• Write Dangote, Adenuga, others
Touched by the high rate at which Nigeria’s retired footballers are dying due to lack of proper care, a body called Nigerian Ex-International Footballers Association (NEIFA) based in the United States of America has put a machinery in place to halt the ugly trend.
The country has lost some of its legends in the past few years, including former Flying Eagles goalkeeper, Raymond King, who died from a partial stroke. There was also former Youth international, Peter Ogaba, who passed on at the age of 42 after a brief illness in Abuja.
Super Eagles’ former goalie, Wilfred Agbonavbare passed on in Spain, just as the senior national team former coach, Paul Hamilton died after being bedridden for years at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital.
Speaking with The Guardian in Lagos yesterday, President of NEIFA, Francis Monidafe said the main objective of the body is to promote the development of football in Nigeria and internationally, provide for the welfare of former and present national team players and serve as ambassadors for Nigerian football.
Monidafe was a member of the all-conquering Bendel Insurance squad that defeated Enugu Rangers in the final of the 1978 Challenge Cup in Lagos. He went on to feature for the then Green Eagles from 1978 till early 1980s.
He stated that NEIFA has provided financial help to some of their former teammates including Peter Anieke, Christian Madu, Kelechi Emeteole and Sunday Eboigbe. “Though some of them have died, we believe that our assistance went a long way in keeping them much longer with us until the Lord decided otherwise. With your help we can reach others like them much earlier and much faster.
“There are several ex-Nigerian footballers resident in the United States. Many of them have moved into various areas of expertise and others have returned to Nigeria to continue to serve their fatherland. Importantly, whether they have moved back home or continued to stay in the United States, most of them are members of Nigerian Ex-International Footballers Association (NE-IFA) for one key reason – they see NE-IFA as an organization that not only serves to alleviate the suffering of Nigerian football heroes, but also continues to promote football in Nigeria.
“Joining NE-IFA in providing financial and social support for former football heroes is of great public interest. Several of those heroes who made Nigeria happy and proud, during their playing days, are now dying silently with little or no help from the public that they served and entertained. You can help change that. Your support can make a major difference in the lives of these footballers, who are lonely today,” he said.
Moniedafe said NE-IFA has observed that the distressed retired footballers’ most fundamental need, as retired sportsmen, is basic Medicare, adding, “we have just arrived at an understanding with the Medical Directorate of the Lagos State Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) to organize and coordinate a regular healthcare programme for these ex-professionals, in order to reach them quicker with healthcare delivery in their respective home bases, through the various teaching hospitals nearest to them. This programme, which would work with our own funding, funneled through these teaching hospitals, is our most urgent and immediate challenge and we truly count support of Nigerians to help get this scheme off the ground.”
Monidafe hinted that NEIFA is in regular touch with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), adding that they have written to philanthropists, including Aliko Dangote Foundation and Mike Adenuga for assistance.
Other members of NEIFA include Dr. Femi Olukanni
(Vice President), Nathaniel Ogedegbe (Secretary), Ikechukwu Ofoje (Treasurer) and Paul Okoku