On this day in 1989, Nigerian footballer Samuel Sochukwuma Okwaraji collapsed and died while playing in World Cup qualifier against Angola at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos. He was aged 25.
Okwaraji had earlier scored a goal in the match before congestive heart failure got the best of him.
Born in Orlu, Imo, Okwaraji played in Europe for clubs such as AS Roma, NK Dinamo Zagreb, Austria Klagenfurt and VfB Stuttgart.
He joined the then Green Eagles in 1988 and played for Nigeria at the African Nations Cup that year.
His 2-minute goal against Nigeria’s arch-rival Cameroon still stands as one of the fastest goals in the history of the competition.
Eche Ezechukwu, a former Golden Eaglets Striker, said that Okwaraji’s unique lifestyle motivated him to pursue his soccer career. “Okwaraji remains the only Nigerian player who paid for his flight expenses whenever on national duties and truly saw wearing the national colours as an honour. “He remains in death, a role model for Nigerian players because the sort of tension and grief generated by his death in the country that day, had not been experienced till date,” he said.