BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
A grand plan to mark the 50th anniversary of the passing on of Nigerian football legend, Teslim ‘Thunder’ Balogun was unveiled Wednesday afternoon at the secretariat of the Lagos branch of Sports Writers’ Association of Nigeria (SWAN).
Led by the chairman of the organizing committee, Dr. Rafiu Ladipo, the group which also included the children of the late football icon announced that next July, it will be 50 years since ‘Thunder’ Balogun died.
Dr. Ladipo went on to chronicle the impact Balogun had in Nigerian football.
He remarked that Balogun bestrode the Nigerian and international football landscape like a colossus between the 1940s and the 1960s.
“As already well documented, he attained national stardom by playing and winning titles with such clubs as Jos and Lagos clubs – Apapa Bombers, UAC and Railways.
“He won the Challenge Cup with UAC, also known as ‘Broadstreet Millionaires’ in 1950 and the FA Cup with The Railways in 1951.
“Internationally, Thunder Balogun was included among 18 selected players to represent Nigeria in the United Kingdom.
“The team subsequently played nine matches against UK club sides. Six years later in 1955, Thunder Balogun returned to the UK to become the first Nigerian and African to play professional football in England by plying his trade with Peterborough United and Queens Park Rangers.
“He subsequently scored another first when he became the first African to qualify as a professional coach in England.
Continuing, Dr. Ladipo remarked that in 1958, Thunder Balogun, through the influence of the then Premier of the Western region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo returned home to become the Chief Coach of the old Western Region and help identify potential coaching talents.
The Teslim Balogun Stadium Complex in Surulere Local Government of Lagos State, so named after him by the Lagos State Government has helped to immortalise this great Nigerian, but more can and should still be done.
Born in March 1927, Thunder Balogun died in July 1972, thus by next year it would be 50 years of his demise. That is why his family, close associates and other interest groups believe it would be appropriate to celebrate the golden memorial in a week-long activity.
The organising committee then revealed the purpose of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the legend’s death.
“Firstly, to celebrate and eternally etch in the memory of Nigerians, the exploits of a footballing and coaching giant who left indelible footprints on the sands of Nigerian football.
“Secondly, to encourage past and present generation of footballers and coaches to continue to do their best for the Nation under the maxim: ‘If Tesim Thunder Balogun is not forgotten, you will not be forgotten’.
“Thirdly, to establish a foundation in the name of Teslim (Thunder Balogun) through which the welfare of footballers could be promoted.”
To fulfil the objectives, a week-long programme of activities are planned for Monday July 25 to Saturday July 30, 2022,
It was revealed that the activities will include an exhibition and documentary on the life, football and coaching adventures of Teslim Thunder Balogun.
That is expected to be declared open by the Nigeria Minister for Sports with the support of the officials of the Lagos State Sports Commission.
Public lectures on ‘Teslim Thunder Balogun is also in the package. A lecture with the theme “The man, his career and his impact” is expected to be given by Chief Adegboye Onigbinde a former two-time Nigeria national team coach.
While Dr. Ladipo will speak on a theme: ‘From thunder Balogun to the present generation: The role of Supporters club in the making of Nigerian Football’.
Some dignitaries expected at the lecture which will also incorporate the official launching of the Teslim Balogun Foundation as well as the unveiling of a book on the legend, include Lekan Adegbite, the Minister of Mines & Steel.
The book is being packaged by veteran sports journalist, Segun Adenuga who is perhaps one of the few living eyewitnesses of the playing days of Teslim Balogun.
Football matches are also planned as part of the week-long programme. These may include teams from Ghana playing against some top clubs in Nigeria.
According to Dr. Ladipo, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos State is expected to be the Special Guest of Honour at the matches.
The chairman of the organising committee also called for support from as many stakeholders as possible including but not limited to the federal and state governments, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government, the football authorities, investors in the sports and football sector, the private sector, philanthropists, you sports journalists and the entire Nigerian media.
Already, the minister of sports, Sunday Dare is the Grand Patron of the event while Nigerian football chieftain, Amaju Pinnick is the patron.
The minister of sports is represented in the organising committee by Mrs. Mbora Ikana while spokesman of the NFF is standing in for Amaju Pinnick.