Oliha slumps, dies at 44

Ex-international, Thompson Oliha, is dead. He died at Yusjib Industrial Medicare in Ilorin on Sunday at the age of 44.

The former Iwuanyanwu Nationale midfielder was born on  October 4, 1968 in Benin, Edo State. He  was  a member of the Super Eagles that won the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia, and was also in the team at the 1994 World Cup in the USA.

He was reportedly vomiting on Saturday after he led the Kwara State Football Academy team to a victory over visiting Ben Machezie Football Foundation of Mali.

His ill-health was said to have deteriorated on Sunday morning as he  was said to have slumped in a toilet at his Offa Garage residence in Ilorin, Kwara State.

He was taken to Yusjib Industrial Medicare by his family members and neighbours where he later died.

The Chief Medical Director of the hospital, Dr. Abdulrahmeen Yusuf,  confirmed that Oliha died after a brief illness. His remains have been deposited at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital mortuary.

The deceased is the third member of the 1994 Super Eagles squad that have died. Uche Okafor,  his teammate, died in the United States while another member of the team, Rashidi Yekini, died over a year ago.

Efforts by our correspondent to speak with Oliha’s wife, Irish, proved abortive as she was said to be grief-stricken that she could not speak with journalists.

The proprietor of Abubukar Bukola Football Club, Senator Bukola Saraki, said Oliha’s death  was  a sad development for the growth of sport in Nigeria.

He said Oliha gave his best to Nigeria and his clubs to the admiration of his colleagues.

According to him, the late footballer would be remembered by Kwara residents and Nigerians for his exploit as a coach at the Kwara State Football Academy in Ilorin.

Oliha featured for Bendel Insurance from 1985 to 1987, Iwuanyanwu Nationale from 1988 from 1991, Africa Sports of Abidjan from 1992 to 1993, Maccabi Ironi Ashdod in Israel from 1993 to 1994 and later Antalyaspor of Turkey in 1995.

He made 31 appearances for the national team, scoring two goals.

He made his last international appearance at the 1994 World Cup as a late substitute against Italy.

He retired from active football at the age of 27 as a result of a knee injury.

… Family in shock

James Azania, Benin

 In Benin, Edo State the renowned Oliha family in Siluko were in bad mood following the news  of Thompson’s death.

At the family house, a middle-aged man who simply identified himself as Oliha said the family were shocked when some of them heard the news of Thompson’s death around 10am.

Introducing himself as a cousin to the deceased, he warned reporters of the dangers of breaking the news to his aged mother who currently lives in a four-flat building owned by Thompson, on No. 1, Ibizugbe Street, Konkon Road, Benin City.

A young lady in the house told our correspondent that Thompson’s mother and his slibings had gone to church and would be back home by 6pm.

“Oga, the mama old well, well, make una no let her hear the news, unless you wan carry another dead body. Na that her son dey carry all of them waka,” said the girl who refused to mention her name.

The Edo Football Association, head coach of Edo State Sports Council, Emma Obamwonyi, and Chief Oyuki Obaseki all expressed shock at Thompson’s death, and prayed God to grant him eternal rest.

State Commissioner for Sports, Omorede Osifo, described Thompson’s death as sad.

Oliha, who was 44, played for Bendel Insurance (1985-1987), Iwuanyanwu Nationale (1988-1991), Africa Sports (1992-1993), Maccabi Ironi Ashdod F.C. (1993-1994) and Antalyaspor (1994-1995).

…Hamilton weeps, teammates mourn

Kazeem Busari

 Former Green Eagles coach Paul Hamilton and some of Thompson Oliha’s teammates in the Super Eagles were heartbroken on Sunday after learning of the former midfielder’s death.

Oliha died in the early hours of Sunday in Ilorin, Kwara State after a brief illness, aged 44.

Hamilton, who was shocked at receiving the news first from our correspondent, described the former midfielder as one of his best players at junior and senior levels.

The septuagenarian was short of words due to the shock of receiving the news and declined further comment on his ex-player.

His former teammate at Iwuanyanwu Nationale, Mike Onyemachara, said he was still confused about accepting the news of Oliha’s death as real.

“It was shocking; he was a young man. I will remember him as one of my best teammates back in Owerri,” Onyemachara said.

“One thing was certain about him, if he had the ball, no one could dispossess him unless he released it. He was so good in the midfield that we were confident of winning any game barring other factors.”

Former defender, Emeka Ezeugo, said he was devastated to know his former teammate is gone.

He wrote on his Facebook timeline, “Midfield General, Thompson Oliha just signed off and left the football family of Nigeria and I’m devastated. He was so dependably combative in the field of war, a soldier that would readily spill his last pint of blood for Nigeria. May God rest his soul. So long, General.”

Shooting Stars team manager, Ajibade Babalade, described the death as pathetic.

“I saw him (Oliha) last Wednesday when they played against 3SC in Ibadan. When I saw him, I suspected he was not fine, but I felt he must have got better by now,” Babalade told the News Agency of Nigeria.

“He was my teammate at Iwuanyanwu Nationale and African Sports in Ivory Coast. He was a great footballer and very much humble, with a great commitment to duty. It is a great loss to the nation.”

Another former teammate, Edema Fuludu, said he observed that Oliha looked frail the last time he saw him.

“The last time I saw him was at a novelty match played in honour of Govornor Adams Oshiomhole in Benin when he was campaigning for the second term of the governor. I told him he was looking frail,” Fuludu recalled.

“In his boisterous manner, he said he would take care of himself and we laughed it off. It is so unfortunate.”

…NFF too

The Nigeria Football Federation has expressed deep shock and sorrow at news of the death of former Super Eagles midfield ace, Thompson Oliha.

Oliha, 44, died in a private hospital in Ilorin, Kwara State on Sunday morning, after complaining of malaria.

“This is a tragedy. Oliha was one of the best midfielders to have played for Nigeria. His comments and analyses on Nigeria football over the years have been quite informed and useful,” the NFF said in a statement.

“The NFF and the entire Nigeria football family mourn Oliha’s passing. He was certainly one of the nation’s greats and acquitted himself brilliantly in the national colours. We have lost another member of the golden generation, following the deaths of Uche Okafor and Rashidi Yekini.”

Oliha first played for the Super Eagle in a 1988 Olympic Games qualifying match against Algeria in Annaba in January 1988, and then became a fixture in the team at the 1990 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Algeria.

He was a member of the renowned Golden Generation, which qualified Nigeria for her first-ever FIFA World Cup finals, won the Africa Cup of Nations for Nigeria in Tunisia in 1994 and then reached the Round of 16 at the FIFA World Cup finals in USA the same year.

Minister commiserates with family

The Minister of Sports and Chairman of the National Sports Commission, Bolaji Abdullahi, has commiserated with the family of Thompson Oliha, a former Nigerian footballer who died on Sunday in Ilorin, Kwara State.

Abdullahi said the late Oliha was an influential member of the Super Eagles in the 90s and contributed greatly to the success of that team.

He described the late Oliha as a “dedicated and thoroughbred professional who always put the nation first and who was member of the golden generation of Nigerian football history.

He said, “A true patriot, he was motivated by the desire to don the Nigerian jersey than by pecuniary interests.”

“He would be deeply be missed by the sporting community in Nigeria and the world at large. I pray that his soul rests in peace.”

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