School Soccer: How Emma Okwuokei, Ben Popoola Helped St. Thomas Aquinas…

first_imgBy Tony EluemunorHey, let’s jolt some memories and challenge administrators to enhance sports facilities in secondary schools or Nigeria will ever remain feeble in sports.Once, secondary school sports competitions thrived. Catching sports greats young was no empty phrase then. Fully elected sports officials organized Local Council competitions, and from there deserving students represented the LGAs in zonal and state competitions. The state representatives would then meet at the Zonal tests (Nigeria was divided into four zones) and from there qualifiers would compete at the national Hussey Shield (for boys) and Lady Manuwa Cup (for girls) and Grier Cup competitions. Then, the sprinter Peter Ofili, and footballers such as Clement Okwufuleze, (alias Piccolo), Ogbueze, Kizito Oshodi, Emilo John, Nnamdi Nwokocha, goalkeeper Raph Uweche (Bastic), etc, were household names while they were students.Vice-Principal Fawehinmi (standing left in native dress and cap) and Principal Evans (standing right in shirt and trouser) with the football teamThe Daily Times of Friday September 28, 1951 published this: “But the event that I shall always remember most is the 220 yards relay, which was won by St Gregory’s College from King’s College by inches. The third lap of this relay produced a terrible duel between Ibisi (St Greg’s) and Idowu (King’s College); and in the last leg, Abengowe had the baton ten yards ahead of Munis, the frail sprinter from St Gregory’s. I had run the second leg and was looking forward to a King’s College victory in record-breaking time (the record then stood at 1’ 36” held by Government College Ibadan). I remember our Games Master, Mr. J. A. Ojo, turning his back to the track and muttering in Yoruba “Otan” (it is finished). But what was that? Munis was fast gaining on Abengowe. On and on came the wonderful Munis who now appeared to be running on air, on and on until he passed Abengowe at the tap in 1’ 37.2”. That was from the great musicologist and sports analyst, late Prof. Sam Akpabot, and he wrote about the Grier Cup Competition of 1946.Even in 1969, as the Civil War raged, competitions held. Hey, I am writing a book on St. Anthony’s College, Ubulu-Uku, my alma mater (Latin for “nourishing or bountiful mother.”). The school scored 100 per cent in the West African School Certificate exam and won the Giwa-Osagie Football Cup for Mid-West Secondary Schools in 1969, but I should save further materials for my book. I could focus on Immaculate Conception College, Benin-City which Josiah Dombraye played for same year, or the formidable Hussey College, Warri where he went to for his HSC and teamed up with other schoolboy greats – Morton Owolo, Didiare, Clement Okwufulueze (from Anglican Grammar School, Ubulu-Uku), Adinkwe, Opone, Gigi Donbraye, Thompson Usiyan, Zion Ogunfehimi (goalkeeper) Franklin Howard, Clement Temile, Mike Obiku, and John Umugheli , in the 1970 team. But I’ll leave out Mid-West totally.So, let’s turn to 1969 Western State school soccer champions; St. Thomas Aquinas College, Akure that won the Omitola Football Cup. The old Western state comprised of today’s Oyo, Ondo, Ogun, Osun and Ekiti states.Mr. Emma Okwuokei had finished from St. Michael’s Secondary School, Ogwashi Uku, in 1968 and was in Aquina’s in Akure for HSC; his elder brother, Charles (ex-Anthony’s Ubulu-Uku) was a Policeman in the town. He said Aquinas was by then a sports power house, “always in contention with local rival, Oyemakun Grammar School.”1969; Thomas Aquinas had beaten all the other zonal schools, Ondo Boys’ High School, Ekiti Parapo Grammar