FEATURE ARTICLE

Wednesday, June 1, 2022
Nwokeji.cyril@gmail.com
Belgium
SALUTATIONS TO EMMANUEL OGUEJIOFOR "MAN MOUNTAIN" OKALA, AT 71!

Emmanuel Oguejiofor "Man Mountain" Okala

ours sincerely uses this medium to wish Emmanuel Okala, a very happy and healthy 71st birthday!

And will also use the opportunity of this medium, to reminisce on how yours sincerely sees the place of this great son of Nigeria/ Africa, in the annals of soccer history in Nigeria, nay Africa.

Emmannuel Okala was a goalkeeper in his soccer-playing days. That he was a very highly talented goalkeeper, was a well- known fact. That he was an 'unconventional' goalkeeper, who was like the 'unseen' twelfth player for his team, was also a very well- known fact!

Talking about his qualities, for example, being an 'unconventional' goalkeeper, one saw a goalkeeper who was extra-ordinarily built for his position on the soccer field. Compared to most goalkeepers of his time, he towered at 6ft 6inches, and thus had a commanding physical presence on and off the field of play! There was a popular soccer legend that Emmanuel Okala instilled 'fear' in many an attacker, who confronted him face-to face, on the field of play. He was said to have instilled so much 'fear' in some strikers, that when they had only Emmanuel Okala to beat, to score, in a soccer match, out of intimidation, they shot the ball feebly to him; and thus failed to score!

There was also the legend that if many an attacker confronted Emmanuel Okala, in a one-on-one situation, in a soccer match, with only Emmanuel Okala to beat to score, they had the impression Emmanuel Okala, by virtue of his huge frame/ enormous size, had covered the whole goal post, and, thus, they either shot the ball wide off target, or shot the ball to him, and, thus, also failed to score!

In Emmanuel Okala's playing days, it was not uncommon, to hear the commentator commenting a soccer match in which Okala was involved thus :

" The defenders are all beaten, the attacker has Emmanuel Okala to beat, to score, will he score, ………oh he fails to score, Emmanuel Okala refuses to be beaten" !;

" The defence of the Super Eagles/ Rangers is beaten, the attacker shoots, but Emmanuel Okala refuses to be beaten" !;

" The attacker waltzes through the defence, he shoots, but Emmanuel Okala holds it……." !

Emmanuel Okala, by virtue of his personality and his heroics on the soccer pitch, commanded a huge influence, not only on his team, but on the team's supporters! The presence of Emmanuel Okala in a team, usually gave the supporters of that team, a lot of courage and confidence, going into a soccer match! As earlier mentioned, he had the impact/influence of an unseen twelfth man/player for his team and also for the supporters of the team!

He was quite successful as a soccer player. He commanded a starting position for the Super Eagles of Nigeria, then known as the "Green Eagles", at the tender age of twenty-one!

And with the Super Eagles, he won the 1973 "All African games" soccer gold medal on home soil!

He also won the 1980 " African Nations' cup" tournament, on home soil, with the Super Eagles of Nigeria. In addition to the bronze and silver medals won with the team at the 1978 editions of the "African Nations' cup " and "All African games" soccer competitions respectively!

At club level, he excelled with "Rangers International" Football club of Enugu. And won many domestic titles with them as well as the 1977 "African Cup winners cup" competition!

His soccer achievements, didn't go unnoticed, as he was crowned the "1976 African footballer of the year" ! And, thus, became the first Nigerian player to get that distinction!!!!!!

However, one must hasten to add that what turned out to be Emmanuel Okala's last match for the Super Eagles and would have been his exit in style from the Super Eagles of Nigeria, was 'ruined' by some unpatriotic Nigerians! It was the final of the 1980 Nations' cup competition, in Lagos, Nigeria, on the 22nd of March, 1980. Details of what transpired on that day, are chronicled in my book : "Super Eagles of Nigeria: Pride of Africa", which reference is given at the end of this piece.

However, that unfortunate incident notwithstanding, Emmanuel Okala's place in the annals of Nigeria's /African soccer history, is certainly assured!

In conclusion, once more a very happy birthday to Emmanuel Oguejiofor Okala, alias "Man mountain"! Yours sincerely wishes him many more happy birthdays in good health and prosperity, in the mighty name of Jesus our Lord! Amen !!!!!!!!!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1976765951/ref=sr_1_7…

and "Super Eagles of Nigeria in the New Era", also presently on sale on www. Amazon.com

https://www.amazon.com/Super-Eagles-Nigeria-New-Era/dp/B09P7MGP4P/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1641064306&sr=8-1

Also at the link below, one can come into contact with a number of items, needed to support the Super Eagles at "Cameroun 2021" !!!!!

https://teespring.com/stores/super-eagles-of-nigeria

The book "Super Eagles of Nigeria : Pride of Africa", can also be gotten through the author. One can contact the author through : nwokeji.cyril@gmail.com Please note in this case, payment of postage costs will be necessary

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