BY KUNLE SOLAJA
The defeat and elimination of Nigeria from the quarterfinals by Italy on this date 5 July 1994 turned a double tragedy.
Kunle Awesu, the former Africa’s best left winger and Green Eagles’ player died in Arlington, United States, the same day that Nigeria crashed out in the USA’94 World Cup round of 16, losing 1-2 to Italy after extra time.
Awesu was voted the best number 11 at the 1976 Africa Cup of Nations where the Nigerian team’s performance was like that of the Cinderella tale.
Sadly, Kunle Awesu’s death on 5 July 1994 remained unreported for over two years and was shielded from his family until early in 1997.
The former Green Eagles and IICC Shooting Stars’ left winger shot into continental limelight when he propelled the unheralded Green Eagles to the third place at the African Cup of Nations in Ethiopia.
In the same year, he was a member of the IICC Shooting Stars that won the African Winners Cup by beating a Roger Milla inspired defending champions, Tonnerre Kalara of Cameroon.
His last appearance for Nigeria was on 30 October 1976 when Nigeria beat Sierra Leone 6-2 in a World Cup qualifying duel. It was in that match that Segun Odegbami scored the first of his 21 goals for Nigeria.