Today makes it 33 years since Samuel Okwaraji slumped and died while featuring for Nigeria in a 1990 World Cup qualifier in Lagos, and ex-teammate, Ademola Adesina has revealed exclusively to PUNCH Sports Extra his last encounter with the fallen star.
Okwaraji slumped at the National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos during the World Cup qualifier against Angola on August 12, 1989 and was certified dead after he was rushed to the hospital by stadium medical personnel.
Former Eagles defender Adesina told PUNCH Sports Extra that the last time he spoke with Okwaraji, the late midfield maestro was excitedly looking forward to the game against the Angolans, and had a premonition that he would become popular globally after the match.
“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 (Okparaji) 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 praised Okwaraji’s personality and how the last words he said to him will never leave 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.”