“Beat Angola In Memory Of Okwaraji”
Former Super Eagles midfielder, Etim Esin has challenged the current national team to defeat Angola in Friday’s AFCON quarterfinal in Ivory Coast in remembrance of the late Sam Okwaraji.
In a 1990 World Cup qualifier against Angola, Okwaraji collapsed and passed away in Lagos on August 12.
Ten minutes into the Italia 1990 qualifier, Okwaraji, 25, collapsed inside the main bowl of the National Stadium in Lagos. Although the Eagles achieved a hard-fought 1-0 victory, the talented player lost his life.
Five supporters died on the same day after fans overcrowded the 40,000-capacity stadium, filling it about 20,000 over, leaving approximately 4,000 people stranded outside.
With the Eagles poised to meet the Palancas Negras in the 2023 AFCON quarter-finals after overcoming Cameroon 2-0 in the round of 16 on Saturday, Esin, Okwaraji’s fellow midfielder on the day, challenged Jose Peseiro’s team to defeat the Angolans in memory of the midfield maestro.
“Sam was my roommate. The thought of not seeing him again didn’t cross our minds. It’s really sad and it’s been so hard for me to forget about him because I was on the field with him that day. We had a dream for the 1990 World Cup, but it’s unfortunate because his death took away those dreams,” Esin told The PUNCH.
“I want the Eagles to beat Angola in their next game on Friday in memory of the late Okwaraji because it will mean a lot. That same year, we defeated Cameroon before facing Angola and the boys did the same by beating Cameroon 2-0 in Abidjan. I hope they will beat Angola by at least 1-0, the same scoreline with which we defeated them 35 years ago.
“We know the Angolans can be dangerous but the Eagles just need to win the game.”
Okwaraji made his Eagles debut in 1988 and competed in the African Cup of Nations in Morocco, scoring one of the championship’s fastest goals in the second minute against Cameroon.
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He helped the Eagles to the final, where they were defeated by Cameroon with a single goal.
Okwaraji, a licenced lawyer with a Masters in International Law from Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, was known for paying his own travel to Eagles games and refusing to accept allowances from the then-FA.
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