By Otunba Dele Ologbese
It’s heartbreaking, Nigeria’s football heroes have never been celebrated and their welfares not taking adequate care of after exit from active football. This is the fault of our sports administrators who made little or no attempt at addressing issues of their welfares after quitting game of football.
High Chief Adeoye Zion Ogunfeyimi is one of the unsung heroes who brought honours and glory to this nation but nothing have been done to compensate him up to date. Zion Ogunfeyimi, who is adjudged as one of the safest hands in Nigeria’s football history based on his good reflexes, composure and resourcefulness featured as Green Eagles Goalkeeper in 1976 Cup of Nations won by Morocco. He was phenomenal in goalkeeping arena for Nigeria and Clubsides!. Zion, by God’s grace would clock 72 years in November this year and unfortunately, he’s yet to reap bountifully from fruits of his labour as former national football player!. He’s completely ignored by all levels of governments despite serving them distinctively. He needs good housing; good car and other necessities of life. I thank God, he’s not a beggar but if his home State government, Ondo could set machineries in motion towards improvements of his welfares in his old age for being first Ondo State indigene to play in the national senior football team, it would be well appreciated.
There are other veterans of the sector in Ondo State like former Super Falcons Captain, Kikelomo Ajayi, Tunde Ogunja, Wemimo Matthew, Akabueze, Godfrey Oboabana, Akin Olowookere and host of others who are too numerous to mention who ought to have been recognized and admitted into State’s Hall of Fame for their extraordinary exploits!.
While some of our notable football heroes like Zion Ogunfeyimi, Godwin Odiye, Alloysius Atuegbu, Christian Chukwu Henry Nwosu and the likes had brought honours and laurels to the nation through their extraordinary performances, nothing is practically done by successive leaders in compensating them in terms of looking after their welfares and celebrating their outstay feats.
It’s an eyesore that some of these patriotic Nigerians who brought fame to their fatherland have remained in abject poverty and penury since they hanged their boots!.
We have seen examples of them roaming streets with no jobs; doing menial jobs and seeking helps from people which never come easily. We recently heard pathetic story of ex notable footballer who was a ‘bus conductor’ in Lagos and was rehabilitated by one Super Eagles player based in Europe.
Is this best way to treat our heroic sports personalities by Nigeria’s leaders and sports administrators who are concerned about enrichments of their private pockets?.
We have stories of States governments that promised ex internationals landed properties, houses and fat monetary gifts which never came their ways!. What’s wrong with our leaders reneging on their promises to these people?.
The bitter truth is that some former players are suffering and dying of preventible diseases such as cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and other life threatening ailments owing to the fact that they don’t have whilewither or any means to take care of themselves. Some of them cannot take care of their families as they are languishing in terrible pains, indignation and discomfort!.
In Ondo State for instance there are scores of disengaged players of Sunshine Stars FC, disbanded Rising Stars FC and their officials who were owed outstanding salaries and allowances and with no tangible efforts made to pay them by Ondo State Government. We are told some of these former players and their officials are in terrible financial conditions and can no longer support their respective families and as they engaged in undignified trades to eke out existence!.
All these ugly scenarios should be quickly addressed by appropriate Government institutions. Our football heroes and others who have served their country meritoriously or brought honours and glory to their respective States should be celebrated or honoured and adequately compensated. Appropriate sustainable policies geared towards addressing their welfares should be fashioned out so that they can be on their feats after their retirements.