Well-deserved pomp and pageantry marked the final burial rites of
Nigeria’s former World Cup star, Thompson Oliha, in his native Benin
City on Friday.
The no-hostage-taking midfielder, who died in Ilorin, Kwara State
capital on the last day of June, was involved in several
season-defining games in his career and it was apt that the Edo State
Government, Kwara State government, Nigeria Football Federation,
Association of Professional Footballers of Nigeria and his former
colleagues emblazed his passage with colour.
A commemorative football match, organised by the Association of
Professional Footballers of Nigeria with the support of the Nigeria
Football Federation, hallmarked the series of activities, lighting up
the mood at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium – known as Ogbe Stadium in
those days when Thompson Oliha first took to the field.
Edo State Commissioner for Sports, Lady Omorede Osifo, led the final
respects, with other government functionaries, a representative team
of the Kwara State Government and a strong NFF presence led by
Executive Committee member, Barrister Olaleye Adepoju.
The commemorative match, between ex-internationals and a pool of Kwara
Football Academy (Oliha’s last employers) and Bendel Insurance FC
stars, ended 1-1, and saw the likes of former Super Eagles’ Coach,
Augustine Eguavoen, Alloy Agu, Emeka Ezeugo, Benedict Iroha, Bauldwin
Bazuaye and Edema Fuludu in action.
Other dignitaries included the Permanent Secretary, Edo State Ministry
of Sports, Edo State Director of Sports, Edo FA Chairman, Chief Abel
Ehigie, FA Secretary Victor Edokpayi, Kwara State Director of Sports,
a team from Kwara Football Academy, and president of APFON and
ex-international Dahiru Sadi.
The remains of the fallen eagle was, afterwards, laid to rest in his
house in Benin City.
Oliha was a member of the Flying Eagles’ squad to the 1987 FIFA World
Youth Championship in Chile, and then played for the Super Eagles at
the 1990, 1992 and 1994 Africa Cup of Nations, winning the gold in
Tunisia in 1994. He was also a member of Nigeria’s debutant squad at
the 1994 FIFA World Cup in USA.