|Monday, May 24, 2021|
"Hard work is no guarantee for success, but it's usually the absolute minimum needed for success" Cyril C. Nwokeji
mmanuel Okala, told a journalist that the nickname of "Chairman", was actually his, but the legendary commentator of blessed memory, Ernest Okonkwo, gave the nickname to Christian Chukwu. He said he wanted to find out from Ernest Okonkwo why that was the case, but unfortunately, Ernest Okonkwo was buried the same day his own mother was buried.
However, notwithstanding this fact, the truth of the matter is that both Emmanuel Okala and Christian Chukwu are not only bosom friends, but Nigerian soccer legends, who have etched their places in the annals of Nigerian soccer history( the 'misunderstanding' in nicknames notwithstanding)!
The name Emmanuel Okala in goal, either as Super Eagles (Then Green Eagles) or Rangers goalkeeper, came with a certain aura, which was unusual for a goalkeeper. In order words, Emmanuel Okala, in his playing days, wasn't the conventional goalkeeper! He had that 'extra' attribute or aura that made him special, as a goalkeeper. Apparently, his towering personality contributed to this special aura!
Whenever he was in goal, he was reported to scare his opponents stiff! His personality was so imposing that opposing attackers who faced him on a "one -on - one " situation, during playing time, were reported to be scared stiff and, consequently, missed the target!!!!
His huge personality gave the aura of player who was worth two players on the field of play! In other words, the presence of Emmanuel Okala on the field of play, gave his team the advantage of having an 'extra' player! This was certainly to the psychological disadvantage of his then team's opponents!
Apart from his unusual aura as a goalkeeper, Emmanuel Okala, was a very highly talented goalkeeper! In fact one of the very best to have come out of the continent of Africa. He ranked among the best African goalkeepers of all times ! He was in the class of the very best African goalkeepers of all times, the likes of : Thomas N'Kono, Antoine Bell, Sango O' Jacques, Onana, Alioum, all of Cameroun; Cerbah of Algeria; Ikramy Ahmed, El Ghohari of Egypt; Badu Zaki of Morocco; Edward Ansah, Joseph Carr of Ghana; Pondomali of Tanzania; and of course, Peter Rufai, Peter Fregene, Eyo Essien , Joe Erico , Best Ogedegbe, Zion Ogunfehinmi , Israel Anuna and Vincent Enyeama of Nigeria.
The exploits of some of the above mentioned goalkeepers, are chronicled in my book: "Super Eagles of Nigeria: Pride of Africa", which reference is given at the end of this piece.
His fantastic rating as goalkeeper, culminated in his distinction as , "African Footballer of the year", in 1976, by the " African Sports Journalists Union", "A.S.J.U". And so became the first Nigerian soccer player ever to get the distinction !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Apart from the above stated distinction, his other greatest achievement, was winning the "African Nations' cup tournament " on home soil, with the Super Eagles in 1980!
He was also part of the Super Eagles team that qualified for the 1976 Montreal Olympic games, in Canada; but whose participation was aborted because of politics. Details are chronicled in my book, which reference is given at the end of this piece.
At club level, he was a huge success, as he was part of the "Rangers International Football club" that won three consecutive "Challenge (FA) cup competitions"! And also won a number of national league titles! And was also part of the Rangers team that won the 1977 "African Cup Winners' cup competition"!
After his retirement from active soccer, he was a coach of Rangers International football club and later on worked as goalkeeper coach with the National teams.
His opinions/ commentaries on Nigerian soccer, which is still ongoing, are usually laced with deep seated insights and knowledge of Nigerian soccer, and are very much appreciated !
As he attains the biblically significant year of seventy , yours sincerely joins fellow Nigerians in wishing him the very best of good health and many more years of happy life and good service to his country!
UP EMMANUEL OGUEJIOFOR OKALA ! UP NIGERIA !!!!!!!!!
The book "Super Eagles of Nigeria : Pride of Africa", can also be gotten through the author. One can contact the author through : firstname.lastname@example.org Please note in this case, payment of postage costs will be necessary