"Beat Angola for Okwaraji," Esin charges Eagles, recalls memories of the legend who slumped and died while playing against Angola in 1989 | #NwokeukwuMascot


Recalling how Sam Okwaraji slumped and died in Lagos while playing against the Angolans in a 1990 World Cup qualifier | #NwokeukwuMascot 

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Former Super Eagles midfielder Etim Esin has charged the current national side to beat Angola in Friday’s AFCON quarter-final clash in Ivory Coast in memory of the late Sam Okwaraji.

Okwaraji slumped and died on August 12 in Lagos while playing against the Angolans in a 1990 World Cup qualifier.

Okwaraji, 25, slumped inside the main bowl of the National Stadium, Lagos, 10 minutes to the end of the Italia 1990 qualifier, and while the Eagles secured a hard-earned 1-0 win, the skillful player lost his life.

Five fans died the same day as the fans overcrowded the 40,000-capacity stadium, filling it nearly 20,000 over, with about 4,000 others reportedly stranded outside.

With the Eagles now set to face the Palancas Negras in the 2023 AFCON quarter-finals, after defeating Cameroon 2-0 in the round of 16 on Saturday, Esin, Okwaraji’s fellow midfielder on the day, charged Jose Peseiro’s men to beat 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 Newsmen.

“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 featured at that year’s African Cup of Nations in Morocco, where he scored one of the fastest goals in the history of the championship against Cameroon in the second minute.

He helped the Eagles reach the final, where they lost to Cameroon by a lone goal.

Okwaraji, a qualified lawyer who had a Masters in International Law from the Pontifical Lateran University, Rome, was reputed for paying his airfares to Eagles matches and declined to collect allowances from the then FA.


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