With the death of Bobsam Elejiko in Belgium last Sunday, the list of Nigerian players dying on the field has continued to grow. Elejiko who showed no sign of any ailment slumped and died while playing for his fifth-tier Belgian league side, Merksem against FC Kaart. Just like others tragedies in the past, the game had to be abandoned in respect of the fallen star. Elejiko left behind a young wife and kids.
FEMI SOLAJA here chronicles some Nigerian players who have exited this earth in the same fashion, starting with the most celebrated of them all, Sam Okwaraji...
The former Super Eagles midfielder collapsed and died during a World Cup qualifying match against Angola at the National Stadium, Lagos, on August 12, 1989.
It was a ‘Black Saturday’ in Nigerian football history as seven fans were also confirmed dead due to suffocation from overcrowding at the stadium .Okwaraji was reported to have died of cardiac arrest.
He collapsed with 10 minutes left of the game with Nigeria leading 1-0.
Sadly, Okwaraji’s efforts were in vain as Nigeria failed to qualify for the Mundial in Italy after a narrow 0-1 defeat to Cameroon in the final qualifying match in Yaounde.
The death of this young player brought back the memories of how late Samuel Okwaraji slumped and died before home crowd. Angwe, 29, a striker with Julius Berger in 1995 also collapsed just with one minute before the end of an African Cup Winners’ Cup semi final match with Maxaquene of Mozambique at the Onikan Stadium in Lagos.
After he slumped, Angwe waved off playmates saying he would be fine but doctors at the stadium were unable to revive him. Doctors also confirmed Angwe to have died of a heart attack.
After a flourishing career at home with Julius Berger of Lagos and Dolphins of Port Harcourt up till 2004, the former Under-23 striker moved to Sudan where he joined El Merreikh in 2006 but was sent on loan to Saudi Arabia in 2008 and later return to his club in Sudan.
He was the club’s top marksman, scoring a total of 118 goals in 176 appearances for El Merreikh. He collapsed during a league game with Al Amal in Omdurman and died on the pitch after a minor incident in the vital area of the visiting team.
Seventeen-year-old John Ikoroma, collapsed and died of a heart attack during a friendly match in the United Arab Emirates.
A player for Rangers International and Nigeria‘s under-17 national team, he was in the UAE for a trial match for Al-Wahda against Kazakh Club Astona when he collapsed 20 minutes before the end of the match. He died at the hospital.
One of the heroes of Saudi ’89 final feat of the Flying Eagles died on the pitch in 1997 after being injured during a league game between his Insurance FC of Benin City and Nigerdock of Lagos.
Charity, who was also known as Charity Ikhidero, was part of Nigeria‘s squad to the first FIFA five-a-side world championship in Hong Kong in 1992.
In 1997, a Nigerian player, Emmanuel Nwanegbo, died after only few minutes of play for SSV Reutlingen in the Regionalliga, as the German regional division is called. His death, according to reports was due to cardiac arrest.
In July 14, 2001, Charles Esheko, 26, died in hospital after suffering a massive cardiac arrest on the field. Charles, a strong defender for Bengal Mumbai Club in India was playing against the Income Tax team in the Harwood League.
He collapsed in the first half but managed to sit in a taxi and get admitted in a Mumbai hospital. But there, he suffered a second stroke and died. The Nigerian had been playing in the Asian nation for over three years.
A former Flying Eagles and Enyimba goalkeeper, Sam Okoye, died under mysterious circumstances. The former Rangers keeper, who was on trial at Iranian league club, Sorkhpooshan Delvar Afzar FC, was reported dead in Teheran, in August 2005 after a brief illness in the Asian country but the causes and circumstances in which he died are yet to be known.
Added to that, Iranian authorities refused to release his remains for repatriation and burial in Nigeria until May 2006.
It took the intervention of Nigerian Embassy in Iran and the Ministries of Health and Internal Affairs in to reach a compromise on transporting the body of the former youth international back home 10 months after he died.
The Ocean Boys FC of Yenegoa defender, Emmanuel Ogoli, slumped during a Nigeria Premier League game last December, and died soon after.
Ogoli, a left back who joined the former champions from city rivals Bayelsa United lasted only 39 minutes of that game played on a Sunday. His team mates who were not aware that he had died before been rushed out of the Samson Siasia Stadium in Yenegoa went on to beat Niger Tornadoes 2-0.
Bobsam Elejiko, 30, collapsed and died while playing for Belgian club Merksem S.C. Sunday afternoon. Attempts were made to resuscitate him but they proved to be unsuccessful. Elejiko had previously played for Westerlo and Antwerp among other teams.
Writing on his social network Twitter account Odemwingie said: “Rest in peace my brother, Bobsam Elejiko. (Died of) Heart failure during a match this noon in Belgium. Will not leave your wife & boys without attention," said the Super Eagles centre-forward who was excused from Nigeria game against Botswana last Saturday.