School, C.K. C Ado-Ekiti, Manuwa Memorial Grammar School, Ijuodo, near Okitipupa, etc and met another Akure school, Oyemakun Grammar School at the zonal finals. Mr. Okwuokei’s face lit up ashe reminisced: “The rivalry between the two schools divided the entire town. People thronged our matches. As we filed out into the field for that match, I led my team. I can never forget that day, even if I were to live for a thousand years. I scored the lone goal. I was carried shoulder high by the other students for the four kilometre walk, a triumphant march, through the centre of the town to our school. We walloped Victory College, Ikare, 2-0, and also beat Baptist Ejigbo”.The final was at the Liberty Stadium, Ibadan and against Baptist High School, Abeokuta which produced the Afro-beat king, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Head of the Interim National Government, Ernest Shoneikan and MKO Abiola. Final scores: Thomas Aquinas, Akure 2, Baptist Abeokuta 1. Mrs Omitola, the wife of the thenMrs Omitola handing the Cup to St. Thomas Aquinas Captain.Western state’s Commissioner of Police, Francis Omitola, presented the Cup to the winners.Okwuokei was invited to the Western State Academicals camp. That great Ibadan football club, the fore-runner of the IICC, the WNDC (Western Nigeria Development Cooperation invited him too. Please note that Okwuokei did not beg or bribe any coach or official for the invitations.Okwuokei’s team included Ben Popoola, whom he said was a truly gifted footballer: “It was clear to us that Ben would go places, and he did. He not only played for Bendel Insurance Football Club of Benin in its glorious days, but he played for the national football team then known as the Green Eagles. Popoola was about the youngest He was a great dribbler that often wriggled his way through a defence, no matter how tight, only to get us a much-needed goal or create a chance for another to score. He was a remarkable schemer. He had that ‘don’t dirty me’ style that made him to avoid injurious contact with defenders. Here is Reuters’ report of Green Eagles match against Ivory Coast on 14th July 1974; “substitute player Ben Popoola opened the scoring in the 70th minute with a fast low shot into a corner of the net. The goal obviously boosted the Eagles’ morale and in the 88th minute forward striker Sunday Izevbigie netted the second goal”. Both scorers belonged to Bendel Insurance of Benin.Mr. Okuwokei, from Ubulu-Uku, Aniocha LGA of Delta state, left competitive soccer after that. He is retired from the Nigerian Customs, and lives in Asaba. He remembers the school Captain, Boone Fawahinmi, Assistant Captain, Uche Okoko (from Asaba) and his brother Madu Okoko (the goalkeeper) Tunde Ashagba (Akplasima), the team’s hard-tackling defender from Ondo and one Adebayo.On how to replicate the glorious days of secondary school sports, Mr. Okwuokei who also represented the school and later the Zone in Javelin and Pole-Vault, said that schools require good sports facilities.“We had a very nice field, the school was managed by the Irish missionaries. The boarding house system ensured that we had enough time for sports training as it brings a large number of students together, they live in close proximity. He said the teachers were committed – Principal Evans, Vice-Principal Fatoyibo the rest of the teachers. It all begins from school, that is where Jamaica spots its sprinters. It once fed our national team. We must go back to the grassroots. Then Nigeria must strengthen its national league”.* Tony Eluemunor, a leading authority on the Presidency, lives in Abuja.Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegramlast_img read more

