THIS DAY IN HISTORY: SAM OKWARAJI, FIVE FANS DIE

BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

One of Nigeria’s most sporting horrors took place on this date 12 August 1989. The bowel of the National Stadium, Lagos had just been thrown open after nearly two years of closure for renovation in preparation for hosting the then World Youth Championships now known as the U20 World Cup. 

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Nigeria hosted Angola in a must-win qualification match for the Italia ’90 World Cup. The stands of the then iconic sporting arena were overfilled, resulting in jostling, pushing, chokes, suffocation, exhaustion and soon deaths!

In the stands five fans are suffocated to death.

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Not long, the full import of everything dawned. In the Nigerian squad that was leading Angola by a goal, was the bubbling midfielder, Samuel Okwaraji. 

Just as the drab match was nearing an end, and while an injured Angolan player was being attended to, Okwaraji suddenly collapsed faced down and died on the pitch, adding to the horror of five fans that had before the kickoff died of suffocation and chokes. 

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The national sporting theatre had suddenly turned into a horror chamber! Football, a national passion also turned a national horror.