The Leicester City FC fairytale. 

For two days at a stretch this past week the headline of all the major global international media was the fairytale story of this most unlikely of champions of the English Premier League, a small football club that went from the bottom of the league table last season to become champions of the Premier League this current season with two rounds of matches left to play. It is truly a remarkable story.

The surprise is that the team’s success is well deserved, playing like champions all through the season, with determination, a clear strategy that worked, and the winning spirit and will of champions.

Leicester City FC’s achievement is been described as historic and one of the greatest ‘grass to grace’ stories of this era.

No wonder the celebrations have been spontaneous and global.

Before this feat, success in club football has usually been a factor of money, how much a club spends to buy the best players available as well as the best coaches. The poorer teams usually only just made up the numbers on the league table, providing the stepping-stones for the few richest teams to climb to the top year after year. That’s the global trend.

So, when that trend fails and an unlikely team, with 5000 to 1 odds against it, wins, as deservedly and convincingly as Leicester City FC just did, the world takes notice and celebrates it.

That’s what has just happened. In the history of the English League, only Nottingham Forest FC and to Blackburn Rovers have achieved something similar.

That’s why this is a fairy tale of great global significance.

How Leicester City did it will be a subject of study for some time to come. All eyes will be on the team during the next football season particularly as they step out to play amongst Europe’s top teams in the European Champions League.

Until then, I join millions of new fans of Leicester City FC around the world in celebrating their monumental achievement.

Rashidi Yekini – 4 years of deafening silence!

I am writing this on Wednesday, May 4, the 4th anniversary of the death of Rashidi Yekini, the highest goal scorer, at the national team level, in the history of Nigerian football.

On this day, on their Internet magazine, FIFA is celebrating this great Nigerian football hero. They recall some of his exploits particularly at the 1994 World Cup where he scored Nigeria’s first ever goal in the World Cup and celebrated it in a manner that is considered one of the most memorable in World Cup history.

Here in Nigeria, but for a token remembrance event that has been privately organised by Rashidi’s friend and legal consultant, Jubril Olanrewaju, every year in the city of Ibadan where Rashidi lived for most of his footballing career and eventually died, there is no other organised event by anyone else, not even by the Nigeria Football Federation, to mark his death and to remind us all that the country still owes Rashidi closure to the circumstances of his death.

The manner of his death remains an unsolved mystery, a very sad chapter in the history of Nigeria and poor commentary about our humanity.

Are we so dehumanized that we no longer have any regard or respect for the sanctity of life?

Why would one of our greatest and most celebrated heroes be killed like a chicken and no one is brought to book?

Is death so cheap now that a hale and hearty person can be abducted in broad daylight by known people in the presence of his neighbours, bundled away to an unknown destination, declared dead a few days later and nothing happens afterwards?

No one is questioned. No one is arrested. No one is prosecuted. No inquest is carried out. Nothing happens except the deafening silence that reeks of some kind of conspiracy.

Not even the massive reports in the media that drew attention to the clandestine activities of some members of his family that were involved in the events that led to his death have elicited any action by the security operatives and the law.

4 years after Rashidi’s death the Nigerian Football Federation has also not deemed it fit to do something, anything, to immortalize ‘Gangling’ and to use that to inspire the future generation of young talented footballers in every nook and cranny of the country.

Rashidi’s anniversary should serve as a reminder that the football establishment needs to create a platform to remember and celebrate its own heroes many of whom have died and are dying even now unsung and unheralded.

Unfortunately, for as long as the game’s administration remains in the hands of ‘outsiders’, those without a sense of history and without a vision to use the rich achievements of former players to illuminate the path of future generations, Nigerian football heroes will never get the right treatment when their playing days are over.

Demola Adeniji Adele passes on!

As I was about to put my column to bed I received the news of the death of my friend, former Commissioner of Sports in Lagos State, former Chairman of the Lagos Island Local Government, a former sportsman through his university days in Ife, Prince Demola Adeniji Adele.

Only a few weeks ago he came to spend a fantastic weekend with me in Abeokuta as if he knew that was going to be our last encounter.

Demola had been battling quietly with his health for some time and appeared to be winning the battle, maintaining a strict regimen of healthy living, looking and sounding good and fresh.

A few days after his visit he called me from India where he told me he would be spending quite some time to attend some more to his health and ensure he returned home better than ever.

Two weeks ago we spoke a few times on phone from his hotel room to conclude arrangements for his son who is crazy about the game of football to enrol and complete his secondary school education at The International Sports Academy from the next academic session.

Then, the shocking news.

I am personally very pained by his death and will mourn the loss of my great friend.

I pray that the Lord will grant his large family the strength to bear his absence.

Adieus, ‘Papa’.

And Olu Onagoruwa also!

When I was a little boy in Jos, I loved the sound of his name on the radio as sports commentators sang his praises during live commentary of matches. The names of players of that era were like music to the ears – Omokachi, Nokpokpor, Onyeawuna, Asoluka, etc.
But it was his own that stood out for me – Olu Onagoruwa.
He was a goalkeeper and in Nigeria’s national team at the time.

When I arrived Ibadan in the 1970s he had become a senior coach in the old Western Region and was one of those under whom our generation of players trained and was honed.

Some three or so weeks ago, I learnt of his death in Ibadan, peacefully I am told, at a ripe old age.

Whilst thanking the Almighty for his life, I also pray that he finds eternal peace in God’s bosom.

He will be buried next weekend.

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