Forgotten So Soon

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Just a year after the demise of former national goalkeeper, Anthony Best Ogedegbe,  Nigerians appear to have forgotten the late football hero.

Apart from the Sport Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Oyo State Chapter and his  immediate family, that organised  a memorial service to mark the first year of his death,  the nation’s football community have forgotten the late Best Ogedegbe, former national  goalkeeper, who died last year.

P.M.Sports observed that most of the late Ogedegbe’s associates; especially retired  footballers did not show up at a low key memorial service held on Tuesday 28 September,  2010 in Ibadan to mark the first anniversary of his demise.

One of his previous associates, a former 3SC and Enyimba player, Kola Ademola,  confessed that the nation has failed to honour the former Nigerian goalkeeper.

Ademola, in a local Yoruba expression bluntly summarised the attitude of people toward  the late Ogedegbe thus “Eni to ku ni ti e tan”, meaning that the perit is already  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, Femi  Opabunmi; former 3SC and Nigerian player, Tony Alagbe; a coach of 3SC and a Kwara United  footballer, Peter Toye, also confirmed that Ogedegbe may have been forgotten so soon due  to the multi-dimensional problems confronting the nation, which are telling so deeply on  everyone.
Lawal said: “Nigerians are so preoccupied with many problems. There is poverty in the  land. An average Nigerian is struggling to survive because the government has failed us.

“There is no job and we cannot think straight. It is unfortunate that most of us,  especially  footballers, did not remember it’s up to a year that we lost the late keeper,  Ogedegbe. It is shameful that we forgot a man like him so soon. It is unthinkable that a  man, who has contributed so much to the nation’s football, who was given a national award  based on his contributions to Nigeria and a legend was forgotten by those who he had  positively affected during his lifetime”.

He said Ogedegbe would not have died if he received the necessary attention during his  predicaments. He stated that if the government had genuinely helped the deceased by given  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 the  government.

“How do you give your best to a nation that does not appreciate you? There are places  where you can go and serve, they will appreciate the little you have done and pay you  handsomely for your effort. People are complaining that our young players are moving  abroad, but I asked: ‘who is to be blamed?’ When you play for a club in Nigeria, they  will not pay your salary and other entitlements including the signing on fee. Players  travel in 18-seater bus from Ibadan to Maiduguri to go and play league matches. When you  get there, the referee is there to deny you of your points. On your way back, you are  attacked by armed robbers.

“When you have the opportunity to leave Nigeria at the age of 16 or 17, won’t you leave?  Rich men’s children are either born abroad or leave Nigeria around 13 years of age to  study at Oxford in London on scholarships. Why will you stop a footballer that wants to  leave the country at the age of 17 to where he will be paid better salary or have access  to good facilities. If such a player has an injury, the club abroad treat him immediately  and very well too. I don’t blame Nigerians who don’t give the nation their best anymore,”  Lawal said.

Opabunmi shared the same view with Lawal. He said Nigeria is not worth dying for,  explaining that the moment he had problem with his eye, Nigeria dropped him and never  bottered about  his well-being.

“ Over a million naira that I spent on my eye came from friends abroad. Up till date,  it’s my friends who are helping me to survive”. Opabunmi however regretted being among  those who forgt Ogedegbe so soon.

Odubola and Toye also lamented that once one is no longer active or has reached  his old  age in Nigeria, the nation forgets him.

Meanwhile, at the memorial lecture held at the Liberty Stadium in Ibadan, and organised  by SWAN, Oyo State chapter, its Chairman, Salem Akindele-Rock, lamented how Nigerians  forget their heroes, stressing that as the nation celebrated her 50th anniversary, fallen  heroes who fought tooth and nail for Nigeria were forgotten.

He said: “Those who toiled, laboured and shed their blood to achieve independence are  hardly mentioned, while billions of naira was spent to celebrate Nigeria’s independence  by those that  failed to lift the nation to the heights dreamt of by the founding  fathers. Are the labours of our heroes not really going down the drain?”

According to Akindele-Rock, just a year after Ogedegbe’s death, many people have turned  their backs against him.

“If one looks around this hall today, one will see only a handful of people unlike when  Ogedegbe was buried a year ago, where many people were around to bid him farewell,” he  said.

“The visit to his family and solidarity calls have reduced drastically. What is  happening to his constituency; the players, ex-players, coaches and football  administrators, where are they now? In what ways have the states he slaved and laboured  for, particularly Oyo, Lagos, Ogun, Rivers States, have they immortalised him.”

Akindele-Rock promised that SWAN would forever remember Ogedegbe, who was a national  hero, a fine sportsman, a gentleman, a patriotic and selfless individual, a professional  to the core, an optimist, a perfectionist, a legendary goalkeeper, a football  administrator, a trainer, a mentor and a family man when he was alive.

Rock said the late Ogedegbe’s reign was among the golden era of Nigerian football; the  first Nigerian goalkeeper to lift a continental club championship and the first to win  the continental showpiece; the African Cup of Nations in 1980.

He emphasised that Ogedegbe’s generation has fought both as players and ex-players to  take Nigerian football to its zenith. He noted that their labour had been sacrificed on  the altars of greed, corruption, ethinicity, nepotism, favouritism, elevation of  mediocrity and selfishness, adding that Nigerian football has never had it so bad and  never sunk so low.

Expressing happiness that the deceased did not wait to see the gross decay, which the  administrators at local, state and national levels have thrown the sports industry into,  particularly football, he stated that had he been alive, he would have staged a  revolution for the improvement of football rather than play mere servitude for personal  gains.

Delivering a paper titled “Nigeria Football Today: Best’s Solution” CAF Referees’  Physical Fitness Instructor, Dr. Babatunde Olu Asagba, described Ogedegbe as the ‘best’  and a football legend.

While calling on the government to stop politicising football, he encouraged that the  administration of the sporting industry should be handled by the best administrators  irrespective of where they come from in the country.

Also advocating for the development of sports from the grassroots, he called for the  abolition of quota system in the appointment of coaches and selection of players, adding  that the case where a bench warmer in a club or someone playing for a 3rd division or  relegated club abroad is considered good for the national team is unprogressive and an  insult to the 150 million Nigerians.

He wanted best remuneration package for the players, adding that what is good for the  goose is good for the gander.

He called for the government/private cooperation in the sponsorship of football, and that  footballers should be well educated. He also called on the footballers to be more  patriotic and remorseful whenever they do not live up to expectations.

Ogedegbe’s wife, Sade and first daughter, Yejide, noted that it was not easy losing a  beloved husband and father, but revealed that God has been their strength. Sade however  called on the government and football stakeholders to immortalise her husband.

—Gbenro Adesina, Ibadan