Bassey Inyang in Calabar
The death has been reported of a former Nigeria international and the Coach of the Unicem Rovers Football Club of Calabar, John Ene Okon.
According to the Chairman of the Cross River State Sports Commission, Chief Orok Duke, Ene died in the early hours of yesterday at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital UCTH after a protracted ailment.
Until his death, he was the chief coach of the Unicem Rovers Football Club of Calabar jointly owned by the Lafarge Cement outfit, and the Cross River Government.
While alive, Ene or “Akpakpan” as he was fondly called by fans and spectators hit limelight in his football career when he featured for the University of Calabar (Unical) football team which won the now rested Pepsi-cola Football Cup competition in 1986, as well as the soccer event of the Nigerian University Games (NUGA).
He was part of the Flying Eagles team to the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Chile in 1987 with the likes of Etim Esin, Adekola Adeolu, Jonathan Akpoborie, Ladi Babalola, etc. Late Coach Chris Udemezue led the team tagged as favourites for the title to a disastrous adventure.
THISDAY learnt in Calabar that hours before Ene’s demise, the state’s sport commission boss had announced that Governor Ben Ayade had directed that all necessary resources should be mobilised to ensure his recovery.
Duke further hinted that he had led other commissioners in the state’s Sports Commission to visit the deceased on his hospital bed after he had undergone a Computerised Tomography (CT) Scan.
Diminutive Ene played for the then Acada United Football Club of Unical, Rovers of Calabar, BCC Lions of Gboko, Akwa United FC of Uyo As well as the Super Eagles.
He was, perhaps, the most decorated footballer from Cross River State. The former midfielder was a member of the Super Eagles squad to the 1992 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations in Senegal where Nigeria won bronze.