Editor’s note: Samuel Okwaraji died as a footballer and a Phd student. Modern day and generations gone by, footballers rarely go to further institutions. Just few of them get themselves educated and rely on the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to support them financially after their footballing career. Aderonke Bello analyses the importance of combining both football and education together.
Samuel Okwaraji the Hero
The remembrance of Samuel Okwaraji will be forever celebrated as long as football is loved and enjoyed in Nigeria. Generations coming will always read about him.
Of course, I was a kid when he died on August 12, 1989 while in active service for his fatherland, Nigeria. He was a patriotic soul and the memory of his death will linger in many a true Nigerian head. A player slumped and died in active service for his beloved country. He is a hero.
Much have been written to eulogize the late enigma, but, on my part I want to address his educational prowess, and his believe in sound education. I remember how arduous it is to do a Phd, I enrolled for my Doctorate Degree in 2013 but had to drop out after a few months because of the stress and commitment that have to go with it in combination with my career schedule.
Sarcastically, I have said many times that some institutions should just dash me an honorary doctorate degree for my contributions to the society. On a lighter note, if I see am, I go take am.
Kudos to all the Phd holders out there, especially the ones in Nigeria, we know how difficult it is to go through that hurdle, I don’t envy you at all.
Samuel Okwaraji's Legacy
Having said that, Samuel Okwaraji is dead, but his legacy lives. The legacy that I want to pick from by what I have read and understand in his history is the fact that, he was an educated footballer, when I saw these my eyes popped out, and I was like wow!, as its a rare endeavour in modern day footballers, in fact, in generations gone by.
Undoubtedly, education is good, it enlightens and guide you through some issues and helps your outlook towards life. It is good to be educated and when you are, you rightfully command respect and can be a good analyst of man and existence.
This great man had a university degree, a masters degree and almost a PhD, at a time when education had value in Nigeria, unfortunately, many of his teammates didn’t’ share his foresight about the value of education in their life after a short football career. Some were even accused of doctoring their secondary school certificates.
It can never be easy to combine education with football commitments. I want to say kudos to the dead, for getting himself educated, it was a shortlife worthy of emulation indeed.
Ex-Internationals' over reliance on the Football Federation
If he was alive today, he surely would have retired from football into something meaningful and not looking up to the Football Federation to revive his career like some ex-footballers do, because there are no papers to fall back on, not even savings. Money dwindle and disappear if not added to. Some result to punditary and running commentaries, which is not bad at all.
Many ex-intls have gone broke after their careers, by surrounding themselves with fairweather friends that misguide and lure them into putting their hard earned money in shallow business ventures which liquidates. A super eagles player once opened a multimillion naira night club that folded up quicker than it started and we heard nothing about it again, and many other failed businesses attributed to these ex-Internationals.
As a matter of fact, businesses can fail without adequate research and application, ex-footballer or not, but with a qualification to fall back on , you’re better equipped to get a decent job and cater for your future.
Mary Onyali although a former athlete is duly employed by the National Sports Commision, Segun Odegbami is doing good as well, because of education, Sunday Oliseh, is another intelligent guy with good writing skills and analytical mind. These are a few of many other educated footballers.
What Next After Football?
What happens after your professional football career?, you wait for the federation to define your life?, or better still, retire into becoming a Coach. I recently interviewed a top player, and I asked what plan he has for the future, he said, its in God’s hands as he is focusing on football now and I replied that at your age you should start planting trees that will cover you, he said really, God is in control.
I told him about my firm believe in God and how he can further help, if you help yourself. I advised him to get an online course, enrol there and to my surprise he is studying an online course in one of the top universities in Europe. Also, Steven Ukoh, a Nigerian player from Switzerland is playing and studying Law, he once told me that he may likely fall back into sports law.
Finally, my point here is that footballer should get themselves educated. It is never too much, and never too late.
With his Masters degree in law, he might have opted to practice law with a big chamber opened in his name. Rest on Samuel Okwaraji.
Meanwhile, you can see Legit.ng's video of the Super Eagles training ahead of the World Cup qualifiers;