Knocks for NSC, Presidency, as ex-Eagles goalie Agbonavbare loses battle against cancer
• Former club in Spain speaks on keeper’s last moments
FORMER Flying Eagles Vice captain, Paul Okoku, has described as ‘painful’ the inability of the Federal Government of Nigeria to come to the rescue of former Super Eagles goalkeeper, Wilfred Agbonavbare, who died of cancer in the early hours of Tuesday in Spain. He died at the age of 48.
Agbonavbare was part of the Super Eagles team that won the African Nations Cup at Tunisia ’94 and was also part of the team that participated at the first FIFA World Cup, USA ’94, where Nigeria reached the round of 16. He was a substitute goalkeeper to Peter Rufai.
Speaking with The Guardian from his base in USA Tuesday, Okoku, who featured alongside the late Agbonavbare in the 1983 Flying Eagles squad, tongue-lashed the Federal Government and officials of the National Sports Commission (NSC) for not responding to numerous appeals made to the government by the keeper’s friends and associates while he was in financial need to take care of his treatment abroad.
“God knows we (ex-internationals) tried our best for Agbonavbare during his trying moments. We were there for him throughout his stay in Tampa hospital in Florida, and ever since he was relocated to Spain, we did all our best to see how he could survive.
“We are so sad here that one of us is gone. It is so disappointing that not even a word came from the National Sports Commission and the Federal Government of Nigeria, which Agbonavbare represented all his youth days. We are sad,” Okoku said in his telephone conversation with The Guardian Tuesday.
For five months, Agbonavbare was in Tampa hospital in Florida, but was relocated to his base in Spain last week to continue his treatment.
He was said to have lost his job after he was diagnosed with cancer. His wife died of breast cancer three years ago and when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and Agbonavbare spent all the money he made playing professional football on the wife’s medical bills to keep her treatment uninterrupted.
The ex-Eagles goalie sent his three children to Nigeria because of his health condition.
He was a member of the national U-21 team that participated at Mexico 1983 before helping the Super Eagles to finish second at 1984 African Nations Cup. He won gold with the Super Eagles at Tunisia ’94.
His career began at New Nigeria Bank in Benin City and after a stint at Brentford FC in England, he moved to Rayo Vallecano in Spain, where he played for six seasons.
Rayo Vallecano said Tuesday that the Nigerian keeper was always one of the Rayo fans’ favourites, adding that he was being cared for at the Príncipe de Asturias Hospital in Alcalá de Henares near Madrid before he passed on in the early hours of Tuesday.
“Rayo Vallecano did their very best for Wilfred’s children to fly from Nigeria to see their father before he died. To this end, half of the €21,000 raised for doña Carmen, the elderly lady who was to be evicted from her home in Vallecas and who insisted that she did not need so much money, was used.
“The club did all it could to get the ex-keeper’s three children over from Nigeria to see their father for the last time, but all the paperwork and bureaucratic steps to be taken were not completed in time and tragically, Wilfred died before their arrival.”