroyer’ of groups and a terror to opposing gamers stood within the coronary heart of the Rangers FC midfield like a Trojan, reminding all that to enter the Rangers protection, opposing gamers wanted steel-plated armour.

Nwabueze was ‘depraved’ on the sphere and a terror to a number of groups. He appeared, walked and performed menacingly, encapsulating in his play on the sphere, the preventing, die-hard spirit and repute of the Biafran Soldier, which he was throughout the Civil Conflict and bought a fearsome repute.

On the top of the period of the good Rangers Worldwide of Enugu in Nigerian soccer, he was one in every of 10 Rangers gamers that ultimately wore the nationwide Inexperienced and White Jersey of Nigeria’s Inexperienced Eagles.

READ ALSO: Sofoluwe to be buried at present

Nwabueze turned my good friend a few years later, and collectively we championed the reason for the welfare of retired Nigerian gamers. He moved to Lagos for this trigger and have become a really shut disciple of Prophet TB Joshua.

He went again to the East about 15 years or so in the past, to be part of creating grassroots soccer in Ebonyi State. For a few years we nonetheless labored collectively on the Shell Cup programme for secondary colleges in Nigeria, with him as my ‘eye’ within the East of Nigeria.

We misplaced contact a couple of years in the past. Just lately, I used to be harassing Okala to get me his quantity so I may reconnect with him, when about two weeks later, the identical Okala referred to as me after Erico’s demise to announce Nwabueze’s personal passage, and apologised that he stored forgetting to ship me his quantity till the person died.

Dan Vadis could have been a terror on the soccer discipline however he was a very innocent gentleman exterior it. He cherished soccer with a ardour and took to bettering the welfare of retired Nigerian footballers as his calling on earth.

Journey nicely, my good friend, and relaxation in good peace with our Father in Heaven

Zahuma Information Nigeria

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