Defense still has plenty of swagger

first_imgWith time to kill before “Salute to Troy” and fall camp wrapping up, a horde of freshmen and their parents flocked to Howard Jones Field on Saturday to catch a glimpse of this football team everyone’s been making such a fuss about.There were the diehards who could spot any player, even the incoming freshmen, and recite their name immediately. But many in attendance were armed with rosters, a helpful aid in answering an important question.Who are these guys?The offensive players are more easy and fun to point out. There’s the freshman wunderkind vying for the starting quarterback position, his lanky competition waiting to get healthy and back in the race and the speedy tailback waiting for a breakout junior season.Putting a face on the defense, however, proved at times more difficult — unless it was senior Taylor Mays.As the lone player on USC’s media guide and perhaps the most recognizable member of the team, it would be easy to reduce USC’s defense to Mays. But Pete Carroll’s units have always transcended being about one star. It’s a collective effort that requires collaboration to establish a group dynamic.And if you asked most fans strolling by Tommy Trojan to name a starter on defense other than Mays, I’d bet that you’d get quizzical looks and a few responses asking whether Rey Maualuga still had any eligibility left.It’s not for a lack of talent that the unit’s individual players aren’t as recognizable as their predecessors ­— of the projected starters, only redshirt senior Josh Pinkard was rated lower than a four-star prospect coming out of high school, and he’s more than outplayed that ranking.But even when many of these players were playing important roles as spot players last year, they had players like Maualuga, Brian Cushing and Kevin Ellison to set the tone. Those players ultimately molded the defense in their own image.Almost all of the players have shown flashes in fall camp, if not games themselves. But most fans aren’t diehard enough to analyze fourth-quarter blowouts and spring scrimmages, so they can be forgiven if the first thing that pops to mind when they think of junior Malcolm Smith is still “Steve Smith’s brother” instead of “starting weakside linebacker.”Head coach Pete Carroll is the ultimate sculptor in all of this, as he is the mastermind behind how the defense will look. But the appearance is somewhat fluid and depends on the players. Carroll was so enamored with how aggressive the defense was last year that he began opining about downplaying the importance of reducing penalties so long as the Trojans could keep points off the board.Getting a handle on what this group will be like is hard given that we’ve only seen bits and pieces, but if Saturday’s scrimmage was any indication, the Trojans’ defense once again has plenty of swagger, and reason for it.The only points scored on the day came courtesy of a safety — linebacker Shane Horton leveled tailback Curtis McNeal in the backfield — and the defense recorded six sacks. With each stop, the defense got more amped up, hooting and hollering along the way.“It was game-like with the way they were running and hitting out there,” Carroll said, while still scolding the offense for their various shortcomings throughout the day.It may be unfair to crown the defense kings of camp after the performance given the offensive players that were out for the day (redshirt sophomore Aaron Corp, redshirt junior Damian Williams, redshirt senior Charles Brown and redshirt junior Allen Bradford all sat out). But it’s clear that the unit is ahead of the curve.If confidence is one facet of the new defense’s personality, then composure will have to be another. Carroll’s units have been about being in the right place at the right time more than about backbreaking plays, and this defense will have to follow suit. With a full house guaranteed for Ohio State and fans screaming like they were trying to cause seismic activity in Michigan, USC will have to know where to be without much communication.If the defense isn’t up to the early test of character, the Buckeyes could find their opening. While still not an advanced passer, sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor is a big enough threat running the ball that he can make USC pay the same way Dennis Dixon did in 2007.The defense does not have to reinvent the wheel when carving out its niche. Mays and Carroll are obsessed with USC history and spoke of the school’s past great defenders at Pac-10 media day almost as much as they talked about current members of the team. If the team can maintain the steady level of elite play that has been a hallmark of USC defenses under Carroll, he won’t care what the public’s image of the group is.No matter what, though, the group will have four months to make their presence known around campus as well as on the field.“Tackling Dummy” runs Mondays. To comment on this article, visit or e-mail Michael at read more

LeBron James gets crowd to chant ‘Taco Tuesday’ in Lakers vs Grizzlies

first_img 10 months ago LeBron James has epic stare down with Clippers guard Lou Williams Last Updated: 30th October, 2019 12:07 IST LeBron James Gets Crowd To Chant ‘Taco Tuesday’ In Lakers Vs Grizzlies As Los Angeles Lakers defeated Memphis Grizzlies 120-91 on Wednesday, Oct 30, LeBron James got the crowd to chant ‘Taco Tuesday’, a phrase he tried to trademark Devika Pawar LeBron James got the crowd to chant ‘Taco Tuesday’ on Wednesday, October 30 during the LA Lakers vs Memphis Grizzlies game. Lakers beat the Grizzlies 120-91 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. As the Lakers had established a big lead, James was able to take a seat, where he proceeded to start the chant. Anthony Davis was the top scorer for the night with 40 points and 20 rebounds, due to which James could relax back and watch the game. WATCH US LIVE First Published: 30th October, 2019 12:07 IST 10 months ago NBA: LeBron James is the 8th highest-paid sportsperson in the world LIVE TV 10 months ago LeBron James evacuates home in wake of the Los Angeles wildfires SUBSCRIBE TO US WE RECOMMENDcenter_img Recently, LeBron James also sent a Taco Truck to the first respondents and firefighters battling the Getty Fire that broke out in California. The guard had to evacuate his house in Brentwood, California as the wildfire was approaching. He continued to post updates on Twitter, and later sent the taco truck. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted about James sending the truck, thanking him for his generosity towards the Los Angeles firefighters and first responders. Lakers posted the same post and photos to their own social media accounts. 10 months ago LeBron James reaction to Morey’s tweet draws extreme reactions Written By FOLLOW US Also read | Kevin Durant names all-time starting 5, Harden and Irving make the cutAlso read | NBA: How Russell Westbrook, D’Angelo Russell fared in their debuts 10 months ago LeBron James: NBA vs China heats up, as James distances himself Also read | NBA: Kyrie Irving, Kristaps Porzingis and other debuts to take note ofNBA: LeBron James and his love for Taco Tuesday Since this off-season, James has made ‘Taco Tuesday’ a regular thing. The player regularly shares videos about the Tuesday night, enjoying Tacos with his family. He even tried to trademark the phrase, but could not do so.Also read | LeBron James evacuates home in wake of the Los Angeles wildfires COMMENTlast_img read more