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OBITUARY

Swindon FC pay glowing tributes to Titus Okere, last survivor of Nigeria’s 1949 UK Tourists

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

 The remains of Titus Okere, the last of the 18 UK Tourists players has been laid to rest at the  Bluebell Hill crematorium in Kent, in United Kingdom. According to his granddaughter, Frances Okere, “it was a lovely service. Swindon Town paid tribute to him and sent him a tie.”

Swindon Town FC was the first club that Okere played for when he joined in February 1953 as Nigeria’s first player to sign a professional football contract.

Frances also informed that: “My Nigerian family mentioned my grandad played a friendly against Brazil and there’s some video footage of it.”

Tribute by Swindon Town FC

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A  customized tie sent to Titus Okere family by Swindon Town FC

The high point of the funeral was the tribute paid by Swindon Town FC. It runs thus:

“Although he only made a few first-team appearances for Swindon Town. he was held in the highest regard by supporters and colleagues of the club alike.

“He had come to the club’s attention when he toured England with the Nigerian international team An outside left, he was nicknamed “the golden boy- because of his ability to create chances out of nothing.

“The credit for signing him for Swindon must go to Mr Louis Page. the manager. He was obviously keen to sign him as in January, two Board Meetings received reports on whether or not he would arrive by January 20th before he managed to get to this country and sign on in February as a twenty-five-year-old.

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“It was typical of his sunny personality that he never complained about. not always being given a first-team chance. Swindon had a notoriously heavy pitch and it would have been impossible to wear the light footwear that he had worn playing for the Nigerian national team playing on it.

“One wonders if the light, flexible boots of today had been around. he might have been able to adapt in a way that the high, stiff leather boots worn at the time prevented.

“It is sad to report that a television company had asked for permission to be allowed to film Titus making a demonstration of how to play in bare feet, but the request was refused.

“Evidently, the Board, if not the manager, were adamant about not having a player not wearing conventional footwear.

“Another thing that may have affected his performance was the absence of his wife. He requested but was refused help in enabling his wife to come over to England. The Minute on this matter was to the effect that Titus would have to prove himself on the pitch first.

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“One wonders if had the request been granted, he might have felt  more wanted and been willing to accept that he could make a home for his family in this country and that it would be worthwhile to have to get used to wearing football boots.

“Despite only being a few months, he was on Swindon’s books: those who saw him in the reserves talk of a very quick and elusive winger who frequently got the better of his full-back but whose centres were not always capitalised on.

“Sadly, it was not enough to convince the directors to retain his services, and he was released on a free transfer on the April retained and released list.

“His appearances in the Swindon reserve team evidently impressed somebody in the Chippenham United camp.

“On leaving Swindon, he was recruited by Chippanharn United, where he made an immediate impact providing a first-minute cross in the opening game of the season that led to a goal. He was also to play in the F.A Cup for Chippenham later in the season.

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“At the time of his passing, he was the oldest Swindon player to have played for his country, and although the number of people who saw him play is dwindling, the year of his passing has also seen the launch of a Swindon Town Football Museum, which will ensure his memory as a great

Ambassador for his country and skillful player is kept alive.”

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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OBITUARY

Millwall goalkeeper Sarkic dies at 26

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Carabao Cup Third Round - Wolverhampton Wanderers v Leeds United - Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton, Britain - November 9, 2022 Wolverhampton Wanderers' Matija Sarkic celebrates after the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers/File photo

Millwall and Montenegro goalkeeper Matija Sarkic died on Saturday at the age of 26, the Championship club confirmed.

Sarkic fell ill in his home country while on international duty. Montenegrin daily newspaper Vijesti reported Sarkic died in an apartment in Budva early in the morning.

“Everyone at the club sends their love and condolences to Matija’s family and friends at this immensely sad time,” Millwall said in a statement.

“The club will make no further comment at this time and asks that the privacy of Matija’s family is respected.”

“Our dear Matija, we will miss you and your cheerful spirit, your work ethic and your great defending,” the Montenegro Football Association (FSCG) said in a statement, describing Sarkic as an “always smiling guy”.

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“On behalf of European football, our deepest condolences go to Matija’s friends, family and everybody who knew him. Rest in peace, Matija,” governing body UEFA said in a statement.

Sarkic made nine saves in Montenegro’s 2-0 defeat to Belgium in a friendly last Wednesday and was named man of the match for his outstanding performance.

Born in Grimsby, England, Sarkic played for Aston Villa and Belgian side Anderlecht at youth level. He made 33 appearances for Millwall after joining in August 2023 from Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers.

-Reuters

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Former Arsenal and Everton striker Campbell dies at 54

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Arsenal striker Kevin Campbell (R) is challenged by Hartlepool United's Phil Gilchrist during their League Cup second round second leg match at Highbury in London October 5, 1994. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/File Photo

Former Arsenal, Everton and Nottingham Forest striker and soccer commentator Kevin Campbell has died at the age of 54.

British media said he had been in hospital for two weeks before his death was announced on Saturday.

“We are devastated to learn that our former striker Kevin Campbell has died after a short illness,” Arsenal said on social media. “Kevin was adored by everyone at the club.”

The London-born Campbell made his senior debut at Arsenal in 1988 and spent seven years at the club including two loan spells. He was part of the Arsenal side that won the English first division league in 1990-91, the FA Cup in 1992-93 and the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1993-94.

He joined Forest in 1995, where he spent three years, before moving to Everton in 1999 for a six-year spell. Campbell scored 45 Premier League goals for Everton, becoming their fifth highest goalscorer in the competition and their first ever Black captain.

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“Not just a true Goodison Park hero and icon of the English game but an incredible person as well — as anyone who ever met him will know,” Everton posted on X.

-Reuters

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OBITUARY

NFF shocked, saddened by Domo Okara’s death

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The Nigeria Football Federation has described as shocking and very sad, the death on Saturday of Head Coach of Bayelsa Queens Football Club, Domo Okara.

“We are shocked and saddened beyond words. In all sincerity, we are still trying to process the report. I have spoken to a lot of people who said they interacted with him days earlier and he was hale and hearty. This is a very sorrowful development.

“Okara was one of the pillars of women football coaching in the country. Indeed, it is a period of mourning for the women’s game in our country because the man was more than a coach. He was a mentor, a leader and an inspiration to many. We pray that God will give him eternal rest and also grant the immediate family, his friends, Bayelsa Queens FC family and Nigeria football the fortitude to bear this sudden and big loss,” NFF General Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi, said on Sunday.

Domo Okara, who led Bayelsa Queens to win the Nigeria Women Premier League title in 2022 and also won the Federation Cup with the team the following year, was reported to have died suddenly on Saturday morning.

He led the team from Yenagoa to win the bronze medals at the 2nd edition of the CAF Women’s Champions League competition in Morocco – the only Nigerian team to have achieved that feat.

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