BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
Frederick Baron Mulford’s name is ever recurring in any discourse on the early years of Nigerian football. Fondly called ‘Baba Eko’ (respected elder of Lagos); he is perhaps the most acknowledged among the pioneers of football organization in Nigeria.
It was on this date, 3 September 1949; he died at the Creek Hospital, Lagos and was buried the next day at the Ikoyi Cemetery. His death was barely four days after the arrival in Liverpool, of the first Nigerian national team, the UK Tourist, of which he was one of the fundraisers for the trip.
Coincidentally, one of the players on that trip, Olisah Chukwurah, defender died also on this date, 3 September 2001, exactly 52 years after that of Mulford.
Chukwurah who was a teacher in Abeokuta at the time he was selected as a member of the UK Tourist later studied law and rose to the enviable position of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
Mulford, who was one of the three vice presidents when the then Nigeria Football Association was founded on 21 August 1933, arrived Nigeria as a commercial agent with Lagos Stores Limited in 1904.
As football in the early days were organised along racial lines in Lagos, Mulford was the first to organise a desegregated football matches at the then Race Course which is now the Tafawa Balewa Square.
According to family tree constructed at findmypast.com by John Bird Monk, Mulford was born in January 1881 in Southampton, Hampshire in England. He came to Nigeria having sailed aboard “Aro”, an Elder Dempster and Company Limited ship that departed Liverpool for Lagos on 7 April 1906.
He came to Nigeria as a junior assistant in the firm Lagos Stores which was later absorbed by UAC in 1929. While there, he rose to the position of deputy to the head agent, Hon. A.M. Harvey, who was also a member of the Legislative Council then tagged LEGICO.
Mulford left Lagos Stores when it was merged with UAC and was appointed Business Manager of the Nigerian Daily Times in 1933 the year the Nigeria Football Association was founded. He was also the sports editor of the Daily Times.
He became the games master at CMS Grammar School, Nigeria’s first secondary school. Mulford later moved to Kings College in 1914 when he was organising weekly matches with European teams in Lagos.
One of his greatest legacies was the presentation of a trophy to the Lagos and Districts Amateur Football Associations (LDAFA) for a knockout competition.
The trophy, Lagos War Memorial Cup was later changed to Mulford Memorial Cup which got rechristened to Oba Cup in 1965 following the eternal win by Stationery Stores FC.
Mulford was buried at the Ikoyi Cemetery on 4 September 1949. He was never married.