Today marks the 33rd anniversary of the death of Samuel Okwaraji, who collapsed and lost his life while playing for Nigeria in a 1990 World Cup qualifier in Lagos. Ademola Adesina, Okwaraji’s former teammate, has exclusively shared this information with PUNCH Sports Extra.
On August 12, 1989, Okwaraji collapsed at the National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos, during the World Cup qualifier versus Angola. He was taken to the hospital by stadium medics, who later declared him dead.
According to former Eagles defender Adeshina, when he last spoke with the late midfield guru, Okwaraji, he was eagerly anticipating the encounter against the Angolans and had a premonition that he would earn worldwide fame as a result of the game.
“He was my roommate, and we were very close. We left Belgium together for the game against Angola. The Friday before the game, while chatting with Sam, he said, ‘Demola, if I play this match (Angola game), the whole world will know me, they’ll look at me well and the whole world will notice.’ And thereafter, the whole world knew him.
“That was the last time he spoke to me. After making that statement in the room, the next day was the day of the match. We trained together, and then we left in the team bus. On the day of the match, around 10am or 11am, the bus came to Sheraton to pick us, but he (Okwaraji) told me he’s going to visit one of his family members; that he’ll soon come back, and he’ll be a bit late.
“Eventually, he came back and when we asked him where he went to, he said he just went to visit his family, and he was on the match list, all of us. That’s the last time I could remember we spoke,” he told PUNCH Sports Extra.
Adesina appreciated Okwaraji’s character and the fact that he will always remember his final words to him.
“He was a jovial guy, very good man. I can never ever forget because we were in the same room, I think Room 224, but what he told me, ‘the whole world will know me if I play today’s match’, is something I can never ever forget, but it took me years before I remembered the meaning of what he said. Maybe, he saw it in his spirit, a premonition of something like that, maybe something was going to happen to him, I don’t know. The whole world will miss him.”