My dad and others were at the stadium, but I watched the match on tv at home. I saw when Okwaraji collapsed, when one of the players (I’ve forgotten who) put his hands on his head in alarm and when Okwaraji was stretchered into the ambulance. I assumed that he was alive and expected to read updates on his condition in the papers the next day.
I also saw as some fans were being carried over the fence and stretchered to the athletics track where Red Cross officials were attending to them. The stadium was too full and it seems that the gates were opened during the second half and there was a scuffle between people who were trying to get into the arena and people who were trying to get out. Some people suffocated, while others were trampled.
But my uncle (who played for Nigeria in the ’50s and ’60s) showed up at the house after the match. “Where is ****” (my dad). “He’s not back”, I replied.
“They’ve killed this boy o!”, my uncle exclaimed. I asked who and he replied that Okwaraji was dead. I didn’t believe him. “But they put him in the ambulance”, I replied. My uncle grew angry. “Which ambulance? Which ambulance? The boy was dead on the pitch. The ambulance was just for show, so that the crowd wouldn’t panic”.
I still refused to believe him, but I didn’t argue, because I could see that he was upset. Instead, I went to my room and prayed, hoped and wished that Okwaraji was still alive. But unfortunately, it was reported on the NTA News that Okwaraji was dead.
Okwaraji’s super goal
This is my favourite goal by Okwaraji. I searched YouTube for a video of this goal from 2008 till 2016 before I eventually found one. That’s because most people on YouTube prefer to post videos of the final, which was also between Nigeria and Cameroon.
This is a group stage match at the 1988 Nations Cup (Maroc ’88) between Nigeria and Cameroon. Okwaraji scored in the second minute via a rocket shot from outside the penalty box (this is the kind of shot that Ernest Okonkwo would describe as an “intercontinental ballistic missile). It was the fastest goal at the Nations Cup at that time. The player that dribbled down the right and passed to Okwaraji was Rashidi Yekini.
Roger Milla equalised in the 21st minute, via a bullet header that beat Peter Rufai and it ended
Nigeria 1-1 Cameroon.