Samuel Okwaraji’s name, unarguably deserves a special place in the nation's soccer history as the most patriotic footballer ever to come out of Nigeria. Born on 19 May 1964, he died today, 24 years ago - 12 August 1989.
Many soccer lovers have affirmed that the man laid down his life for Nigeria’s football to live. To many, Okwaraji came onto Nigeria’s soccer scene not for what the country could do for him, but what he could do for the country.
He collapsed and died of congestive heart failure in the 77th minute of a World Cup qualification match against Angola at the Lagos National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos State.
Okwaraji had a career in Europe which included playing for NK Dinamo Zagreb, VfB Stuttgart and SSV Ulm 1846 while finishing his education in law.
In his short stay with Dinamo Zagreb, Samuel scored 3 goals in a friendly game vs NK Budućnost Hodošan. The game was played on 30 April 1986, and Dinamo Zagreb won 12-0. Samuel's only official game for Dinamo in the Yugoslav First League was as a substitute on 18 May 1986 against FK Priština.
He made the Green Eagles squad in 1988 and at that year's African Nations Cup he scored one of the fastest goals in the history of the championship against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon. He played along until the final match, where the Eagles lost to their perennial rivals Cameroon by a lone goal.