TODAY IN HISTORY: FIRST NIGERIAN PLAYER TO LIFT CONTINENTAL CUP, SAM OJEBODE, DIES

BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

On this date, 4 July 2012, the first Nigerian footballer to lift a continental trophy, Samuel Ojebode of the famous IICC Shooting Stars died in Ibadan. He was aged 68.

It was on 12 December 1976 that Ojebode led the IICC to a 4-2 aggregate defeat of Roger Milla-inspired Tonerre Kalara to win the African Winners Cup in Yaoundé, Cameroon that a Nigerian team first won a continental trophy.

He was also a member of the then Green Eagles that placed third at the 1976 Africa Cup of Nations and reached the last qualifying hurdle for Argentina ’78 World Cup.

Sam Ojebode, standing 4th from right, in the 1976 Africa Cup of Nations squad in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia

He scored, from the penalty spot, one of the goals Nigeria scored to record a 4-2 upset of the then defending champions, Zaire (now DR Congo).

Ojebode played on the left hand side of the defence. His death came two days to the 21st anniversary of the passing of teammate in both the Shooting Stars and the national team, Muda Lawal.

It was also exactly two months after the death of another former Shooting Stars, Rashidi Yekini. With his death in 2012, the entire back five of the IICC Shooting Stars’ African Winners’ Cup-winning team had died.

Before Ojebode,Best Ogedegbe, the goalkeeper died in September 2009.  Folorunsho Gambari, aka  “Gambus”, Muda Lawal and Joe Appiah in the right full back, had all died.

Also on the dead list of the 1976 squad is mercurial left-winger, Kunle Awesu who died in 1994. 

For Samuel Ojebode who debuted for Nigeria on February 7, 1976 in a friendly match against Kenya, it had been a long battle against lung cancer. For one year prior to his death, the first Nigerian football captain to lift a continental trophy had been in and out of hospital bed at the University College Hospital (UCH) in Ibadan.

 He had a sterling football career, being one of the players of the then WNDC Shooting Stars that won the 1971 Challenge Cup, the first edition to be played nationwide on club bases.

For the national team, he had exactly 25 caps from 7 February 1976 to 12 November 1977 when Tunisia eliminated Nigeria from the qualifying series for Argentina ’78 World Cup.

In the 25 appearances for Nigeria, Ojebode scored four times. Two of the goals were from the penalty spot in the games against Zaire (now Congo DR) and Morocco at the 1976 African Nations Cup in Ethiopia. He scored again in a 7-0 defeat of Benin Republic on 14 February 1977 and another one against Cote d’Ivoire in a 4-0 defeat in a World Cup qualifier on 10 July 1977.

 As a captain of the Shooting Stars, he was very reliable and disciplined. After his playing career, he took to coaching and was an assistant to Father Tiko who was seconded to the Flying Eagles after the NFA hired Brazil’s Otto Gloria to handle the Green Eagles.

 He was also a coach of the Shooting Stars when Chief Onigbinde headed the administration of the club in 2004.