It began with Skipper Ali Jeje who never really made it to the Super Eagles. Then coach Chris ‘Ajilo’ Udemezue, Chris Anigala, keeper Wilfred Agbonavbare, Nations Cup winner and World Cup debutant in 1994 and now third choice goalie Raymond King, a fringe member of the senior national team in 1981. All were in the 1983 Flying Eagles team.
Raymond Adetokunbo Idoreyin King passed on just as compatriots were celebrating the New Year. Like Agbonavbare ,he had a stroke. The keeper did not live to see the U-20 squad strike World Championships gold.
The 1983 Flying Eagles were the first ever Nigerian team to take part in the finals of a FIFA competition. Led by Udemezue, they were able to make a mark in Mexico. The team defeated Russia 1-0 in their first game at the University of the New Lion Stadium, Monterrey. Oleg Protasov could not save his country.
The Soviets, champion at the inaugural tournament in 1977 and silver wiiners in 1979,did not think much about Nigeria. Their coach, Nikolai Kiselev, thought more about Brazil. On June 4, Jeje tapped the ball to Femi Olukanni who lobbed it to Paul Okoku and in a keen struggle, Tarila Okoronwata drove the ball past Keeper Polarmachuk, eleven minutes to full time.
King was not in goal nor was Agbonavbare. Stand in keeper, Patrick Udoh, did a great job. In the second game,Agbonavbare came in as a sub for Udoh having missed the first game due to his School Certificate exams in Benin-City. Brazil won 3-0. The third group D game ended goalless against Marco Van Basten’s Holland. End of the road for the Flying Eagles.
Other members of the team were: Chibuzor Ehilegbu, Deinde Akinlotan, Tajudeen Disu, Humphrey Edobor, Dahiru Sadi, Amechi Otti, Yisa Sofoluwe, Manu Garba and Edema Benson.
Prior to the finals, center back, Benjamin Okorogu, had died in camp after a brief illness. Hitman, Segun Olukanni, had fallen to injury while striker, Samson Siaisia, could not make the list. However, an Ibadan businessman compensated the young man with a ticket to go watch from the stands.
One other plus for Nigeria at Mexico ’83 was Referee Festus Bolaji Okubule , who was in charge in a Group B match between Poland and the United States in Pueblo. He also handled the game between Brazil and Holland, Nigeria’s Group D foes, at the Jalisco Stadium, Guadalajara.
To cap it all, two other African referees: Bernard Grah of Cote D’Ivoire and Mohammed Larache of Morocco, were sent home after the Group games while Okubule was among the 12 retained to proceed with the remaining matches.
Back from Mexico, Shooting Stars of Ibadan grabbed King for the 1984 CAF Champions League. He did so well and the Oluyole Warriors lost in the finals , away and home, to Zamalek of Egypt. The keeper watched helplessly as Ogbein Fawole’s header sailed safely into his net in the Lagos second leg.
King would also suffer another own goal from one of his defenders in the 1986 Challenge Cup final, again in Lagos, when Abiola Babes team mate, Toyin Ayinla, helped Leventis United win at the expense of the Abeokuta team.
Born in Lagos to Akwa Ibom parents, King grew up in Lagos and Ibadan respectively. He was at St. Finbarr’s College, Akoka, Lagos although junior to Stephen Keshi, Henry Nwosu and Okoku.
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His first club was Seven Planners of Badagry, where Keshi also began. From there King journeyed to Ibadan to join Spitfire and later EMCO Steel. He also featured for Cooperative Bank Giants before relocating to Lagos. There he played for Wema Bank and Berger. King ventured to Europe where he tried to make a living in Greece. The safe hands was also in Cameroon before hanging his gloves at Lisabi, Abeokuta.
Raymond King was a good penalty stopper. Against BCC Lions of Gboko in the 1985 Challenge Cup, he saved three kicks in the ensuing shoot out. The keeper performed similar feat against Ranchers Bees, Kaduna. Proprietor, Chief Moshood Abiola, recognized the contributions and also showered goodies on the goal tender.
With a coaching certificate from Scotland, King teamed up with Gateway , Abeokuta where he stayed until 2012. The team could not achieve much in the Premier League even after former Shooting Statrs team mates, Segun Odegbami and Rashidi Yekini, tried to move them forward.
Raymond King has joined two other former Flying Eagles goalkeepers, Uche Ikeogu and Sam Okoye, in the great beyond.