Nigeria’s Football Family Mourning as Coach Joe Erico Dies at 72

Duro Ikhazuagbe

The Nigerian football family was again thrown into mourning yesterday following the news of the death of former national team goalkeeper and one-time Assistant Coach of the Super Eagles, Joseph Bassey Eric (a.k.a Joe Erico).

News of the passage of Erico was first announced Thursday morning by the Convener of popular FUBS WhatsApp platform, Godwin Enakhena.

The solemn message was the conversation the broadcast journalist had with Erico’s widow, Mosunmola.

“He (Erico) was ill for about three days and we took him to the hospital. He complained of body pain. He was okay and we came back home.

“But just yesterday (Wednesday) night, he started doing somehow and he later slept.

“I tried to wake him up this morning but he was stone dead,” the heartbroken widow of the well-loved Coach stressed yesterday morning.

Erico who hailed from the Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River State, belonged to the cast of the very best goalkeepers in the history of Nigeria’s senior team.

He served Nigeria at the senior level at the same period as the revered Emmanuel Okala and Eyo Essien.

Erico who was a “Lagos Boy” haven spent most of his formative years in the former federal capital city, made his debut for then Green Eagles in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match against Zambia in Lagos in July 1973 (which Nigeria won 3-2).

He was in goal post for all of Nigeria’s six matches at the 1976 Africa Cup of Nations in Ethiopia, where the Eagles finished third – the first time Nigeria would win a medal at the AFCON.

Erico was also in goal in all of Nigeria’s pre-tournament friendlies against Kenya, Zambia and Tanzania just before the team flew to Ethiopia.

After his illustrious career as NEPA Lagos goalkeeper, Erico earned his stripes as Julius Berger FC of Lagos Head Coach.

It was at the ‘Adewale Bridge Boys’ that he earned his appellation of Apostle of ‘Jogo Bonito’, that Brazilian flair he used to mesmerize the domestic league scene in the early 1990s.

Erico was part of the triumvirate (alongside late Amodu Shaibu and late Stephen Keshi) who were shooed in to do a rescue job for Nigeria as the ship to the 2002 FIFA World Cup finals tottered badly under Dutchman Johannes Bonfrere.

With three matches left in the campaign and a must-win mandate for all, the trio got the job done and qualified Nigeria for Korea/Japan.

They also led the team to a bronze-medal finish at the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Mali early 2002.

With his death yesterday morning, it means all members of that historic triumvirate have now passed on.

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