Emeka Obasi

Cows deserve more than passing comments in the Nigerian narrative. Professor John Peeper Clark realized this early enough and penned a poem ‘Fulani Cattle’ before we all began to see herdsmen wielding AK-47 rifles. Goalkeeper Joseph Dosu, will live to regret the day cattle stopped his World Cup dream and almost ended his existence on earth.

It was on June 8, 1997. The Eagles had qualified for the France ’98 World Cup ahead of Guinea, Kenya and Burkina Faso. After cleaning up at the team’s Sheraton Hotel base in Ikeja, Dosu left for Ikorodu with his friend, Saturday, of the Nigeria Police Force. Some accounts say he went to celebrate the ticket to France. The goalie said he was on a trip to see his family.

It was night and the atmosphere right for a good outing. Dosu was in full control, driving. From the dark, a herd of cattle rushed to the road. That was beyond the driver’s view. There were cows everywhere and before anyone could shout Paris, he hit the animals, lost control and found himself in the bush.

His police friend was lucky to escape with no injury. Dosu was in danger. He could not move his legs. The six-footer was trapped. Luck smiled on the duo when Taribo West’s car appeared almost immediately. The keeper was rushed to Eko hospital and from there, flown abroad for further treatment.

At that time he was in Italy with Serie A side, Reggiana. Dosu’s wife followed her husband to the hospital and chose to lie on the floor, ignoring the hotel suite reserved for her. That was love at play. If love could make the goalie recover quickly for the Mundial, he got an overdose of it from his better half.

Dosu had won Africa’s first soccer Olympic gold medal with the Dream Team at Atlanta ’96. It was sheer luck. He was listed as third choice behind Abiodun Baruwa and Emmanuel Babayaro by Coach Johaness Bonfrere. Just before the squad flew out of Nigeria, a 3-1 humiliation by Togo incensed everyone. By the way, Togo is Dosu’s maternal home. He is Egun, from Badagry.

That was how Bonfrere looked the way of Dosu ahead of the original pecking order. And it ended well. The Dream Team conquered the World’s best: Brazil and Argentina in the semis and grand finale respectively. It is on record that Brazil and Argentina were unable to win an Olympic soccer gold medal until Nigeria had done justice to it.

With Dosu out of the World Cup, another blow hit the Eagles. Ike Shorunmu who was a sure replacement also fell to injury just before the World Cup began. Manager Bora Milutinovic who took over from Philippe Troussier went for Peter Rufai, a man who was past his prime.

Dosu was in France for the Mundial but as a surprise spectator. His manager, Churchill Oliseh, took him to the stadium in Eagles’ first match against favourites, Spain. When Sunday Oliseh fired the ballistic missile that sank Spain, he rushed to the crowd screaming ‘Dosu’.

As the match progressed, his elder brother, Churchill, informed the players that Dosu was in the stadium. That gingered the team and the result was favourable.The Spanish Armada was destroyed 3-2.

In subsequent matches, the goalkeeping problem was obvious. After defeating Bulgaria 1-0 to reach the second round, Rufai was unable to stand like a rock. Paraguay put three goals past him. Then came the worst. Denmark hammered Nigeria 4-1 to end the journey in the second round.

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Dosu never kept goal after that accident. He was barely able to walk. Cows had crashed his dream and confined him to the wheel chair. Later he began to use crutches.

Unfortunately, no other Dosu has been able to go beyond Joseph. Elder brother, David, was in goal for Flying Eagles and Raccah Rovers, Kano but could not make the national team. Younger brother, John, manned the posts for various teams: Shooting Stars, Akwa United, Warri Wolves and Nassarawa. He did not go beyond club action.

Before Dosu, there was the case of Etim Esin who was shot by armed robbers in Lagos before the Chile ’87 FIFA Under 20 Championships. He owned a flashy Peugeot 505 car and dazzled girls all around town. As he frolicked with ladies of the night, men of the underworld got him.

Etim was lucky. President Babangida made sure surgery was performed and the stubborn maestro, nicknamed Maradona, made it to Chile. He was not useful. The Flying Eagles were kicked out in the first round. This was poor considering the silver they won previously, at USSR ’85.

In 2009,Bayelsa United won the Nigerian Premier League. Celebration and party followed. Team Captain, Abiel Tabor hit the road, moving from Warri to Benin in the night. He did not complete the journey. The player was shot dead by armed robbers.