At 71, Olumuyiwa Oshode a.k.a Lucky Boy looks sprightly for his age. The ace footballer is still fit as a fiddle, a grace not enjoyed by some of his teammates. In this interview with TAIWO ALIMI, he speaks on his keep-fit secrets and his footballing days in school and the national team.
At 71, Lagos-born ex-international, Olumuyiwa Oshode is ageing gracefully. Clad in a striped shirt over black pants and dark blue cardigan, he was at home throughout the interview.
Age has not robbed him of his memory either as he easily recalled the great moments in his career.
Oshode played last for Nigeria at an international meeting during the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico but there was a déjà vu feeling as the septuagenarian speaks about his golden days in the famous green-white-green colours of Nigeria.
“It is a glorious moment for me at the 1968 Games in Mexico,” began Oshode in an interview on the margins of the 1st Lagos Junior League (LJL) symposium held in Lagos.“ We did not pass the first round as we lost to Spain and Japan in our first two matches.
“But in the third match, which I played the team was overhauled by coach Joszef Ember (Hungarian) and we played brilliantly to draw Brazil 3-3; I can remember that Kenneth Olayombo scored an early goal for us and even the second before the half time.
“Then Peter Anieke netted the third; in fact we were leading by 3-0 and Brazil came back to equalized in the second half. The world showed us great respect after the match and I would say Nigeria got the attention of world football after that game,” he recollected.
Before the Olympics, Oshode described by teammate and former national team coach, Tunde Disu as one of the best strikers from Nigeria, had dazzled his community with his soccer artistry.
His foray into soccer started at Ahmadiyya College, Agege, Lagos and alongside Disu (captain) won the 1965 School Cup (now Principals’ Cup) among secondary schools in Lagos State. His latent skill was spotted by coaches of the junior National team and between 1965 and 1968; he was an active player in the national team. Around this time, he also signed for ECN football club (now NEPA FC) and blossomed as a great striker. In 1965, he was in the ECN team that had a two-leg international friendly with Asante Kotoko of Kumasi, Ghana.
ECN could not hold on to him for long. He joined the Lagos famous club-Stationery Stores in 1966 and here he picked his first major medal. The 1967 Challenge Cup-Nigeria’s version of The FA Cup was recently christened Aiteo Cup. Super Stores retained the trophy the following year (1968) with Oshode playing a prominent role.
“It was at Stationery Stores that I was given the nickname ‘Lucky Boy’ because I used to score important goals for the club,” Oshode said. “Sometimes the coach would introduce me into a game as a substitute but I would score the vital goal to win a match; and this made me to be very popular with the fans.”
He remembered the second glorious outing quite vividly due to the semi-final clash against highly motivated Leventis FC.
“The 1968 edition was full of drama and I remember Leventis players were well motivated since they were promised a holiday in Cyprus and Greece should they defeat Stores,” he recalled. “ They played so well and were leading 2-1 almost by the dot of 90 minutes; and I was playing with injury and wanted to leave the pitch but the coach refused to remove me.
“In fact, some of our supporters were already leaving the stadium when a pass came to me and it dawned on me that this is the final move as the referee was already consulting his watch; Fregene was in goal for Leventis and I kicked the ball with all the strength left in me.”
Oshode watched the ball sail into the net and at that moment the whole stadium erupted with jubilation. Stores moved on to the final match and lifted the trophy for the second successive year.
No longer could the young Oshode be stopped as he quickly moved to the National senior team and by 1968 became a part of history as the first Nigerian team to qualify and play in Olympic Games soccer event. Before the Olympics, Oshode had played for the National senior team in a friendly match against Brazilian top club Santos FC, in 1968.
“What made the match memorable was that legendary football icon Pele was playing then for Santos and the match ended in a 2-2 draw. I scored the first goal for Nigeria.”
Oshode travelled to the United States of America (USA) courtesy of a Lagos’ State Government sport scholarship after the games and played for his school, the Columbia University. He studied Chemical Engineering.
“That time football was not popular in the USA and was not as big as we have today; basketball and baseball were more popular. I was there till 1974 and came back home after my education.”
Oshode still remember vividly his teammates. As he dished out the names, a hint of sadness crept into his voice because many of them, he noted, are either dead or dying off.
Among my contemporaries in the game are Tunde Disu, Peter Fregene, Anthony Igwe, Paul Hamilton, Sebastine Brodericks, Augustine Ofuokwu, Peter Anieke, Tony Igwe, Muhammed Lawal, Baba Ali, Sam Opone, Duro Adigun, Inuwa Rigogo, Segun Olumodeji, Kenneth Olayombo, and Sam Garba Okoye.
“Most of the players I played with are dead now and the rest are dying off,” he said with misty eyes. “Ofuokwu, Opone, Olumodeji, Anieke are all dead; Fregene and others are sick and the few of us that are around do get together whenever we can. Tunde (Disu) and I are very close and it is because of him that I am here for the impressive Lagos Junior League symposium.”
He lamented the sordid treatment that has been meted out to them by those in football authority. “I think we should be given better treatment because any people that forget their history cannot move forward. We are history of Nigerian football and the nation needs us to forge ahead.”
A man of style, the septuagenarian said none of his children is into football. “I play for Jesus now. I am a member of Jesus team.”
Oshode is excited that the Lagos Junior League would produce more quality players after the likes of Wilfred Ndidi, Kelechi Iheanacho and Dele Alampasu were discovered.
He said he was happy the 57 councils in Lagos State have signalled their interest to participate in this year’s edition which is expected to kicks off on September 23, 2017.
About Article Author