A Man Nigeria Should Not Have Forgotten

A Man Nigeria Should Not Have Forgotten

 

 

BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

This Thursday marks the 38th anniversary of Nigeria’s first victory in the Africa Cup of Nations. Perhaps it was divinely designed as an eternal tribute to this great, yet largely unknown man, that Nigeria won its first Africa Cup of Nations on this particular date, March 22 in 1980.

His name rings no bell. He is largely forgotten and never mentioned in the discourse of organised football in Nigeria. Perhaps such history makers were born to pass unnoticed.

Going through the official history of the of the world’s oldest football association, The Football Association Limited, England, there was a similar scenario.

The FA admitted that one Ebenezer Cobb Morley’s initiative gave birth to it. In the official history of the world’s oldest football association, it was written that despite Morley’s initiative, he is only given passing reference in football literature.

Such is also the fate of Joseph Mead in Nigeria. Most people, even the older football followers may not have come across the name of this man. It is because of him, that there is a football governing body that was called the Nigeria Football Association (NFA) which is today’s Nigeria Football Federation, NFF. He called for the meeting that led to the formation of the NFA.

Perhaps without his initiatives, we will not be talking of the Nigeria Football Federation or its lead brand, Super Eagles which will clock 70 next year August. The first national team of Nigeria, the famed “UK Tourists” sailed out of Apapa Port on August 16, 1949. That was when the story of what is popularly called the Super Eagles began.

As a prelude to the ongoing discourse, most people may not know the fallacy of the NFF claim that it was founded in 1945.  Yet the federation has neither proof to back the claim nor evidence of the actual date it believed it was founded.

  • Skipper Christian Chukwu lifting the Africa Cup of Nations on March 22, 1980. It turned to be a lasting birthday tribute to the NFA’s first Secretary who could have turned 73 on that day.

Existing evidences contradict the “Founded 1945” that the NFF logo carries. Documented evidences exist at the National Archives of Nigeria in Ibadan and The FA in England where the then NFA was first affiliated, that the football governing body was founded on August 21, 1933.

Establishing the Nigerian football governing body was not an easy task. The bulk of the credit went to Joseph Mead, the unsung father of the now NFF. He was the organising secretary of the group that founded the then NFA.

Daily Times account revealed he worked with the firm, UAC at Martins Street, Lagos. He called up the inaugural meeting and later emerged as the first secretary of the Nigerian football governing body.

According to the Daily Times account on the foundation of the NFA in 1933, Mead was elected as secretary. The man at the helms was Henry A. Porter, an architect with the Public Works Department.

Porter went by the title, President. There were three vice presidents – Frederick Baron Mulford, Dr. Isaac Ladipo Oluwole and Sir. Adeyemo Alakija.

Mead’s identity was a mystery until the Unilever Archives in London, responding to enquiries by Sports Village Square, provided photograph of him and his full name.

The meaning of the initial “J” which appeared in all Nigerian newspapers references to him was later given as Joseph.

According to the Daily Times accounts, he worked with the firm – UAC at Martins Street, Lagos. Checks at Unilever in UK revealed that he joined the company in February 1929.

 

  • Joseph Mead, sitting with the ball, was a member of the UAC team in the European League in Lagos. He was the first Secretary of NFA.This 1936 picture is published courtesy Unilever UK.

Great thanks to Helen Onsworth, the archivist at Unilever UK Central Resources Limited who assisted in unveiling the convener of the meeting that led to the foundation of a central football body in Nigeria.

From the information on Mead, he became the first secretary of the NFA at age 26. On leaving Nigeria after working with UAC in Lagos and Ibadan, he was transferred to the then Gold Coast (now Ghana) where he worked in Kumasi and Takoradi.

According to information from Unilever in UK, Mead married on January 23, 1939 before resigning from the firm in 1949.

Checks at the National Archives of the United Kingdom revealed that Mead must have arrived Nigeria in 1929 having left Liverpool for Lagos on February 26.

His occupation in the manifest of the ship was given as “assistant”. He was part of the European football league in Lagos, playing for UAC team.

Shortly before the August 21, 1933 meeting which Mead called, he was involved in an accident. Unilever Archives disclosed that their records showed his date of birth as March 22, 1907.

He would   therefore have been 73 years; the day Nigeria beat Algeria to win the Africa Nations Cup for the first time in 1980. It could not be verified if he were alive at the time.

According to information from Unilever UK, Joseph Mead left for Nigeria Sekondi-Takoradi in Gold Coast (now Ghana) as District Manager of UAC in March 1946.

Today he would have been 110. Tracing the man Joseph Mead was not an easy task. But great thanks to Unilever UK which maintains an archive of virtually everyone that passed through its system.

It is Mead that one is celebrating today. It should be remembered that he was not the only pioneer. There was Henry A. Porter, the pioneer president and a senior architect with the then PWD (possibly the present day Federal Ministry of Works and Housing).

A fellow of Royal Institute of British Architects, Porter designed the Centenary Hall, Ake, Abeokuta. He was also the founder of the Lagos Amateur Football Association in 1930.

There was also Dr Isaac Ladipo Oluwole (died May 4, 1953), Sir Adeyemo Alakija (died May 10, 1952), and Frederick Baron Mulford (an expatriate popularly called ‘Baba Eko’).

Mulford was buried in Lagos at the Ikoyi Cemetery on September 4, 1949, the day after his death at Creek Hospital. According to a tribute by Ernest Ikoli published in the Daily Times edition of September 5, 1949, Mulford was never married.

They have all passed on, but there contributions towards the formation of a central football organisation should be well acknowledged.

The FA in England in 2012 decided to trace and honour the living descendants of the eight founding fathers that created the body 150 years earlier.

A total of 16 relatives of the Founding Fathers of football were invited to a special ceremony at Wembley Stadium, where a Blue Plaque was unveiled that pays tribute to the historical significance of their work in creating the game of football. What a lasting tribute those pioneers got.

Here in Nigeria, the labour of our heroes past must not be in vain. I salute the winning Nigerian team of 1980. Tributes are also given to Joseph Mead.

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