Ex-athletes rally to give coach Toblow befitting burial
• We have not heard from AFN, South East governors, says wife
Family of late coach Tobias Igwe also known as Toblow says no official of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Sports ministry and Imo State government had reached out to them about his burial plans.
Coach Toblow, the greatest grassroots coach from Nigeria and the African continent produced great athletes like Mary Onyali, the Ezinwa brothers (Davidson and Osmond), Uchenna Emedolu, Victor Okorie and Raphael Ihunaegbo. He died late last year and will be buried on March 6, 2020 in his hometown, Isiala Mbano, Imo State.
His wife, Mrs Igwe told The Guardian yesterday that the family was yet to receive any message from the AFN and sports ministry, which Toblow served diligently throughout his life.
“We have not received any message from any government agency since Toblow died,” she said. “But we have fixed March 6, 2020 for his burial. What I know is that some of his former athletes are putting heads together to be part of the burial plans.”
Among his former athletes, who showed concern since the demise of coach Toblow was United States-based Nigerian ex-400m runner, Victor Okorie, and Canada-based Raphael Ihunaegbo.
In a message to The Guardian last week, Okorie, who was one of the most gifted hurdlers that rose from the school sports system to rule the National Sports Festival winning back to back in the 400m hurdles at Imo ‘98 and Bauchi ‘2000 described Toblow’s death as a big vacuum that will be difficult to fill in Nigerian athletics.
Okorie was one of the athletes produced by Toblow during the golden era of Nigerian athletics.
In June last year, Okorie was in Umuahia, Abia state, where he met with some top sports personalities on how coach Toblow could get a job back.
Coach Toblow was disengaged as a non-indigene in Abia and Enugu state some years ago despite producing champions from the region who went on to rule the African Games, World championships, Commonwealth Games and Olympics Games.
It was during Toblow’s era as grassroots coach in Enugu State that the likes of Victor Okorie were discovered 21years ago.
“Coach Igwe was the one who took me from Enugu state, where I was residing at that time to represent Abia (my state) at Imo ‘98 National Sports Festival. I won gold medal for Abia state. Under Coach Igwe, I was able to defend my sports festival title at Bauchi 2000 before leaving Nigeria for a scholarship in the U.S.
“Coach Igwe was like a father to me and to many other Nigerian athletes. He was a man of peace and he does not hold grudges towards others. Coach Igwe would use his last kobo to make sure that his athletes were fed. He sacrificed so much for those around him to make their lives better,” Okorie stated.
The U.S.-based Okorie and Canada-based Ihunaegbo want all governors and sports-loving people in the South East to contribute to the b, especially Abia state Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu to play a role in Toblow’s burial plans.