BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
Messages of condolence have been pouring in following the passing on of a former Nigerian international footballer and coach, Kelechi Emeteole who passed on in an Indian Hospital early on Wednesday morning where he had gone for surgery on throat cancer.
The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) expressed shock at news of the death of the 66 year old former international player and one-time Head Coach of the Supersand Eagles. Nigeria’s flag bearers in the CAF Confederation Cup, Rivers United also sent condolences on the death of the former international player and coach.
Speaking on behalf of the management of Rivers United FC, General Manager, Okey Kpalukwu expressed shock and deep sadness at the development.
“This is indeed terrible and heartbreaking news and we at Rivers United FC are pained at this unfortunate development.
“Emeteole was a great human being who served this country with distinction as a player and coach.
“We wish his family strength at this very trying moment as well as the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss,” Kpalukwu concluded.
In a press release by the media department of the NFF, the federation remarked: “The death of Mr. Kelechi Emeteole came to us as a rude shock. A year ago, we lost two legends in the persons of Stephen Keshi and Shaibu Amodu in the month of June. This year, also in the month of June, we have now lost another legend who served the nation creditably, energetically and meritoriously.
“Our hearts go out to his caring family that he has now left: his doting wife and children as well as relations. We pray that they will have the fortitude to bear the loss. We also pray that the soul of the departed finds eternal rest. Nigerian Football will miss him dearly,” NFF General Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi, told thenff.com.
Nicknamed ‘Caterpillar’ for his no –nonsense approach as a defender, Emeteole was part of the second runners-up placed Nigerian team at the 10th Africa Cup of Nations in Ethiopia in 1976.
Sports Village Square recalls that his goal against Morocco in an April 3, 1976 Olympic Games qualifying match against the then newly crowned African Champions, Morocco, technically qualified Nigeria for the ill-fated Montreal 1976 Games.
The goal which added to the brace earlier achieved by Thomson Usiyan gave Nigeria a 3-1 victory in Lagos. Nigeria lost the return leg, 0-1 in Tangiers, Morocco. But for Emeteole’s goal, score line would have been deadlocked, requiring a tie-breaker. His first goal for Nigeria was in his second appearance when he put in the second goal in a 2-1 defeat of Congo.
Nigeria therefore qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in 12 years. He scored again in a 3-1 defeat of Zambia in a friendly match played to tune up the team ahead of the 1976 Africa Cup. Apart from the goal he scored against Morocco in an Olympic Games qualifier, he scored in the 6-2 defeat of Sierra Leone in Lagos on October 30 1976 in a match where the legendary Segun Odegbami scored the first of his 21 goals for Nigeria.
Emeteole’s fifth and last goal for Nigeria was also against Sierra Leone in a March 12 1976 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Lusaka. Score line was 1-1 and it was Emeteole’s last match for Nigeria.
He later assisted Coach Sebastian Broderick-Imasuen in the Nigerian team that placed second at Canada ’87 FIFA Under 16 tournament.
He also coached elite domestic teams Enyimba FC, Rangers International, Lobi Stars, Heartland FC and El-Kanemi Warriors, and between 2007 and 2009 was Head Coach of the Beach Soccer National Team, Supersand Eagles.