The Nigerian Minister of Youth and Sports Development Sunday Dare honoured Former Super Eagles midfielder Samuel Okwaraji who died while playing for Nigeria, by showing support to his mother Janet Okwaraji.
Okwaraji — who was born on 19 May 1964 in Orlu, Imo State, South Eastern Nigeria — died on August 12th 1989 during a World Cup qualification match against Angola at the National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos, South Western Nigeria.
Samuel Okwaraji had a career in Europe which included playing for AS Roma (1984-1985), NK Dinamo Zagreb (1985-1986), Austria Klagenfurt (1986-1987), VfB Stuttgart (1987-1989) and SSV Ulm 1846 (loan) (1987-1988).
The midfield maestro who made the Green Eagles squad in 1988 at the African Nations Cup in Morocco, scored one of the fastest goals in the history of African football against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon.
The Minister who was represented by Bamidele Ajayi at the home of the late Super Eagles star in Abakpa-Nike in Enugu state donated various foodstuff and provisions, as well as a cash gift of 50,000 Naira.
The Ministry also decided to support the family with a monthly stipend of 30,000 Naira.
Apart from his football exploits, the Former Super Eagles player was a qualified lawyer who had a Masters in international law from the Pontifical Lateran University of Rome in Italy.
The Minister explained that the gesture was to assist the mother in her old age as a mark of honour for the contribution of the former Dinamo Zagreb forward to Nigerian football, which remains indelible years after his death.
”I have always been drawn to greatness and I admire people who live their lives to elevate the status of their community and nation. Okwaraji was not just a footballer, he was an icon and great patriot,” Minister Dare said.
“He was a great professional who redefined football in Nigeria with many young talents benefiting from his ingenuity and sacrifices by re-writing our country’s name in gold in world football.”
Responding on behalf of the family, the eldest son of the Okwarajis, Patrick Okwaraji regretted that though their mother was slightly indisposed hence could not receive the Minister’s representative, he expressed the family’s appreciation for the kind gesture.
Patrick Okwaraji said he lacked the words to describe the gesture from a serving Minister to lend support to the family after several past attempts have failed.
“Sam died almost 30 years ago, everybody would appreciate if they feel he is worthy to be remembered and appreciated for the little contributions he made even when he died in his prime,” Patrick said.
“I thank the Minister for deeming it worthy to do this. It is very encouraging that this is the first and only Minister to support the family. We are indeed very grateful.”
“I honestly dont know what to say other than to say that the family appreciate this show of commitment to us which is long overdue,” he added.