FEATURE ARTICLE

Cyril C. NwokejiWednesday, August 7, 2013
cyril.nwokeji@wol.be
Belgium

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REMEMBERING THOMPSON OLIHA

Thompson Oliha

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y knowledge of Thompson Oliha's career as a footballer is limited to his appearances for Nigeria's national sides: the under-20 side, the Flying Eagles, and the senior side, the Super Eagles.

He broke through with the 1987 set of the Flying Eagles, that represented Africa, at the 1987, FIFA, under - 20 soccer championship. Notwhithstanding the hope-giving performances, put up by this team ,during the African zone qualifying series, this set of Flying Eagles, disappointed Nigerians very much, during the World championship, proper, in Chile, by putting up a lack-lustre performance. The flying Eagles, lost to Brazil, 4-0, in the champioship opener; subsequently drew 2-2, with Canada;and finally lost 2-0, to Italy. Thompson Oliha, however, was one of the few bright spots of that team, as he held his own in mid-field, doing a yeo-man's job, and sometimes supported by the epileptic performance of Okon Ene; while the off-form Ikponwonsa Omoregie, contributed very little to our mid-field performance. Thompson Oliha, even at that young age, was strong and confident on the ball; he was skillful and had good ball vision to spare. Little wonder, he was recommended by the then coach of the under - 20 side, the late Christopher Udemezue of blessed memory,to the senior national team selectors, together with Adeolu Adekola and Etim Esin.

Thompson Oliha, was also a member of the Tunisia '94, squad of Super Eagles, that won the Nations' cup tournament, in Tunis, Tunisia. I remember his game against Gabon, in the preliminary rounds; in which he once again showed his class, as a towering, skillful, two-footed attacking midfielder, with very good ball vision; who operated, from the left side of mid-field. He was also a member of the Super Eagles' team to the World cup, USA' 94. That team, in my considered opinion, is till date, the best ever assembled team of the Super Eagles, to any tournament. That he made that team, really showed his class as a top footballer. One remembers his only appearance, at that tournament, in the game against Italy; when he came in to replace the injured Daniel Amokachi. He didn't fail to show his class, against the Italians; he was a general in mid-field; a mid-field colossus.

With his unfortunate passing, we are once again reminded of the transience of this earthly life. This makes the point that the NFF ,should institute a process; for example, by way of an Insurance scheme, to take care of our ex-soccer players after they must have left the playing scene; particularly those of them,very much in need of it. And of course their families, who should not be allowed to suffer, as a consequence of the demise of their loved one. In this regard also, the NFF, should learn a lesson from the refusal of Victor Anichebe to dorn the national colours of Nigeria, for what he considers to be neglect on the part of the NFF, when he was out there injured, while representing Nigeria ,at a soccer match, in 2011, in Madagascar. It's time we took care of our heroes, even when they are no more playing for Nigeria. In this light, one expects the football authorities, not to forget the two children of Thompson Oliha.

May the good Lord have mercy on the soul of Thompson Oliha, and console his family. AMEN!

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