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TODAY IS SAMUEL OKWARAJI’S 56TH POSTHUMOUS BIRTHDAY

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If Samuel Okwaraji, the fallen Nigeria midfield footballer were alive, he would have been 56 years old today as he was born on 19 May 1964.

Last year, search engine giants, Google, honoured the Nigeria’s late football that died on the field, playing for the Super Eagles in 1989 in an Italia ’90 World Cup qualifying match against Angola.

It was the first time that Okwaraji played at the National Stadium Lagos. It was also the last time he lived. Google Doodle posthumously marked the birthday.

Google doodle on Okwaraji on this day last year

The Google Doodle is used on the search engine home page for different seasons or special days such as birthdays of famous people. Google Doodles are very clever, and people look forward to them.

According to Google while justifying the choice of Okwaraji last year, the player stood as a symbol of national pride.

Born in Orlu, Nigeria on this day in 1964, he moved to Europe in 1982 to further his education, though his greatest passion was soccer.

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While earning a law degree at the University of Rome, Okwaraji played for the Italian club A.S. Roma.

Fluent in several languages, he bounced from club to club, ending up at Germany’s SSV-Ulm 1846 team where he emerged as a standout player. Still, he wanted nothing more than to represent his homeland.

Okwaraji returned home to compete for a spot on the Nigerian “Green Eagles” team that played in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

With his energetic style of play and his love for his homeland, he soon became a fan favorite. Okwaraji was unhappy to learn that his German club was charging the Nigerian Football Association for lost revenues while he played for Nigeria.

Okwaraji fell and died on the National Stadium turf while playing for Nigeria

Reminding the team that he was a lawyer, Okwaraji passionately wrote “I am going to represent my country in the World Cup in Italy whether you like it or not.”

Unfortunately, his dream of playing in the World Cup for Nigeria did not come to fruition.

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On August 12, 1989, with just fifteen minutes left in a tough World Cup qualifying match against Angola, Okwarji’s life was tragically cut short when he fell down on the field at the National Stadium in Lagos and could not be revived.

Today, a statue of Okwaraji stands in front of that same National Stadium and reads: In memory of an illustrious and patriotic Nigerian sportsman.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Lionel Messi set to hang boots

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Messi Sets Record Straight Over Hong Kong Absence -

Inter Miami will be the last club Argentina captain Lionel Messi plays for, the 36-year-old forward said on Wednesday, adding he feels “a little bit scared” at the thought of the day he decides to retire.

Messi, a World Cup winner with Argentina in 2022, has a contract with the Major League Soccer side until 2025 following his arrival last summer after a spell with French champions Paris St Germain.

“Inter Miami will be my last club. I love playing football. I enjoy everything even more because I am aware that there is less and less left,” Messi told ESPN.

“I’m not ready to leave football. I’ve done this all my life, I love playing football, I enjoy training, the day-to-day, the matches… And yes, there’s always a little bit of fear that it’s all over.”

The eight-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi is preparing with his national team to defend their Copa America title, with the tournament kicking off on June 20 in the United States.

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Argentina will take on Canada in the opening match before facing Group A rivals Chile on June 25 and Peru four days later.

-Reuters

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Bidding opens for Messi napkin that defined soccer great’s career

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A guest looks at a napkin, written on by Barcelona's Sporting Director at that time Carles Rexach on December 14, 2000, promising a contract to secure 13-year-old Lionel Messi for FC Barcelona, on display at Bonhams Auctions in New York City, U.S., March 6, 2024. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Bidding began on Wednesday for a napkin on which soccer club Barcelona penned a promise to sign a 13-year-old Lionel Messi – who went on to become one of the game’s greatest players – with early bids reaching almost $300,000.

The napkin was signed in December 2000 when Carles Rexach, then Barcelona’s sporting director, agreed with agent Horacio Gaggioli to recruit the Argentine teenager who went on to become the club’s all-time top scorer.

Bidding for the document, described by auction house Bonhams as “blue ink on a standard Spanish waxy napkin,” was at 220,000 pounds ($274,824.00) shortly after the sale opened, according to the auctioneer’s website.

The online sale closes on May 17 and has a guide price of between 300,000 and 500,000 pounds.

“It was never legally binding, but emotionally it represents the deep link or the beginning of the deep link, that Messi had with Barcelona,” said Bonhams Chief Marketing Officer Marc Sands.

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Messi helped Barcelona win 35 titles, making a record 782 appearances and scoring 674 goals. Messi left Barcelona in 2021 and now plays for Inter Miami.

“If you love football, you’ll know all about Lionel Messi and you will know that he defined football for generations. If you want a slice of that action, this is the thing to get,” Sands said.

-Reuters

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Maradona’s children wants body exhumed

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A fan of Argentine soccer superstar Diego Armado Maradona celebrates the idol's 35th anniversary of the "goal of the century", against England during the 1986 World Cup played in Mexico, in Buenos Aires, Argentina June 22, 2021. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

Diego Maradona’s children filed a request with the Argentine Courts on Thursday to move the former football great’s body “to a much safer place” and for fans “to pay tribute” in a mausoleum.

Maradona’s remains lie in a private cemetery on the outskirts of Buenos Aires where he was carried in November 2020 in a massive funeral procession. Only family members are allowed to enter the cemetery.

The mausoleum, called “Memorial del Diez,” is located behind the Casa Rosada, the seat of the executive branch of the Argentine government, and will be open to the public, Veronica Ojeda, mother of Maradona’s youngest son, told local media.

“All the heirs request by common agreement to authorise the transfer to his next destination of eternal rest (…) in a much safer place than the current one,” said the note presented to the court signed by Dalma and Gianinna Maradona, and Ojeda on behalf of Diego Maradona Jr.

“And so that all the Argentine people and the citizens of the world can pay homage to our father who was the greatest Argentine idol.”

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The relocation will take place around Oct. 30, the birth date of the 1986 World Cup winner with Argentina, one of the family’s lawyers told reporters.

Maradona died at age 60 in November 2020 from a heart attack. Fans of Napoli and of the Argentine national team worshipped him as the “god of football.”

-Reuters

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