Heroism is a selfless effort conducted in fulfilling a high purpose or attaining a noble end. The Nigerian National anthem clamours for a patriotic response from its compatriots.

“Arise, o compatriots, Nigeria’s call obey.”

Noble men harkened to this clarion call in different works of life. Some alive, and some dead. In honour of the Paladins, the anthem further emphasised the need to recognise the sweat of the fallen heroes.


“…the labour of ours heroes past, shall never be in vain”

The Nigeria national football team is the area of concentration of this piece. From the year 1949 when the U.K Tourists, (former name of Nigeria national men’s football team) was created till present times. Many Nigerians have at one time or the other represented the country in several competitions.

Among the many that has donned the green jersey, there have been some who were exceptional on the field of play. Some of these brilliant players have passed away. Let’s highlight few of our heroes past.

MUDASHIRU BABATUNDE LAWAL

Mudashiru Babatunde Lawal born on the 8th of June 1954, was popularly known as Muda Lawal. He may not be a known name in this present clique of football lovers in Nigeria, but history will never forget the exploits of the amiable midfielder, both for club and country.

The young Muda was a road side Mechanic in the ancient city of Ibadan, south western part of Nigeria. He began his career in the year 1975. In 1976, he won the African Cup Winners Cup with Shooting Stars of Ibadan, the first Nigerian team to win the trophy.

He was part of the Green Eagles (former name for Super Eagles) from 1975 to 1984, with 86 caps and 12 goals to his name. He was in the all conquering 1980 team that included Christian Chukwu (Captain), Emmanuel Okala, Felix Owolabi (Owo Blow), Mathematical Segun Odegbami, amongst others. They conquered Africa to win the Cup of Nations, the first in the history of Nigeria.

Lawal died in his home in 1991. The Ashero Stadium in his hometown Abeokuta was named after him upon his death.

RASHIDI YEKINI

Born in Kaduna, Nigeria on the 23rd of October 1963. Rashidi Yekini as a striker, was a giant in the box, a complete nightmare to defenders. His goal against Bulgaria at USA 94 World Cup will forever remain in the history book of Nigerian football for two reasons, it was Nigeria’s first World Cup goal and Yekini’s celebration was ecstatic, he ran into the net and shook it vigorously.

The 1993 African Footballer of the year scored 37 goals and 58 caps for Nigeria.

Yekini might not be a Champions League veteran, he might not have laced his boot for any of the leading European sides, but he remains a cult hero at Vitoria Setubal, the Portuguese Club side he played for. With 35 goals in 34 matches, he helped promote the club from the second division to the Primeira Liga in the 1992-1993 season.

Yekini was reported to be ill for an extended period of time. In 2011, news media in Nigeria begun issuing reports of his failing health, and he was said to suffer from bipolar disorder, depression and some other undisclosed psychiatric condition. He died on the 4th of May 2012.

SAMUEL OKWARAJI

Samuel Okwaraji was born on the 19th of May 1964. He was becoming an integral part of the eagles when he died. Playing for VFB Stuttgart in the German Bundesliga, he was a well respected midfielder in Nigeria for playing at such level. Many of his team mates were playing in the Nigerian League.

In his short stay with Dinamo Zagreb, Okwaraji scored three goals in a friendly game vs NK Budućnost Hodošan. The game was played on April 30, 1986, and Dinamo Zagreb won 12-0.

Okwaraji’s only official game for Dinamo in the Yugoslav First League was as a substitute on May 18, 1986 against FK Priština. The game was played at Maksimir stadium in Zagreb, the 29th round of 1985/86 season. Dinamo Zagreb won 4:3.

He died while labouring for Nigeria, from possible complications of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy as an autopsy showed that the 25-year-old had an enlarged heart and high blood pressure, in a world cup qualifier against Angola at the National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos.

REST ON HEROES

The efforts of the past fallen heroes will forever linger in our hearts. Their selfless service to the growth of the National football men’s team is unforgettable. May their souls find peace as we doff our hats in their honour.