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NFF mourns the passing of FIFA referee Bolaji Okubule



Chief Festus Bolaji Okubule

The Nigeria Football Federation has commiserated with the Nigeria Referees Association and the immediate family of former FIFA referee Festus Bolaji Okubule, who died in Lagos on Tuesday evening at the age of 80.

Okubule, who was the second Nigerian referee to officiate at the Africa Cup of Nations after Sunny Woghiren in 1974, was nicknamed ‘Showboy’ for his demonstrative stance on the pitch and his immaculate dressing. He refereed at the 1986 Africa Cup of Nations hosted by Egypt.

“Festus Bolaji Okubule was an icon of the whistle and a man of high integrity. It is quite sad that the list of veterans and pacesetters of Nigeria Football keeps depleting, steadily.

“We pray that God grants the late Okubule eternal rest and also grant those he has left behind the fortitude to bear the loss,” NFF General Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi said on Wednesday.

After he retired from active refereeing, Festus Bolaji Okubule continued to serve the game, contributing as member of several committees and panels constituted with the objective of improving the lot of Nigeria Football.

Okubule became Nigeria’s first referee at a FIFA tournament, when he was picked by the world –governing body for the 1983 FIFA World Youth Championship (now FIFA U20 World Cup) in Mexico.


That tournament was also Nigeria’s debut at a FIFA World Cup, with the Flying Eagles coming close to reaching the quarter finals after defeating old Soviet Union, losing to Brazil and drawing with The Netherlands. 

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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