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Bedridden former Stationery Stores captain, Edward Okoyomon, cries for help

Okoyomon

Okoyomon

He was a Trojan in the fiery Stationery Stores team of the 1990s. A right back, who could also play in the central defence, Edward Okoyomon, was one of the players, who made the Flaming Flamingoes the darling team of Lagos football fans in the days when the Nigerian league was rated higher than its European counterparts by the country’s football enthusiasts.

Okoyomon, who rose to become Stationery Stores captain, also played for Iwuanyanwu Nationale (now Heartland) and the defunct Jasper United, before moving to the Vietnamese league in 2000.

But sadly, in an era when his contemporaries are reaping the fruits of their labour through commercial endorsements and other ventures, Okoyomon is writhing on his sick bed. He has been held down by stroke, which he suffered about eight years ago.

The Edo State-born retired footballer, who was helped to the Rutam House office of The Guardian recently by some of his associates, is seeking assistance from individuals, corporate bodies and other sports stakeholders in the country to help him out of his current predicament.

Narrating his ordeal, Okoyomon said he was struck by stroke when he came back for the Christmas celebrations in 2008 from India, and since then he has been held down by the ailment. This development, he said, forced him to quit the game abruptly.

He added: “I live in Ibadan, where my Church, friends and family have been assisting me in my bid to get back my life. But it has been difficult for everybody involved. You know there is an extent people can help you, especially in these difficult times.

“I have been visiting media houses to appeal to individuals, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and corporate bodies to assist me financially as I battle this condition. But all my cries are yet to be answered. I need help from any quarter to treat myself.

I live in Ibadan, where my Church, friends and family have been assisting me in my bid to get back my life. But it has been difficult for everybody involved. You know there is an extent people can help you, especially in these difficult times. I have been visiting media houses to appeal to individuals, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and corporate bodies to assist me financially as I battle this condition. But all my cries are yet to be answered. I need help from any quarter to treat myself. Things have not been easy for me, my wife and two sons because of this condition that has affected all my body.

“Things have not been easy for me, my wife and two sons because of this condition that has affected all my body.”|

Okoyomon regrets that nobody from his former clubs have come forward to enquire about his situation, adding, “the only time I was given a little token by Stationary Stores FC was during the remembrance of the late founder of the club, Israel Adebajo. It is unfortunate that Nigerian retired footballers in similar conditions have been neglected by those who enjoyed the game while they were still active.”

Despite his condition, Okoyomon still manages to follow events in the football world, especially the local league, which he describes as one of the best in the world. But he regrets that the game is being bogged down by clubs that lack the proper management structure to grow the game, as well as the inability of the NFF to put in place effective grassroots development programme to tap from the country’s deep talent pool.

According to Okoyomon, the stadia across the country were jam-packed during his days because the spectators followed such famous clubs as Stationery Stores, Shooting Stars, Iwuanyanwu Nationale, Rangers, Raccah Rovers, Bendel Insurance, among others. He added that the players in these teams were household names seen as idols by their fans.

“The Nigerian domestic league is no more interesting because the clubs management and the NFF have not been able to create viable avenue to discover talents. People want to watch good football and the only way that such could be achieved is by grooming quality players.

“Now, we cannot recreate the excitement of the Nigerian domestic league of the 1970s and 1980s because there are no good academies; the grassroots and secondary school championships are more of commercial ventures, which hardly threw up new talents.

“The European leagues sustain global recognition because the organisers are ready to go the extra mile to get quality talents. If countries like Vietnam and India, where I played professional football, can have academies to groom and nurture players, I see no reason a country like Nigeria, which is a footballing nation, cannot have same.

“Another way I think our league can get better is for the NFF to seek for more sponsors… the English Premiership is enjoying much viewership across the world today because of the much publicity given to it,” he said.

I also recall the game against Insurance of Benin in 1992, which ended in a penalty shootout. Both teams lost their first kicks, but when I scored my own penalty, my team mates followed suit and we won the game. I regret that I lost the opportunity to play for the Super Eagles because I did not have a valid international passport. We were preparing for the Mandela Cup in Enugu, but I did not know that I did not remember to get a valid international passport. So, on the eve of the competition I was dropped. I never got another opportunity

Despite the shortcomings he sees in the administration of the game in the country, Okoyomon is thrilled that the current NFF leadership is putting several things in place to ensure that Nigeria recovers its status as one of the best football playing nations of the world. But he wants the federation to pay key attention to the local league “because the league holds the key to a quality national team.”

He added: “When we develop the league, it will be easier for the budding talents to find avenues to express their skills, which at the long run will be beneficial to the national teams.”

Okoyomon, who played alongside former Super Eagles’ captain, Ike Shorunmu, and Ganiyu Ajide in Stationery Stores, recalls that his best moment in football was when he scored the winning goal for the Flaming Flamingoes in a CAF Champions League quarterfinal game against Zamalek of Egypt.

“The game against Zamalek of Egypt was my best moment in football. We were beaten 2-0 in Egypt. Former Super Eagles player, Emmanuel Amuneke, was in the Zamalek team then and we needed to beat Zamalek in the second leg to get the quarterfinal ticket.

“When they came to Lagos, I scored the winning goal, which unfortunately could not take us through.

“I also recall the game against Insurance of Benin in 1992, which ended in a penalty shootout. Both teams lost their first kicks, but when I scored my own penalty, my team mates followed suit and we won the game,” he enthused.

Okoyomon regrets that he lost the opportunity to play for the Super Eagles because he did not have a valid international passport.

“We were preparing for the Mandela Cup in Enugu, but I did not know that I did not remember to get a valid international passport. So, on the eve of the competition I was dropped. I never got another opportunity,” he said.



1 Comment
  • PONOMAN

    OLD BOY IN YOUR PRIME YOU SHOULD SAVE ENOUGH MONEY AND BUILD ENOUGH HOUSES AND INVEST IN MANY THINGS. OTHERWISE IF YOU WASTE ALL YOUR CASH YOU WILL BE IN NEED ONE DAY AND NOBODY WILL COME. REMEMBER BABAYARO

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