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Ex-Super Eagles Coach Speaks On Past And Recent Encounters With Closest National Team Mate Before Controversial Death

The death of Uche Okafor has been raising many suspision in Nigeria. How did you recieve this terrible news?

That was one of the saddest days of my life because we still met shortly after he arrived from Jamaica where he revealed to me wonderful plans  he had lined up for the new year. We talked about the ESPN job he got on their Press Pass programme and how he intended to celebrate his 16 year old daughter’s birthday in a forthnight.

It was a bad Friday when I heard the news, I don’t believe he committed suicide. Let’s just wait for the reports the Police would give us before we make comments but the Uche I knew who always wanted to learn in every training session we had then in the Eagles squad can never do such.

Big boss, talking about your day in the Eagles, how would you describe Uche in training and during match time?

He was more than a colleague to me. Every teammate of mine was  like a brother to me in my heart and Uche is somebody that wanted to improve on his defensive capabilities in every training session he took part in then. He always came to me asking how to improve in the role  he palyed in the team. He wanted to be versatile also in the team saying:

“I want to be like you, I want to lead like you.”

When he played in Belgium in the early 90s, we spent the weekends in my house when there were no games in the league. It’s so sad that such a person is believed to have committed suicide. He will remain alive forever in my heart. It’s just so tough for me and my household to accept that tragic news.

In camp then Uche was our chief because sometimes he behaved like a traditional man who uses proverbs to correct anyone of us whom he felt did anything bad. He acted like a father figure during our days in camp then in the traditional ways. Uche was always dedicated in training, he never loved anybody toying around with training. He was a professional to the core and never wanted to see anybody hurt.

I could remember our semi-final game against Ivory Coast in 1994 when they were leading by a goal, he and Okechukwu were both calming the team down: that we would win the game despite the pressures were getting from the Ivoriens then.  Uche’s personality to me was like a diamond. That’s why I don’t beliveve the information that he committed suicide.

There’s no way he would ever think of such act because he cared so much about other people and sometimes when we were in camp in Nigeria, he’d say: “Keshi, I dey go village oh. I wan go see my parents.”

(Weeps).  He can’t kill himself.

He spent a vacation with me in Delta State and most times, he was always with me in my room with Uche Okechukwu talking about how we’d win games for the national team.

Sorry to put you in this mood Keshi. Having said all thses do you think that such a gem would take his life just like that?

No. There’s no such thing. I will never believe that. Uche and his daughter are so close. In fact, she will be 16 in a forthnight. So with that in mind I don’t think he would do such. Let’s not even talk about the lucrative contracts he just signed. He was not living on the hard side of life.
There’s something that we all don’t know.

Hopefully we would know through the autopsy report. He never had to quarrel with anybody neither would you hear any bad comment about him. I still can’t find the right words to describe him, it’s so unfortunate that he’s gone too soon.

What plans do his teammates have for his burial?

Well, we have to wait for his family to tell us how they intend to go about that. But God willing, I would be prepared to play any role for my brother when the arrangement have all be concluded.
Thanks for your time.

You’re welcome

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