BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
Former Nigerian international and coach to different grades of Nigerian national teams, Paul Hamilton, is dead. He was aged, 75. The Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, was one of the organisations and individuals that have been paying glowing tributes to the football icon who died on Thursday.
He was reportedly diagnosed of heart and kidney related health issues and weeks ago, had his right leg amputated.
In a press release, Dr. Sanusi Mohammed, NFF General Secretary, remarked: “We are in terrible shock. ‘Wonder boy’ Hamilton was a perfect gentleman in the real sense of the word, despite being a former international player for Nigeria and a Chief Coach of the senior national team.
“He worked very hard and with his whole heart for Nigeria in all spheres, as a player, a coach and as an administrator. The Nigeria football family will miss him dearly.”
Hamilton, who owing to his dribbling and ball juggling skills in his playing days, was popularly called “Wonder Boy.” He played in the inside right position.
Sports Village Square recalls that Hamilton’s first international cap for Nigeria was on a sour note – a 0-5 loss to Ghana in a 1963 semi final duel in West African competition for Kwame Nkrumah Cup.
But in the losers’ final, he scored a brace in a 4-0 defeat of Senegal. He remained a regular national team player up till the 1968 Mexico 1968 Olympic Games.
Paul Hamilton joined the defunct Lagos ECN from the famous Onitsha Redoubtable in 1962. With ECN, he won the Challenge Cup in 1965.
His last international match for Nigeria was against Senegal in an Olympic qualifying match played on April 18, 1971. Nigeria lost the match in Dakar, 1-2 and failed in the bid for Munich 1972 Olympics.
In Hamilton international career that spanned from 1963 to 1971, he had 24 caps and scored 11 goals.
After his active playing career, Hamilton took to coaching. He attended coaching courses at the Brazilian Football Academy and Hennef-West Germany for Trainers and Coaches.
He later became a national team coach and was at the verge of qualifying Nigeria for Italia ’90 World Cup before he was replaced by the Dutchman, Clemens Westerhof.
Before then, he was the head coach of the Nigeria U-20 squad that took the bronze medals at the FIFA World Youth Championship (now known as FIFA U20 World Cup) in the Soviet Union in 1985.
He was also the first head coach of the senior women national team, Super Falcons, and steered the team to the 1991 and 1995 FIFA Women’s World Cup final competitions.