It was 25-years on Tuesday since Samuel Okwaraji slumped and died at the National Stadium, Surulere in service to his motherland.
In continuation of our series on the late patriot, TheCable goes into its archives to bring you 25 memorable quotes by the soccer maestro and on the national hero.
Football is always a war.
Nigerians are yet to see my best. This is just the beginning. You will see more of me very soon – Sam, after making his debut for Nigeria against Algeria at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu in a Seoul Olympic Games’ qualifier.
Discipline wise, Hoener is good; physical-fitness training wise, Hoener good; technically, I think he’s average, maybe, because he’s young coach – SO on then Green Eagles coach, Manfred Hoener.
I know I am a good player. I am not afraid of football.
It was not the system that made us fail in Seoul. The system is not important and I don’t know why people attach so much importance to it. It is only good players that win matches – SO, on why Green Eagles failed at the ’88 Olympic Games.
Some people want to sabotage me, otherwise, why on earth should they have made me play in a strange position? Moreover, just when I was adjusting to the game, I was substituted. I think there is some foul play somewhere – SO after a World Cup qualifier against Gabon in Enugu.
I am not boasting, but I think I am good enough to play for any club in any country of the world – SO.
I am a lawyer you know and signed to play football for certain conditions but I don’t think it included reselling my services to my country. You or your club cannot stop me from playing for my country. Let me tell you, I am going to represent my country whether you like it or not – SO tells SSV 1846 manager who tried to stop him from honouring a call from Nigeria.
Talents abound in Nigeria, but the only problem is how to encourage and guide them.
Whatever confidence I have in my goalkeeping career today, Sam was instrumental to it. I’ll be grateful to him forever – David Ngodigha, 1991.
He represented, for me, the new generation of midfield players with a very good foundation in football. Good techniques all around, great vision, impeccable style and finesse; and [he was] a true patriot – Segun Odegbami, 1989.
How could he just die like that? – Abiodun Idowu, 1989.
None of us apparently thought Sam would die like that, and that was why we continued the match with a settled mind. But when the news of his death reached us at the hotel, it shattered me personally – Samson Siasia, 1989.
I was lucky to be only shot and wounded then, but Okwaraji is dead and that is difficult to believe – Etim Esin recounts his ordeal two years earlier as he reflects on Sam’s death, 1989.
A patriot who never worried about what his country will give to him, but shed strength and sweat to the country’s glory – Sports Minister, Tonye Graham-Douglas, 1989.
If Sam was sick, Antwerp, which signed him on this year, would not have paid that much money ($450,000) for his release from his former club, Eintracht Frankfurt. White men are very thorough when it comes to things like these – Patrick Okwaraji, Sam’s brother, 1989.
Adieu Samson: the nation misses you; football fans miss you; your colleagues will miss you. May your football soul rest in perfect peace. Hero Okwaraji. – Frank Ilaboya, 1989.
The whole occurrence has been a great shock to me. A great shock indeed – Ademola Adeshina, 1989.
You just dazzled us with your performance and before we could even have the chance to say thank you, you were gone – Sunny Obazu-Ojeagbase, 1989.
Sam had a tremendous drive of patriotism and commitment to football, despite having had two law degrees (LLB and LLM) – John Obakpolor, 1990.
To me, it seems he had gone back to Belgium and will soon return – Bala Ali, 1990.
Sam was a very social person, talented as a footballer and a motivator on the field of play – Christian Obi, 1990.
My wearing the No. 6 jersey at the Algiers ’90 tourney was as instruction from the coaches. There’s nothing bad in wearing a hero’s jersey. Beside, while in camp, Sam and I contested for the same role and I think he was far better than me, even though I tried my best – Thompson Oliha on Sam’s Jersey No. 6.
He told me back then that he had three ambitions in life and these were to play professional football abroad, obtain a doctorate degree in law and play for the Super Eagles. He actually achieved each and every one of these things before he died – Meinkeme Fekete, coach, Bayelsa United, the man who discovered Sam Okwaraji, 2007.
In memory of an illustrious and patriotic Nigerian sportsman late Samuel Okwaraji who died on active service to his fatherland on the 12th of August 1989 in a World Cup qualifying soccer match between Nigeria and Angola at the National Stadium, Lagos – The message inscribed on Okwaraji’s tomb in front of the National Stadium, Surulere.