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Samuel Okwaraji’s death and the five games that changed David Ngodigha’s life

Samuel Okwaraji’s death and the five games that changed David Ngodigha’s life
July 19
13:24 2014
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The sun has long set on his football career, but former Super Eagles goalkeeper David Ngodigha still has some games permanently etched in his mind.

The current technical director of Nigeria National League Division One side, Go Round, went memory lane in this chat with TheCable.

1) P&T vs. Sharks, Rivers State Governor’s Cup semifinal, 1978

I was still in secondary school when the secretary of the Sports Council, Paul Nwifa, who was attached to the football team, came to my school to organise a football competition – NASUWA Cup. He was impressed with my performance and drafted me, as a mercenary, to the team he supervised (P&T) who were preparing for a match against Sharks.

He made me the number choice in goal and I was voted man-of-the-match in the 1-1 draw with the number one team in Port Harcourt. Though Sharks won the replay on penalties, my performance in the first match brought me to limelight and it was the foundation my football career was built on. Sharks coach, Monday Sinclair, obviously liked what he saw, because I joined them the following season.

Ngodigha 02) Sharks vs. Ewekoro, Pre-season friendly, 1979

I was combining my secondary school studies and training with Sharks. The team travelled to Abeokuta for a pre-season tune up match with Ewekoro. I wasn’t expecting to be in goal that day because I was ‘lightweight’ compared to Ghanaian Raymond Quacupon, who was the first choice goalie. Surprisingly, coach Sinclair picked me for the game; till today, I don’t know why he did that. Prior to that time, I had never played outside the city of Port Harcourt. Then Sharks jersey was very unique. It was imported from Germany. I can never forget the colours I wore in that match – yellow and black goalkeeper jersey! Sharks won 1-0 and my performance was outstanding. The feeling of playing with John Appolo, Baras Orugbani and other prominent players in Sharks team must have been the reason. The applause I got from the fans and my teammates after the match convinced me I did well in the game.

3) Stationery Stores vs. Capo United, Africa Cup Winners’ Cup, first-leg match in Libreville, Gabon, 1983

By this time, I’d established myself as a goalkeeper and even got invited to the senior national team. I was with the darling team of Lagosians, Super Stores. The game against Capo United was my first international match.  Stores won 1-0 and Wakilu Oyenuga scored the goal for us. I was in goal and had a very good match. The return leg at the National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos ended goalless.

Ngodigha 14) Super Eagles vs. Gabon, World Cup qualifier in Enugu, 1989

I captained the Super Eagles for the first time in this match, which we won 1-0 courtesy of a screamer from Wole Odegbami. Some prominent names in the game were Bright Omokaro, Ademola Adesina, Andrew Uwe, Etim Esin, Samuel Okwaraji, Samson Siasia, Friday Elaho, and Dominic Iorfa. I kept a clean sheet and was happy with my overall performance.

5) Super Eagles vs. Angola, World Cup qualifier in Lagos, 1989

The media was against my inclusion in the team after my blunder gifted Angola their second goal in a 2-2 draw in Luanda in the previous match. But coach Clemens Westerhof stood by me. He told me he was going to play me in goal no matter the uproar from the press and was ready to take responsibility if anything negative happened. He said it was left to me to prove myself on the pitch and that whatever happened was in my hands. Stephen Keshi got the only goal on that day. I had a good game and even saved a penalty but lost a very dear friend – Sam Okwaraji – to the cold hands of death right on the pitch.

 

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