The past week has been a sad one for those in the sports fraternity especially those familiar with the then Green Eagles as the Nigeria national men’s football team were previously called.
Two illustrious strikers with the Green Eagles, Sunny Oyarekhua and Thompson Usiyan, both died in the week and that has left Nigeria football legend, Segun Odegbami, downcast.
Odegbami in a tribute written in his weekly column eulogised the two lethal strikers who have now been separated by death.
“Sunny Oyarekhua was Nigeria’s most prolific goalscorer in the national team for the years that he was there…..” Odegbami recalled even though they never played together like Usiyan.
He continued: “Unfortunately, by the time the team returned from the African Cup of Nations in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, in 1976, Nigeria had identified a fresh pair of legs to strike for the national team – Thompson Usiyan. He took over from Sunny at the Championship.”
“By the time he was done with the national team in 1976, he had amassed a goal-chest of 17 goals in 28 international matches for Nigeria, the highest by any player at the national team level up to that point.” Odegbami who himself was a former Nigeria national team captain added.
For Usiyan, Odegbami described him as one of the most gifted strikers Nigeria ever had.
He wrote: “In my humble estimation, Thompson was the most gifted striker in the history of Nigerian football…extravagantly skilful like Jay-Jay Okocha, but more lethal.. with his greatest weapon being his ability to shoot or bend the ball from a standing position with precision and power whilst surrounded by defenders.
Revealing how he learnt of the death of the strikers, Odegbami said he was told Usiyan died in his base in the United States with his family around him after losing his battle with Colon Cancer.
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For Oyarekhua who rose to the position of an Assistant Commissioner of Police after his playing career, it was gathered that he was bedridden as a result of a Stroke before he finally died.
“Of the 1976 to 1978 members of the national team too many have passed on, each with their own painful story – Joseph Erico, Kelechi Emeteole, Ogidi Ibeabuchi, Alloysius Atuegbu, Adekunle Awesu, Mudashiru Lawal, Kenneth Olayombo, Samuel Ojebode, Haruna Ilerika…….and so on,” Odegbami wrote.