The Chairman, Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Cross River Chapter, Albert Andinam, said on Monday that 30 years after the demise of the football legend, Samuel Okwaraji, the nation still mourned him.
Mr Andinam, who made the disclosure in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Calabar, said Okwaraji died for his fatherland.
He called for better medical attention for the nation’s sports stars, adding that the medical teams and team managers should be up and doing to avoid fielding players that had any form of medical challenge.
According to him, Nigerians will not have suffered such a monumental loss which they still remember if Okwaraji was properly and medically certified fit to play the match in which he slumped.
He opined that the right people should be put in sports administration in the nation adding that the families of late sports heroes were not treated fairly.
This, he said, should be corrected.
“Okwaraji exhibited selfless service and sacrifice which many of our sportsmen today are still exhibiting but these sportsmen need to be encouraged.
“Nigeria has been battered at all fronts but whenever their is a football match, every facet becomes united and when we lose, the disappointment spreads across.
“President Muhammadu Buhari should ensure that square pegs are put in square holes by giving the Minister of Sports to someone who is interested and seen to be contributing to sports development in the nation,” he said.
Similarly, a senior correspondent of the Sun Newspapers in Calabar, Jude Okoro, said Nigeria ran a system where many people who had served the nation meritoriously were not recognised.
Mr Okoro said the nation has not learnt any lesson from the death of Okwaraji and many other fallen heroes in trying to reform the sports sector and make it more productive.
He said Nigerian sportsmen no longer had the spirit of selflessness and sacrifice because they knew that if something happened to them in active service nothing would be done for their families.
“The story has not changed after 30 years; we saw how Stephen Keshi died and Samson Siasia’s mother was abducted and up till now no one is talking about them.
“Things like these have made our sportsmen to over commercialise sports.
“They simply say if you need us, you pay but if you don’t need us, allow us to go play for other nations,” he said.
He added that attitudinal change was required in the nation and the Nigerian leadership must imbibe the culture of a reward system for those who had served the country diligently.
NAN reports that Samuel Okwaraji was a Nigerian footballer and doctorate degree student of law of the University of Rome before his death.
Born on May 19, 1964, Okwaraji slumped during a World Cup qualifying match in Lagos between Nigeria and Angola on August 12, 1989 and later died in the hospital.