4th October, 2010
Just a year after the demise of former national goalkeeper, Anthony Best Ogedegbe,Â Nigerians appear to have forgotten the late football hero.
Apart from the Sport Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Oyo State Chapter and hisÂ immediate family, that organisedÂ a memorial service to mark the first year of his death,Â the nationâ€™s football community have forgotten the late Best Ogedegbe, former nationalÂ goalkeeper, who died last year.
P.M.Sports observed that most of the late Ogedegbeâ€™s associates; especially retiredÂ footballers did not show up at a low key memorial service held on Tuesday 28 September,Â 2010 in Ibadan to mark the first anniversary of his demise.
One of his previous associates, a former 3SC and Enyimba player, Kola Ademola,Â confessed that the nation has failed to honour the former Nigerian goalkeeper.
Ademola, in a local Yoruba expression bluntly summarised the attitude of people towardÂ the late Ogedegbe thus â€œEni to ku ni ti e tanâ€, meaning that the perit is alreadyÂ finished with the dead.
Ademola condemned the attitude of Nigerians toward their heroes.
Dimeji Muhammed Lawal, who played for the Golden Eaglets and Flying Eagles, FemiÂ Opabunmi; former 3SC and Nigerian player, Tony Alagbe; a coach of 3SC and a Kwara UnitedÂ footballer, Peter Toye, also confirmed that Ogedegbe may have been forgotten so soon dueÂ to the multi-dimensional problems confronting the nation, which are telling so deeply onÂ everyone.
Lawal said: â€œNigerians are so preoccupied with many problems. There is poverty in theÂ land. An average Nigerian is struggling to survive because the government has failed us.
â€œThere is no job and we cannot think straight. It is unfortunate that most of us,Â especiallyÂ footballers, did not remember itâ€™s up to a year that we lost the late keeper,Â Ogedegbe. It is shameful that we forgot a man like him so soon. It is unthinkable that aÂ man, who has contributed so much to the nationâ€™s football, who was given a national awardÂ based on his contributions to Nigeria and a legend was forgotten by those who he hadÂ positively affected during his lifetimeâ€.
He said Ogedegbe would not have died if he received the necessary attention during hisÂ predicaments. He stated that if the government had genuinely helped the deceased by givenÂ him the best treatment in good time, probably Ogedegbe could still be alive.
He attributed the lack of patriotism of footballers to inadequate encouragement from theÂ government.
â€œHow do you give your best to a nation that does not appreciate you? There are placesÂ where you can go and serve, they will appreciate the little you have done and pay youÂ handsomely for your effort. People are complaining that our young players are movingÂ abroad, but I asked: â€˜who is to be blamed?â€™ When you play for a club in Nigeria, theyÂ will not pay your salary and other entitlements including the signing on fee. PlayersÂ travel in 18-seater bus from Ibadan to Maiduguri to go and play league matches. When youÂ get there, the referee is there to deny you of your points. On your way back, you areÂ attacked by armed robbers.
â€œWhen you have the opportunity to leave Nigeria at the age of 16 or 17, wonâ€™t you leave?Â Rich menâ€™s children are either born abroad or leave Nigeria around 13 years of age toÂ study at Oxford in London on scholarships. Why will you stop a footballer that wants toÂ leave the country at the age of 17 to where he will be paid better salary or have accessÂ to good facilities. If such a player has an injury, the club abroad treat him immediatelyÂ and very well too. I donâ€™t blame Nigerians who donâ€™t give the nation their best anymore,â€Â Lawal said.
Opabunmi shared the same view with Lawal. He said Nigeria is not worth dying for,Â explaining that the moment he had problem with his eye, Nigeria dropped him and neverÂ bottered aboutÂ his well-being.
â€œ Over a million naira that I spent on my eye came from friends abroad. Up till date,Â itâ€™s my friends who are helping me to surviveâ€. Opabunmi however regretted being amongÂ those who forgt Ogedegbe so soon.
