The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) on Tuesday expressed sorrow and sadness over the deaths of a former captain of the Senior National Team, Albert Onyeawuna, Kaduna United FC Head Coach Saleh Lato and five players of Nigeria Nationwide League side Bakoji FC of Kaduna, all over the festive period.
NFF’s Assistant Director (Communications), Ademola Olajire, lamented the deaths in Abuja, saying the entire Nigeria football family was grieving over the departures of the great Onyeawuna, Coach Lato and the young players.
“Words are inadequate to express the sadness of the NFF and the entire Nigeria football family over the deaths of these persons. We love them dearly but God loves them much more.
“Our prayer is that the Alnighty God will give the families they have left behind, as well as Nigeria football family the fortitude to bear the huge losses and also to grant the departed eternal rest.”
Albert Onyeawuna played for the Senior National Team, then known as Red Devils, between 1955 and 1964, scoring six goals in 26 international appearances, including one in a 6-3 defeat by Egypt in Nigeria’s first-ever match at the Africa Cup of Nations, on November 24, 1963 in Kumasi, Ghana. He died in Lagos on Monday evening, barely one hour after going into coma, after prolonged illness.
Albert Onyeawuna played alongside the likes of Sam Ibiam, Dan Anyiam, Asuquo Ekpe, Godwin Achebe, Dejo Fayemi, Patrick Noquaqor, Paul Hamilton, Fabian Duru, Teslim Balogun and Elkana Onyeali.
His last game for Nigeria was an Olympic Games qualifying match against the Atlas Lions of Morocco in March 1964, which the Devils lost 2-1.
Saleh Lato, promoted to Head Coach of Nigeria Professional Football League side, Kaduna United FC only last week, following the departure of Ben Duamlong, fell ill suddenly and died on Sunday morning in Kaduna.
Five players of Nigeria Nationwide League club, Bakoji FC of Kaduna died in a road crash on their way to a league match against JZ United of Kafanchan in Kafanchan. A number of other players and officials were injured in the accident.