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Former Super Eagles midfielder Samuel Sochukwuma Owaraji died while playing for Nigeria at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos State, during a 1990 FIFA World Cup Qualifier against Angola.
It was among the saddest events ever in the story of Nigerian football, given that the legendary midfielder died in the line of duties for Nigeria.
No words can express his dedication and commitment to the national call as Samuel Okwaraji would adorably wear the white and green jersey, beaming with joy in his eyes.
Many years have passed, and football fans from Nigeria and worldwide are still able to remember Okwaraji.
For those who know a bit about Samuel Okwaraji and for those who do not, here are ten things about Samuel Okwaraji that you probably didn’t know
- Samuel Okwaraji was born on May 19, 1964. He was born in Umudioka Orlu, Orlu Local Government Area, Imo State, Southeastern Nigeria.
- His father is Mr. David Okwaraji worked with the now-defunct Nigeria Airways as a Duty Officer, with his mother, Lady Janet Okwaraji. She is a retired headmistress at a school. Samuel Okwaraji has four brothers and two sisters.
- As stated by his mother, Sam enjoyed a hectic childhood. He played a variety of games throughout his childhood. He played football, table tennis, and many other games. However, he seemed to be more into football.
- He was a student at WTC Practicing School, Enugu, for his primary education and Ezeachi Secondary School, Orlu, Imo State. He then attended Federal Government College, Orlu, and received his Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in International Law.
- Samuel could speak five different languages: English, Italian, German, Spanish, and, of course, his own native language Igbo.
- He was a gifted midfielder who wore the number 6 jersey for Nigeria’s senior national team. Okwaraji enjoyed an impressive soccer career, which was unfortunately very brief. At the 1988 Nations Cup in Morocco, Okwaraji scored an incredible goal that he could get past the Cameroonian goalkeeper, all within 60 seconds! He was later crowned”the” Most Valuable Player (MVP) twice.
- The Nigerian Football Association requested his release from SSV-ULM1846, his club, in order that he could represent Nigeria in the game. However, the club refused, insisting that the NFA pay $45,000 for gating fees. Group captain John Obakpolor, who died on January 29, 2021, reduced the amount to $15,000.
- On August 12, 1989, when the team was representing Nigeria in the 2nd round of the World Cup Qualifier match (Group C, Italia World Cup) against Angola, Samuel Okwaraji collapsed and died immediately on the pitch.
- It was just 77 minutes into the game. In the presence of more than 20,000 Nigerians in the Main Bowl of the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, and the Green Eagles were thrown into chaos, and all efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.
- Okwaraji was only 25 years old when he passed away; however, an autopsy discovered that he died of high blood pressure, caused the condition known as congestive cardiac failure (which is when the heart fails to pump enough to ensure sufficient blood flow around the body). The heart of Okwaraji was found to be large, not an excellent sign in the field of medicine. Okwaraji actually gave his best to Nigeria.
- On August 12, 2009, Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos State unveiled a concrete statue of Samuel Okwaraji in the Rededicated Memorial Garden in honor of the Nigerian football legend in front of the national stadium where he collapsed and died.