Odubola and Toye also lamented that once one is no longer active or has reachedÂ his oldÂ age in Nigeria, the nation forgets him.
Meanwhile, at the memorial lecture held at the Liberty Stadium in Ibadan, and organisedÂ by SWAN, Oyo State chapter, its Chairman, Salem Akindele-Rock, lamented how NigeriansÂ forget their heroes, stressing that as the nation celebrated her 50th anniversary, fallenÂ heroes who fought tooth and nail for Nigeria were forgotten.
He said: â€œThose who toiled, laboured and shed their blood to achieve independence areÂ hardly mentioned, while billions of naira was spent to celebrate Nigeriaâ€™s independenceÂ by those thatÂ failed to lift the nation to the heights dreamt of by the foundingÂ fathers. Are the labours of our heroes not really going down the drain?â€
According to Akindele-Rock, just a year after Ogedegbeâ€™s death, many people have turnedÂ their backs against him.
â€œIf one looks around this hall today, one will see only a handful of people unlike whenÂ Ogedegbe was buried a year ago, where many people were around to bid him farewell,â€ heÂ said.
â€œThe visit to his family and solidarity calls have reduced drastically. What isÂ happening to his constituency; the players, ex-players, coaches and footballÂ administrators, where are they now? In what ways have the states he slaved and labouredÂ for, particularly Oyo, Lagos, Ogun, Rivers States, have they immortalised him.â€
Akindele-Rock promised that SWAN would forever remember Ogedegbe, who was a nationalÂ hero, a fine sportsman, a gentleman, a patriotic and selfless individual, a professionalÂ to the core, an optimist, a perfectionist, a legendary goalkeeper, a footballÂ administrator, a trainer, a mentor and a family man when he was alive.
Rock said the late Ogedegbeâ€™s reign was among the golden era of Nigerian football; theÂ first Nigerian goalkeeper to lift a continental club championship and the first to winÂ the continental showpiece; the African Cup of Nations in 1980.
He emphasised that Ogedegbeâ€™s generation has fought both as players and ex-players toÂ take Nigerian football to its zenith. He noted that their labour had been sacrificed onÂ the altars of greed, corruption, ethinicity, nepotism, favouritism, elevation ofÂ mediocrity and selfishness, adding that Nigerian football has never had it so bad andÂ never sunk so low.
Expressing happiness that the deceased did not wait to see the gross decay, which theÂ administrators at local, state and national levels have thrown the sports industry into,Â particularly football, he stated that had he been alive, he would have staged aÂ revolution for the improvement of football rather than play mere servitude for personalÂ gains.
Delivering a paper titled â€œNigeria Football Today: Bestâ€™s Solutionâ€ CAF Refereesâ€™Â Physical Fitness Instructor, Dr. Babatunde Olu Asagba, described Ogedegbe as the â€˜bestâ€™Â and a football legend.
While calling on the government to stop politicising football, he encouraged that theÂ administration of the sporting industry should be handled by the best administratorsÂ irrespective of where they come from in the country.
Also advocating for the development of sports from the grassroots, he called for theÂ abolition of quota system in the appointment of coaches and selection of players, addingÂ that the case where a bench warmer in a club or someone playing for a 3rd division orÂ relegated club abroad is considered good for the national team is unprogressive and anÂ insult to the 150 million Nigerians.
He wanted best remuneration package for the players, adding that what is good for theÂ goose is good for the gander.
He called for the government/private cooperation in the sponsorship of football, and thatÂ footballers should be well educated. He also called on the footballers to be moreÂ patriotic and remorseful whenever they do not live up to expectations.
Ogedegbeâ€™s wife, Sade and first daughter, Yejide, noted that it was not easy losing aÂ beloved husband and father, but revealed that God has been their strength. Sade howeverÂ called on the government and football stakeholders to immortalise her husband.
â€”Gbenro Adesina, Ibadan