By: Ifeanyi Okonkwo
It was a gathering full of emotions as the Anambra State Football Association led by the chairman, Mr Chikelue Iloenyosi, recently, at Awka City Stadium, organized a Memorial Service for all the late sportsmen and women of Anambra State extraction.
The lighting of candles for the over 80 late sports men and women who were called one after the other with their towns mentioned as well was the highlight of the event.
Some of those remembered included Aloysius Atuegbu, POC Achebe, Ernest Ufele, Okey Isima, Temple Moneke, Ernest Okonkwo, Power Mike Okpala, Kenneth Ilodigwe, among others.
In a homily, Rev Fr. Emmanuel Ezenwata from Maria Parish, Nawfia, prayed to God to accept and rest the souls of the departed heroes and heroines. He paid glowing tributes to the FA chairman, Iloenyosi, for his outstanding work so far and called on Ndi Anambra to rally round him to take football to greater heights.
‘This is a wonderful occasion. I am privileged to be here with you guys. Some of these names mentioned here today were people that I grew up idolizing. To say a prayer for them means a lot. Most of them might have been forgotten even by their immediate family members.
‘That’s why I am thanking the General, the FA chairman of Anambra state, for instituting this wonderful event. You have done remarkably well in just a few months of taking over. I can only call on Ndi Anambra to embrace the innovative ideas that you have brought in and will still bring in. Keep up the good work,’ he said.
Earlier in his remarks, Iloenyosi expressed gratitude to God for such a special day. He recalled how he and some of his friends began their careers and how some of the ex-players being remembered shaped their careers.
‘To me, this day is special to me. Today, we remember people that played this game before us and have gone to eternal rest before us. This remembrance is to give honour to them and assure their families that their labours have not been forgotten. We owe them our prayers, this will be a yearly event and next year’s will be better,’ Iloenyosi assured.
The first Nigerian footballer to move abroad and a 1980 Nations Cup winner, Sylvanus Okpala (Hafia), MON, led a contingent of other ex-internationals that came to the event. Quick Silver, as he is also widely known, thanked Iloenyosi for the opportunity to remember some of his colleagues.
‘Being part of this event meant a lot personally to me. From the list mentioned, I played with or against many of them. I worked with some others in different capacities as well. I was really emotional when the Mass was going on. We will continue to pray and remember them till we join them. I want to specially thank Chikelue for this initiative.
It was in great wisdom this event came about and may God continue to give him more wisdom as he directs the footballing affairs of the state and changes the narrative and discussion of Anambra Football positively.
Other ex-players in attendance included Ifeanyi Onyedika, MON, who was a member of the 1980 AFCON winning team; former Rangers/Green Eagles defender, Michael Ogbuodudu; former Rangers midfielder/chairman, ANFPU Anambra Chapter, Joseph Nwafor; former Rangers and Green Eagles player, Okwuchukwu Obiora (Agari Mojo); former Rangers/Vasco Da gama team manager, Innocent Abana; General Manager Nnewi United/Secretary of ANFPU, Olisa Onuchukwu; CEO of Obosi United, Uzor Epundu; former Rangers and Green Eagles goalkeeper, Paul Obiakor; former Rangers/El-Kanemi Warriors player/ Coach, Zubby of DOSAD FA, Ezenwata Nnama; Ekene Ikenna; Fabule; Chuks Ndigwe, among others, including Local Football Committee chairmen.